Teresa Barreira: Empowering the Leaders of Tomorrow

Teresa Barreira

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As I glance through the headlines of Kamala Harris making history as first female Vice President, I wonder how many women have been inspired by her journey and are working towards making a difference.

Women empowerment has had a rich history. Despite the advancements in gender roles, the need to advocate for women’s rights and equality is still necessary worldwide. The flag bearers of this advocacy are strong role models that influence our thought process.

Here I introduce Teresa Barreira, the Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Publicis Sapient, who is a great influence for aspiring future leaders.

While growing up, Teresa’s parents were owners of several small businesses. This was one of the major factors that influenced her entrepreneurial mindset. Raised in a small village in Northern Portugal, Teresa lacked exposure to many different career paths but adopted a customer and entrepreneurial mindset while working for the family business. She carved her negotiation, finance, and business management skills which have helped her throughout her career.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart and mind. I’ve been lucky to find myself working as an ‘entrepreneur’ in large companies, where I’ve constantly felt my passion ignite with the invention of new brands, products, or business units.”

Teresa has worked for renowned companies like IBM, Accenture, and now Publicis Sapient. While working for these organizations, she has always pursued opportunities to create, innovate, and ideate at every corner.

In this candid interview with Teresa, she shares how Publicis Sapient is navigating the challenges of the pandemic and her thoughts on women empowerment.

Can you brief us about Publicis Sapient and the services that the company offers?

Publicis Sapient is a digital business transformation partner. We have spent over three decades utilizing technology and ingenuity to help digitally enable our clients’ business in their pursuit of their next. In our journey, we have been able to help renowned enterprises and brands like McDonald’s, Marriott, and Walmart, maximize their digital presence to drive growth and improve the customer experience. We are continually learning through our own experience to deliver the best for our clients. Our goal as a company has always been about one thing: helping established businesses become relevant in the digital age, and in doing so helping them thrive, not just survive.

What do you think distinguishes Publicis Sapient from its competitors?

Our differentiator is our HOW, the customer-centric approach we take to bring all of our capabilities together, prioritizing the customer. We have a practical, holistic and multi-disciplinary approach that helps businesses build the digital capabilities they need to continuously adapt to change and create customer value at speed and scale.

How has your role contributed to the company’s success?

I joined Publicis Sapient in 2018, and my initial focus was to define the transformative vision, strategy, and direction of the company and brand, helping it emerge as a powerful driver of innovation and growth. Accomplishing this meant unifying 20K employees under a single-purpose and brand. Two years later, we have successfully established a strong market presence and have a leadership ranking in the Digital Business Transformation space. Most importantly, our marketing-influenced pipeline has seen 278% growth in 2020 alone.

As a leader, was it difficult to navigate through the crisis?

As a global CMO, my role and focus have always been to create an environment that encourages and fosters creativity, innovation, and experimentation. I’m a believer in a team culture that favors flexibility over process, speed over perfection, and is filled with individuals who are “learn-it-alls” vs. “know-it-alls.” This enabled us to make quick pivots when the crisis hit, without the loss of speed or momentum. The pandemic presented us with an opportunity to learn and to innovate. We were able to build new marketing products and innovations, such as The HOW Channel, a streaming platform for short form content, while at the same time continue driving growth.

What is your favorite thing about being a leader?

My favorite thing in my role is working with younger people and getting the chance to see them grow, but also having the opportunity to learn from them. I’m a lifelong learner myself; I’m always curious, and I believe that anyone is capable of teaching me something. I’ve been very inspired by some of the future leaders that I’ve been able to interact with. One year ago, I introduced a program called the “Marketing Action Leadership Program,” which we refer to as MALP. The purpose is to nurture the next generation of marketing leaders. It has been a tremendous success and we’ve launched company-wide initiatives through the program with our younger marketing leaders taking full ownership.

How has your leadership role empowered future generations of women leaders?

As a Portuguese Hispanic woman in leadership, it’s very rewarding to be able to open the doors for future generations of female leaders who are from different cultural, academic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I am continually looking at ways to help them in their careers. It is one of the greatest joys of being a leader myself. I want to be deliberate about creating space and making room for future generations, by building and offering opportunities where they can grow and learn.

Would you like to share your thoughts on how the pandemic has affected women leaders’ careers?

There are many staggering statistics today about women exiting the workforce due to the added burden placed on them since the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on everyone is significant, but women in particular are carrying the burden at home. I’d like to continuously support women on my team and in our company, and there are many ways we have already been doing this – mentorship, sharing inspirational career stories, daily support, and simple things like listening and leading with empathy.

Lastly, 2020 brought several changes, what are your expectations for 2021?

2020 taught us that we can’t predict the future and change is constant, but my expectations for 2021 are filled with hope that we will return to growth from an economic, societal, and health standpoint. And most importantly, that we will resume some sense of normalcy. For us as a company, we will continue to help our clients stay ever relevant in a digital age. Likewise, we aim to help them grow their business and create better customer experiences.

Read full issue: The 10 Game-Changing Women Leaders of 2021

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