Alexandra Williamson is the Chief Brand Officer at Bumble, the woman-first social network. She began managing social media for Bumble in October 2014 and worked her way into her current position. She was named one of Brand Innovators’ “Women to Watch” for 2018 and has been featured in the The New York Times, CNN and Bustle.
This April 9, Bumble is commemorating Ontario Equity Pay Day with a special initiative that puts an emphasis on empowering women in the workplace: #BumbleBrewedAwakening. At locations around the financial district, you’ll be able to purchase coffee from the #BumbleBrewedAwakening Coffee Truck by donation. Men will be asked to pay $1, and women will pay $0.88 cents; this reflects the fact that Canadian women earn $0.88 cents for every dollar a man makes. All proceeds will be given to Plan International Canada’s Because I Am A Girl campaign.
We chatted with Williamson this week.
SDTC: What is the first brand you remember truly connecting with as a child?
AW: What immediately comes to mind for me is Chanel. One of my two lovely grandmothers is an old-school Dallas, in love with glitz, glamour, and teased hair. As a little girl, I always played dress up in her closet and spent hours trying on her makeup (in my early twenties, I was a freelance makeup artist), and I still remember the eye shadows, blushes, and even the smell of the lipstick. I remember realizing that the brand had handbags—a moment where I understood the concept of a lifestyle brand and how you could give “luxury” a feeling.
Speaking of “feeling,” there’s also another brand that comes to mind for me, a special brand: The Spice Girls brand. I will never forget the impact that the bold music group had on my life as a kid, from the way I dressed to the boldness with which I started to carry myself through the world. With the Spice Girls, I was motivated to be strong and embrace girl power. I think they will always be one of the most iconic “brands” to me, before personal brands were even a thing.
When did you realize that managing a brand would be an enticing career option for you?
I don’t know if I ever had the realization that I would like to manage a brand until I was already doing it! I studied film in college, and that’s where I really began to understand the importance of telling a compelling story. When I started working with Whitney, Bumble’s founder + CEO, I was just contracted to help launch the brand in one market. From there I started managing social media, copywriting and content creation for the whole brand, which eventually propelled me into the position of Chief Brand Officer – as I had helped shaped the voice and tone from the beginning.
Walk us through a typical workday in your life.
Ask me again in three months when I plan to have my healthy routines totally in motion. But seriously, as much as I’d like to say I wake up, juice celery, and go to the gym every day, I wake up, drink vitamins, a coffee, check my inbounds, and try to meditate. I really value sleep and connecting with people, so when I’m not working or in the office, the way I unwind is through conversations with new and old friends and family. I don’t think in the history of Bumble, any two work days have ever been the same, but I spend a lot of time on airplanes, travelling to spread the Bumble mission. And I am so grateful that I get to call this work.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Early on with Bumble, people doubted us and turned down working with us. There were moments where the doubt would creep up, and you could temporarily wonder if the people doubting us were right. If this wouldn’t work, we were worried this would all be ripped out from underneath us. The four of us who launched Bumble were so passionate about what we were building, and the mission and values behind it. We believed wholeheartedly that Bumble would work. We didn’t stop and stare at what our competitors were doing, we just stayed focused on creating our own unique brand. We felt like if we stopped, Bumble would stop. We blocked out all of the noise and kept building this company that we hoped would have an impact on women’s lives. And we’re still racing. We won’t stop until women everywhere have the opportunity to change the way they view the dynamics of their relationships and create the life they want to live by making the first move in friendship, love and business.
What are your thoughts on this Harvard study that says women in fact do ask for raises as much as men, but they just don’t receive them? Does the key lie in how we ask for a raise, or is the onus on companies to level the field?
We have done so much work at Bumble with our employees to teach them how to negotiate and ask for a raise. It’s a skill that has typically been passed down from one man to another, but it’s not typically something women talk about at all. We have seen such a positive effect on our team when we give women both the clarity and space to have honest conversations about their salary.
What’s your mantra these days?
Learn from your mistakes, experiences, and how you can more efficiently operate in life and at work without judging yourself harshly. You can’t personally grow in a healthy way if you don’t love your flaws and accept yourself with kindness for who you are.
Best career-related advice you’ve received?
“Keep your blinders on like a racehorse” is what Whitney Wolfe Herd would tell us. Meaning: Ignore the negativity and also ignore the praise. Just keep moving forward as fast as you can, with complete faith and belief in what we’re building.
What daily practice has helped propel you the most?
Showing up, being truly present, and actively engaging in my surroundings. Every day I come to work humbled that I get to serve, to help, to listen, to learn. This company, this mission we are focused on, is so much bigger than career growth or personal success. I find that the more I dedicate myself to experiencing life and work, learning about myself and my relationships, and focusing on the lessons along the way, the more impact my daily life can have as I weave my learnings into what we are building. We encourage our entire team to bring their whole selves to work. It’s the easiest way to provide value to a company dedicated to changing the dynamics of relationships and to putting an end to toxic relationships.