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Dreamers: “They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway” With Adriana Lynch of Chief Outsiders

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Adriana Lynch.

Adriana Lynch (or Adri, as she likes to be called) has over 25 years of experience in Strategy and Brand Management. Her global experience has demonstrated significant success in creating and executing award-winning strategies and plans to improve product positioning, brand recognition, and revenue.

A wiz at brand and business strategy, Adriana has held management positions with The Walt Disney Co., Häagen-Dazs, Pillsbury International, Procter & Gamble (P&G), and St. Joseph Health System. After being classically trained in Brand Management at P&G Brazil — where she managed Pampers and Always — Adriana came to the USA and got her MBA from Harvard, graduating in 1996 with Second Year Honors.

Adriana’s global career has taken her throughout Asia, Russia, the Middle East, Greece, Israel, and Latin America.

Adri and her husband, Patrick, live in Newport Beach, CA, with their two sons, Connor (20) and Taylor (13). Adri is also very involved in their community leading the HearAid Foundation as their CEO, with the mission to provide hearing aids to those who can’t afford them since it is not covered by insurance (www.hearaidfoundation.org).

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you better. Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How will that help people?

By far, the most impactful work I do is with The HearAid Foundation, which provides hearing aids to those who cannot afford them since hearing aids are rarely covered by insurance in the U.S.

Allow me to explain the root of my passion for this cause. I am an only child, and once I became a (PROUD) American Citizen, I sponsored my parents’ green cards, and they both moved to this country at the ripe age of 75. My dad (who passed away five weeks ago) always suffered from Meniere’s Disease, which left him deaf. That’s when I met Dr. Jack Shohet, a renowned surgeon and wonderful human being who performed a cochlear implant on my dad — hearing again brought my dad back to life! After six years of silence, my dad became isolated and depressed. Now he was back to being “my dad.”

Frustrated by the lack of insurance coverage for hearing aids to help those in need, Dr. Shohet founded The HearAid Foundation and asked me to join as a Board Member in 2012. This was the perfect opportunity to put my business mind and gift to work for the greater good. Fast forward to 2015. I became the volunteer CEO for the Foundation.

We are all volunteers, a daring and daunting business model for non-profits, but it allows 100 percent of all donations to benefit those in need (ok, 99 percent, we have to host the website, buy stamps, etc.). Whenever I have the pleasure of going to a fitting, i.e., the session where an audiologist fits a recipient with their brand new hearing aids, I cry. It is a life-changing moment for our recipients, and I am honored to be a small part of it.

What makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

Hands down, Purpose. Consumers today choose very carefully which Brand gets their hard-earned money. Purpose-driven companies get ahead of the pack and gather customers’ dollars and loyalty. This is true for Brands that sell direct to consumers (think Bombas Socks, Toms Shoes, Natura & Co.) but also for business-to-business. Today, all sorts of institutions, including financial institutions, are taking more responsibility for their role in the world and are being rewarded with loyalty, revenue, and profits.

Ok, thank you for that. Then, I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

I heard I could not leave my country, my beloved Brazil, a great place to visit and a tough place to live. I heard I would never get admitted to Harvard. I heard I would never work in the US…much less for Disney, a dream of mine.

When admitted to Harvard, I heard I would never be able to pay for it. When Fundacao Estudar offered me a scholarship to fund my second year at Harvard (my first year was grueling, typing papers to pay for room and board!), I heard I would never succeed in corporate America. The more I heard “you can’t,” the more I felt “I will.”

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)

Resilience and hard work pay off. Truth be told, when you hear so many times “you can’t,” it kind of gets to you. So, I applied only to Harvard Business School and did not tell a soul — only my boss and a teacher, who had to send letters of recommendation, knew — as rejection hurts less when it’s dealt with in private. So, I sent the application and waited for a refusal.

But I still remember the day a box from Harvard arrived, signaling approval and full of pre-work. It was May 4, 1994. I was shocked! When I told my parents, my father was happy for about two seconds and then turned white, thinking about how we would afford it. So I began to look for alternatives and found Fundação Estudar, which gave me a scholarship. The academic experience at Harvard changed my life, and since 2010, I have served as a Harvard College recruiter, my way of giving back.

I was determined to stay in the US, so I applied for ten jobs and received nine offers upon Graduation. I chose to work for Pillsbury International purely based on company culture. They had an open-door policy, and I felt everyone’s opinions were heard. It proved to be one of the most rewarding moves of my career. I was with Pillsbury between 1996 and 2000, first as the International Marketing Manager for Russia, the Middle East, Greece, and Israel, then as Director of New Products for Häagen-Dazs, where I had the honor to be at the forefront of the launch of the Dulce de Leche flavor, a worldwide success that turned out to be a case study at Harvard.

Then in 2000, Mickey called, and I packed my bags for California, where I still live. Disney — the only one among the ten companies that did not make me an offer out of Harvard- invited me to be Disneyland’s Director of Brand Strategy. They had not forgotten!

It was a dream come true. They were asking ME, a LATINA, to lead the strategy of one of the most iconic Brands in the World — Disneyland.

We can only achieve success with some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My first job out of undergrad in Brazil was with Citibank, where I had my first Mentor. Honestly, he still is a mentor. He believed in me as a young professional; thought I could fulfill my dreams. It challenged me when I doubted myself and played a critical role in my life by writing an incredible letter of recommendation to Harvard on my behalf. We are still close, and I consider him a role model in the global business community.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Have you had any experiences growing up that contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

My Dad was an incredible businessman who faced adversity but never gave up. His work ethic, honesty, and dedication to his family and mission were parallel to none and imprinted on me.

Based on your experience, can you share five strategies people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Turn those words of discouragement around, and make it your mantra to build resilience. My Mantra was, “I sure can.” Simple but powerful when you say it to yourself and believe it.
  2. Celebrate EVERY achievement. I don’t know if it is only me, I am going to guess not, but when we face so many obstacles and adversities when success comes into our lives, we almost feel ashamed. Why? Why can’t we celebrate our achievements? It fuels so to pursue more endeavors! It’s in that spirit that I share here two of the Awards I received throughout my career and of which I am most proud.
    American Business Association — Woman of Distinction, 2003
    Stevie Award, Silver — CMO Maverick of the Year, 2014
    Yes we can, Si, se puede!
  3. Have your priorities clear. At times in my career, I had t stop the career ladder and care for my family; it was the BEST thing I could have done. I took two years off to care for my youngest son when he was two years old, and it was the best decision ever. Was I scared of what that “time off” would do to my career? No. I had my priorities right.
  4. Be passionate. Put your gifts to work at something you are passionate about. My gift is to solve complex problems to help businesses grow. That philosophy and energy got me to find my business home with Chief Outsiders. We affectionately call ourselves the Tribe. We are 120 robust Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Sales Offices from around the country focused on helping mid-market companies grow and thrive and continuously learning from each other.
  5. Embrace change. Life throws curve balls at all of us along the journey. But, it is how we react and how we file those moments in our hearts and our minds that will come to the surface when we mature. I came to this country with a dream, and despite the curve balls thrown at me, now at 56, I get to throw them back and play ball!

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” Dr. Bertice Berry

You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most crucial number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Giving the gift of hearing through the HearAid Foundation is the movement I dedicate my life to. Unfortunately, 20% of people in the US have been affected by hearing loss, often leading to problems with balance, lack of speech, isolation, and depression. Over-the-counter hearing aids are a first good step to help some, but since those hearing aids amplify all sound frequencies equally, they mainly help those with mild hearing loss. Therefore, I urge all of you to visit HearAidFoundation.Org and donate to give the gift of hearing.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Of course! How fun…

LinkedIN — https://www.linkedin.com/in/pozzani/

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.