Huet lead a Mattress University session at BrandSource’s Nashville Convention.
Blazing a trail from packaged goods to a good night’s sleep
By Andy Kriege, YSN
Melanie Huet is one of the highest-ranking women in home furnishings.
She joined Serta Simmons Bedding (SSB) two years ago from Kraft Heinz as Chief Marketing Officer, and last spring was given additional responsibilities as Chief Commercial Officer,overseeing the company’s marketing, innovation and sales organizations.
Among her accomplishments, she led Serta through a complete brand strategy makeover that, as she explained on The Modern Customer podcast, “put the consumer at the heart of everything we do.”
More recently, Huet was a major presence at BrandSource’s recent Convention21 in support of her company’s new Serta Arctic cooling mattress. There, she hosted a special Mattress University session on changes in the consumer’s shopping journey, and broke bread with BrandSource members during the group’s Women in Business breakfast, where she was the featured speaker.
YSN caught up with Huet (no easy task!) to learn how she navigated her trailblazing career path, which also includes leadership roles at Kraft Heinz, Kimberly-Clark and Unilever.
What challenges did you have to overcome to get to where you are today so quickly?
There have been several challenges along the way, and I am sure there are more to come! I’ve often been the only female in the room or the youngest person in the room. I had to overcome my insecurity in those situations because if I didn’t, then surely I would fail to perform. The old saying “Fake it until you make it” is a great one. I embraced that and would “fake” my confidence in the room even though I was terrified. It helps a lot, and one day you wake up and realize you feel great in that room and are comfortable. No more impostor syndrome! Grab a seat at that table, take up some space and remember that you belong there.
How did overcoming those challenges change who you are?
I learned that you need to 100-percent own and drive your work. Rank doesn’t matter when it comes to results. You own your task or project, and you need to drive it.
I remember one time I had a meeting that I was leading. A vice president began speaking and just kept talking. It was taking us off track. I didn’t feel comfortable interrupting him because I was more than four layers below him in the organization. Afterwards I learned that the senior leaders didn’t think that I held an effective meeting and that I didn’t drive to a decision. I remember that in my mind an excuse formed of, “Well, it wasn’t my fault that this other guy kept talking. One of you should have jumped in and asked him to stop.” It was like a lightbulb went off at that moment when I let myself truly hear the feedback. It became crystal clear to me that I needed to drive my work, deliver results and find the solution if things go sideways. No excuses are acceptable.
The next time we had that meeting I remained in control, and it led to a great outcome. It was important for me to learn to not make excuses.
Is there something you wish you could have figured out sooner?
I wish I could have learned faster to be open to feedback. I dislike making mistakes, and when people would approach me with feedback, I often saw it as someone pointing out what I had done wrong. It took a while for me to understand that the other person must really care to share that feedback. The feedback is a gift and if you listen you will hear some things that will make you better.
Where do you draw your strength and tenacity from?
I am highly motivated by results and by people, the two things that get me up for work every morning and keep me energized.
Nothing is as amazing as finally seeing the innovation that the team has labored over for months, maybe years, for sale on a retail floor. I also love the smiles I see at work when someone has accomplished something, had a personal or team win, took a new assignment, or earned a promotion. Those moments fuel me every day and drive me to do more.
What did you do early in your career or life that helped you get where you are today?
I kept learning. I learned by observing senior leaders and understanding what they did best that separated them from their peers. I asked for advice and was truly open to the information. I did lots and lots of reading. Whenever I had a problem or wanted to improve on something I turned to books. Now there are more options available, like podcasts.
What advice do you have for other women who aspire to careers in this industry or in marketing positions?
Understand what your strengths are and lean into them. You should also be aware of your primary weak points and try to minimize those. You don’t want those to be blind spots or the stumbling block that holds you back. It’s really important to know what you do best and then surround yourself with teammates that are great in different ways. This will help you and the team perform at its peak.
Speak to your experience addressing Women in Business members at the BrandSource Convention.
One of my favorite things to do is talk with people and hear more about the struggles they are facing. If I can help in any way, then that was a very good day. I enjoyed being with the Women in Business group. It’s a fascinating group of entrepreneurs that know exactly what it means to depend on yourself for success and that it is important to be tough if you are going to make it. What was the most impressive to me was watching how the women supported each other.
Any final advice?
Hardly anyone has the Golden Path laid out in front of them. Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who give you positive energy. It brings me a lot of joy to go to work. I always encourage people to find work they enjoy and to be around people they like. Life is too short to do it any other way!
BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress, and CE dealers.