We will be featuring Women in Retail Leadership Circle members and advisory board members in Inner Circle Q&As over the next several months. We want you to get to know our members! The interviews will highlight what makes our members so special, from their leadership styles to their favorite vacation spots and everything in between. This week’s Q&A is with Erica Geil, a member of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s Advisory Board, as well as the vice president, global engineering operations for Groupon.
Taylor Knight: To whom do you turn for inspiration in your career?
Erica Geil: I’ve had a few key influencers in my career — some that I know personally and some that I aspire to be like. Sheryl Sandberg is definitely at the top of my list. She’s had a dynamic career path similar to my own and is a female leader in tech. I appreciate her candor on various topics. She’s honest, relatable and speaks up for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.
Mary Dillon from Ulta is another inspiration as a female leader of a successful and growing public company. I’ve seen both women speak at events, and they always have interesting, engaging topics for discussion. It’s always good to see other women in leading roles doing a phenomenal job within their specific area. We so often have stories that can be shared to learn from one another.
I’m constantly impressed by my colleagues. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about my career is learning from others. No matter the vertical or industry, I’ve found myself drawn to the experts around me — it could be amazing graphic designers, web/mobile app engineers, or leaders of a globally distributed team. If I’m ever looking for inspiration, I just look at those surrounding me, either at the office or elsewhere, and it doesn’t take long to see the amazing things that people are doing with technology. It’s changing our lives every day, which is exciting to be a part of!
TK: What are your thoughts on the state of the retail industry today?
EG: Retail is evolving very quickly to reflect the changing shopping behaviors of consumers to become more mobile and paperless. As a result, businesses are aligning with those rapidly changing consumer behaviors. Groupon is a great example of how that evolution is playing out with retailers. Groupon started as an online and email platform selling a single daily deal that consumers had to print and present to the merchant to receive the discount. Today, Groupon is a mobile-first platform, and is transitioning away from traditional paper vouchers and paper coupons.
TK: What types of retail technology trends are you interested in now?
EG: Given how quickly consumer behaviors have shifted in the past five years alone — from in-store to online to mobile apps — it’s hard to predict what those behaviors may be in another few years. There are certainly some major disruptors in the technology space that are helping to accelerate those behaviors, like Amazon.com, Uber and Grubhub, to name a few. What I find most interesting is how companies are using technology to keep up with consumer behavior changes. This is one of the most challenging tasks with running a retail business today. It requires rapid change and scale, while maintaining an ability to pivot, all without alienating your customers. It’s a delicate balance and I see more and more companies embracing this evolution and the value it can bring to their businesses.
TK: Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentee? Can you tell us about your relationship(s)?
EG: Having mentors has taught me a lot throughout my career so I enjoy sharing that experience by being a mentor to others. There aren’t many women leaders in the tech industry today, which means it’s that much more important to help create a “path” for others to follow. I’ve been very fortunate to have mentors who helped me through various phases of my career, so I believe it’s a must to provide that for others who may be following.
In fact, I helped found and co-chair Women at Groupon, an employee resource that was created by a group of senior women to provide a collective way to discuss cross-functional topics and create an outlet for discussions beyond our individual department, region or role at the company. I created the first mentorship program for Women at Groupon, which has since been replicated by the group as well as by other teams within the company.
TK: What’s your favorite vacation spot?
EG: This is a tough one. My husband and I love to travel, and when we do we always try to go somewhere new to explore and learn, so we rarely return to the same location. My favorite spot would be St. John’s Island in the Virgin Islands. We went there on our honeymoon, and it was the first time I had ever left the country. It was an eye-opening experience for me to see the island culture, which was a very different lifestyle than that of living in the city of Chicago — a much slower, relaxed pace. It was that trip which made me want to explore the world even more. I’ve been able to travel for leisure as well as for business, which I love. You can’t make up for seeing someone or a team in their domain to understand the cultural influences and why they may do things differently.