Meet Executive Women in Technology Forum Member and VP of Business Development at Eikon Digital Renee López-Cantera. She shared with us her background in the digital marketing and IT space, as well as some insights and advice for others who may be interested in starting a business or making a career change. Renee highlights the importance of aligning career goals with personal values and interests, trusting your gut, and persistence in order to achieve success and make a difference in the community.
Q: What made you decide to switch from a political science Major to focusing on Business & digital marketing?
RLC: Growing up, I was always very active in extra curricular activities and have always been community-minded. I had thought I was going to be an attorney, since I was active in Speech & Debate class. I went on a semester abroad program with many Political Science students and noticed that my friends on the program were very argumentative. My personality is more optimistic and very problem-solving/entrepreneurial in nature. After that study abroad program, I thought I’d be better suited in business.
So I went on to earn my MBA from the University of Miami with specializations in Marketing, Finance, and Management and worked in real estate for a developer and large commercial broker for several years, starting out utilizing those skills sets.
During the Internet Boom, I had an idea for selling gifts, gift baskets, and promotional products online, and a good friend of mine who had a large online shopping mall persuaded me to provide products to wholesale on his site. This was in 1999, before 1-800 Flowers had a huge online presence—it was really ahead of the curve for this sector. I ran that company for five years. It was successful in terms of gross sales volume, but was tough because I was young and could have used an operational partner as I focused on the marketing and sales portions. I ended up selling the domain name and rolodex of many corporate clients after a five-year run. I loved being a business owner, and it gave me the experience and grit that took me through the rest of my career.
I’ve been in digital marketing since that point, so it’s been about 20 years—back since websites were ugly and not mobile friendly. After owning my business, I worked at the Miami Herald, with roles in Community Affairs and also Direct Response Sales. At first, I helped with growing the email and web channels, and then grew to a regional and national position on teams for digital subscription strategy, app downloads, and increasing audience traffic by growing page views. I held a career over ten years at the Miami Herald.
Currently in my role as a VP of Business Development at Eikon Digital, I work in a multi-national company with presence in over ten countries, mostly in LATAM and with US Hispanic strategy. Interestingly enough, I was recruited by my current employer through LinkedIn. I’d never been in a direct business development position before, but I do have an innate ability to connect with marketing decision makers.
Q: What is the importance of digital marketing for businesses today?
RLC: People always ask questions like, “Do I need social media content?” or “Do I really need a blog?” Every strategy varies depending on the type of business, but any type of company, even a nonprofit, can benefit from having a digital presence. Any time a potential customer is going to work with a new company or service, they are going to Google them first or follow them on their social accounts.
As members of the Women in Technology Forum, Ania and I led a session on all types of digital marketing. I mentioned that I focus in programmatic marketing, which targets people in real-time based on their audience and preferences. It’s really interesting what it entails. It brings in artificial intelligence and integrates a lot of different machine learning technologies. It’s exhilarating to be a part of this growing industry that is rapidly changing and integrating all types of cutting-edge technologies. Any business, large or small, needs to reach their target customers in the most efficient way possible.
Q: Who were your role models or mentors?
RLC: A few people in business have been mentors for me. One of my first supervisors at the Miami Herald was very inclusive. I was very young, and she gave me a lot of hands-on experience and exposure. That mastery gave me a lot of confidence, and I knew I could always count on her for honest feedback. I’ve met other mentors along the way, usually women about a decade older than me, who have given me a seat at the table.
My aunt has also been a role model throughout my life. She was recently named one of the top 20 most influential communicators by PR Week. She’s always been very supportive, inviting me to exclusive work conferences and taking interest in my projects. Just having someone in my family who has that kind of talent and marketing savvy resonates. She has written articles about her inspiration, and she said that my grandmother always told her, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and I’ve always believed that. My grandfather owned a retail store as well. That whole sales and marketing/personal relationship business has been part of our family for years.
Q: Do you have any tips for balancing work, community life, and family time?
RLC:I do believe in a work-life balance for health reasons, for balance, and for presence. I like to be present with my family. It’s an important value of mine. I don’t think having young children has hindered me at all or stopped me from being ambitious. I’m not afraid to ask for help. One of John Demartini’s talks shares about gaining value by delegating those tasks that drain you. Delegation has provided the valuable assets of time and energy to participate in community work, which I love.
Q: Have you faced specific challenges as a woman in your field?
RLC:You know, honestly, I have not. I remember when I was at McClatchy and The Miami Herald, I was oftentimes the only woman in IT meetings, but I was always looking through the marketing and sales and consumer lens. This goes back to the “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” saying. I wasn’t afraid to push myself and to push the guys on our team to see things from a different viewpoint or make the product better.
At our company now, I work with a very technical team. I press them, but diplomatically. By showing the team how the client sees it (the voice of the customer), I’m able to push for what is important to our bottom line. Dealing with men in the technology field hasn’t been difficult, because I listen and respect what they say, but I always inquire and push when there is a cost or time effective solution to maximize what is available.
Q: What advice would you give to other women who may just be starting out in their own business venture?
RLC:I would say listen to your gut. I’m very big into alignment. If you want to start a business, you have to be passionate about it, because it does take that grit and persistence. When a business or having a career change, remind yourself that you deserve it and you need to invest in yourself. Even if it’s a small step, take that step. Take a class or put your foot in the door by networking. Because action can propel you to the next level.
Q: How has being part of the Knight Foundation funded Women in Technology Forum benefited you, and how could an Executive Forum benefit other women?
RLC:It’s a network of like-minded, strong, impactful women, so that is very inspirational and supportive. It also fosters innovation, because every time we meet, we talk about topics that are cutting-edge and that allow us to hyper-focus our attention to our field, which leads to more opportunities. I would encourage other women or men alike to get into groups that support their career.
Q: You mentioned you’re very involved in community life. Why is having a community of like-minded individuals where you can exchange ideas so important?
RLC:It’s very important because it fuels me with and is for the greater good. As a native Floridian, I love to see growth in our community. Of course, there is also a lot of need. By working with non-profit organizations, not only are we growing ourselves individually, but we’re also collaborating and working on projects that benefit others.