I am PUMPED to Spotlight Ellie Petrillo Martins who just so happens to be my GGBig ("Grand Grand Big") in my sorority, the Iota Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi. Ellie graduated from Florida State University in 2015 and moved to New York City, where she lived for 4 years while working for The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. She started as the Assistant to the Vice President of Education, Talent Development and Special Events, then transitioned into 2 different roles within the company before making the move down to Norfolk, VA with her now-husband, Delano, who was stationed as a Nuclear Naval Officer. Currently, Ellie is the Executive Director of Operations at Be Aveda Institutes in the St. Petersburg/Tampa, FL area.
Witnessing Ellie dominate in the beauty industry, all while being glowingly down-to-earth, showed me what is truly possible when you interweave passion with purpose. When I was a clueless Freshman at FSU, Ellie was a seasoned Senior, and I remember watching her interact with the other women in our Chapter, practically looking like she walked on water. She was kind to absolutely everyone, she was accomplished, focused, fabulous, and incredibly uplifting. The story I always love to share is how Ellie would let me raid her closet ANY time I needed a professional outfit for a leadership event or sorority chapter meeting, which was at least twice a week for a solid year. This woman continuously puts herself "at level" with everyone she interacts with - never viewing herself as more superior than the person beside her, but rather, she makes the extra effort to genuinely relate to each individual she interacts with, making them feel valued, important, and heard.
Ellie has been an amazingly uplifting woman in my life and I know she will be the same in yours too - Read more about Ellie's journey below & connect with her on Instagram here --> @elliepmartins
1. Rarely is someone's journey linear. Can you explain what each of you wanted to be when you grew up, and how your career landed where you are right now?
Oh my journey is far from linear and far from where I thought I would be 15 years ago. Growing up I always thought I wanted to be in the medical field, so I started college at FSU as a Speech Pathology major. In my first class in the major, Intro to Speech Pathology, the professor showed a video of a microscope going down someone’s throat and I immediately knew this was not the major for me. I then switched to Psychology, which I really enjoyed but realized in order to have a successful career I likely needed to get my Masters (or more), which I wasn’t ready to commit to. So off to the Business school I went. I always enjoyed business and marketing, so this finally felt like a natural fit for me. I ended up graduating with a double major in Marketing and Human Resource Management with a minor in Psychology.
Leading up to my graduation I had always been a very “type A” person- I liked all my ducks in a row, always. Sticking to my type A-ness, I had accepted a job working HR for Target in Atlanta, October of my senior year. I was thrilled to have a job offer and to be able to coast my way through the remainder of my college career. Three weeks before graduation, I received a call from a colleague that I worked with at Aveda asking me if I ever had the itch to go to New York City. I explained I loved the city and always thought it would be a cool place to live, but that I had accepted a job with Target and was moving to Atlanta. She proceeded to sell me on the New York dream and told me that there were jobs open at the company she was at- Estee Lauder. I grew up in the beauty industry, so Estee Lauder had always been the ultimate goal for me. Long story short- I ended up flying to New York two weeks after graduation, slept on my friends couch and before I knew it I had a job as the Assistant to the VP of Education and Special Events at Estee Lauder.
Working at Estee Lauder was beyond an incredible experience. I was a bright eyed girl from Florida soaking up every New York experience that I could get my hands on. I worked for some amazing people who exposed me to SO much in the business world. I also had a great work ethic from an early age- I was the one always willing to come in early in order to set up a meeting to expose myself to top executives who I would have not otherwise met. This is my biggest advise to young women starting out in their careers- ALWAYS go the extra mile to stand out and help, the only thing you’re doing is helping yourself.
I ended up working for Estee Lauder for almost 4 years, moving up from an Assistant to a Trade Marketing Associate to a Freelance Talent Manager. As I got older, I realized, as incredible as NYC was, it was probably not the ideal place to settle down and raise a family. In December of 2018, just after getting engaged to my now husband, I received a call from my Dad. My Dad owns 6 Aveda Institute Beauty Schools in Florida. He called to praise my career success and offer the opportunity to work alongside him. He shared that the company could really benefit from the experience I had at Estee Lauder and he offered a pretty sweet deal. I called my boss at Estee Lauder to share the news and she shared that she was calling me today to offer me a promotion… God works in crazy ways!
In January 2019, I joined my dad in the family business. I started as Marketing Manager handling all marketing and retail activity for the schools. As “the boss’s daughter” it was really important for me to make my own name for myself. When I first joined, I didn’t even want people to know who I was. I worked really hard to prove myself, and form trust and relationships with each of our employees. I have worked my way up to my now position- Executive Director of Operations where I oversee the operations of all 6 schools. The past year, dealing with the challenges of COVID, pushed my immensely as leader. I am a completely different person than I was a year ago, one of the many silver linings of the virus.
My career path has been far from linear. I am a huge believer in “everything happens for a reason, whatever is meant to be will be” and my career path thus far has been nothing short of that!
2. Which single word do each of you most identify with and why did you choose that word?
Kind. As part of a recent initiative we did with our employees, I looked into the true definition of kindness and how it differs from niceness. Both words are often synonymous, however they are very much different. An act of niceness is doing something that benefits another person with the expectation of receiving something in return. An act of kindness is doing something for someone with no intention of receiving anything in return.
As a leader, I try to lead with kindness as my forefront. When dealing with student issues or employee issues, I always try to listen with pure intention and lead from a place of kindness- both being kind to their situation and kind to my business and it’s needs. I care a lot about each of our employees. They are part of our company family- I care about their dreams, about their passions, about how their second grader won the spelling bee last week. People are very important to me, and being kind to them is how I like to drive our business. I use kindness to celebrate them for their incredible accomplishments and I use kindness to coach them on areas of opportunities. I believe with kindness as your forefront, anything is possible.
3. With all of the noise that is happening around us in current times, how do you think women can best find their "calling"? Or how can women identify what they are truly passionate about?
Oh there is so much noise right now, it is quite a crazy time we are living in. I recently took a break from social media and it was beyond refreshing. I was able to focus on myself and do things that truly bring me joy, instead of wasting my time scrolling through Instagram. I would recommend this break to anyone who is searching to find their passion- it is eye opening and allows you to do a lot of soul searching.
4. When considering Aveda's "Be Mentors. Be Owners. Be Kind." initiative, why do you feel it is so important for members of our teams to have high accountability over their roles and responsibilities?
The “Be Owners” portion of our newest initiative is so important to me. It came about because my sister, Emma, just join the family business working with my dad and I. Emma and I were talking one night about work, and she was like, “I wish every employee cared as much as we did”, and it dawned on me- why can’t they? And the Be Owner mentality was born. We want our employees to own their roles and responsibilities so that they drive results that they are proud of. When a member of leadership asks an employee about their sales results or enrollment numbers, we want them to be filled with pride sharing the results because they know that they owned their role and contributed highly to the business.
5. What is the biggest barrier you each experienced as a woman in your career?
I am extremely fortunate to work in an industry that is dominated by women. I am surrounded by very powerful women mentors who are great examples of breaking the glass ceiling for women. Honestly speaking, I have not experienced any barriers as a woman, which I know is rare and I am so grateful to be in the beauty industry. One barrier I have experienced throughout my career was my age. When I first started at Estee Lauder, I was the youngest person in the office. I grew up as the oldest child in my family, so being the youngest is not something that comes natural for me. I had to work hard to prove myself at a young age and prove to senior leadership the value that I could bring to the brand as a recent graduate of college.
6. Which woman, not in your immediate family, has been the most influential for you?
My first boss, Miranda, has been the most influential woman to me in my career thus far. I started at Estee Lauder as her assistant. She took me under her wing and exposed me to far more than the other assistants were exposed to in the office. We had an incredible relationship, and I learned so much from her. I used to tell people that I was sad for the weekend because I loved working for her so much… people thought I was crazy haha! She left the Estee Lauder brand and is now leading education for Dior. She runs a million dollar brand, while balancing being a mother to two boys and a wife. Miranda is a great role model to all woman on how to be a boss and balance family life- if you put in the effort in balance, one does not need to sacrifice for the other.
7. What have you learned most about leading within a company comprised of 96% women?
The power of relationships. Relationships are everything when leading a company of majority woman. Strong relationships allow for you to develop trust with your employees and hold them accountable. The beauty industry in general is a very strong relationship based company, from our employees to our students to our guests, relationships are so important. This has also proven true in these COVID times. If our guests have a relationship with our school, they are much more likely to come in and trust that we are following safety protocols. If students have a relationship with our school and their educators, they are much more likely to come to school and graduate on time. If employees have a relationship with leadership, they are much more likely to ask for help when needed which is extremely important to me.
8. Go-to ice cream flavor?!
Cookie dough FOR SURE. We just got an ice cream maker for our Kitchen Aid mixer and made homemade cookie dough ice cream… I about died and went to heaven! I am also obsessed with rainbow sprinkles, but they have to be the right kind of rainbow sprinkles- if you know you know.
9. What is the best professional advice you've ever received?
“Always do the windows”. Early on in my career my dad told me to “always do the windows, no matter how high your position”. What he meant by that is always do the job of your lowest employee- the janitor. You are never too good to clean a window, or jump in to help check out a guest, or take a student on a tour or clean up a mess of foils. We should be able to walk into a school and help with whatever the need is that day. I try to live by this every day, which allows me to keep my hands in a little bit of everything.
10. What "set-back" did you experience in your life, either personally or professionally, that you were able to grow from?
Does the pandemic count as a set back? Our business was THRIVING in January, February and even March of 2020. I remember literally dancing around the office in February saying “finally all the hard work our teams have put in is paying off, we are back”… then COVID kicked us in the face and knocked us right down. Like many, 2020 was a year of extreme stress that pushed me far beyond my boundaries as a leader. We had to make extremely hard decisions regarding our employees- who are our Be Family, around our students, around our business. Every day was an uphill climb jumping over hurdles that we had never dealt with in our business before. It was also my first year of marriage, my poor, poor husband- he is a trooper because stressed Ellie is not a pleasant Ellie! I remember one night just getting in bed and screaming because that was the only thing that felt good. Now that we are out of the turmoil of the pandemic, I look back on 2020 with extreme gratitude. I am grateful for the love and patience of my husband. I am grateful for the incredible leadership and decision making of my Dad and the executive team. I am now grateful for the extreme stress. I grew so much in 2020, as a person and as a leader- a true silver lining of the COVID- 19 set back.