Liz EngelsenLiz Engelsen is Chief Marketing Officer at HealthTech start-up ZavFit. After working with some of the world’s most recognised brands like Starbucks, Wrigley, British Airways, Motorola, Diageo, IBM and MasterCard, Liz made a bold and perhaps radical decision to step down from a prestigious role as Executive Director of Strategy at Interbrand to start a family.

This gamble paid off and now she’s back carving out a different type of career. Enticed by ZavFit’s purpose led mission to tackle money stress and help people feel happier and healthier, Liz is part of the ZavFit leadership team looking to make a difference in people’s lives.

Thinking differently has been a common thread in Liz’s career, having created countless brand, innovation and marketing strategies. She prides herself on getting people excited about new ideas and always putting the customer first. Liz’s past career spanned assignments touching four continents, running workshops in 35 countries, and she lived/worked in New York City, London, Amsterdam and even a few months in Tokyo. She is now based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Hi everyone! My name is Liz, I’m an American based in Edinburgh. I’ve been here for nearly eight years following a few years in London. I’m currently the Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer at ZavFit, a HealthTech start-up. We have developed the first money related health app to improve stress.

Most of my career was in New York working at big consulting companies for some of the world’s most recognised brands like Starbucks, Wrigley, British Airways, Motorola, Diageo, IBM and MasterCard. I have developed brand, marketing and innovation strategies for these brands all focused on consumers and trends.  I made a bold and perhaps radical decision to step down from my last role as Executive Director of Strategy at Interbrand to start a family. Most of my friends and colleagues were shocked by this decision and now after a few years off, I’m carving out a different type of career. I was enticed by ZavFit’s purpose led mission to tackle a global issue of money stress and along with the team, I’m looking to make a difference in people’s lives.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The simple answer is no. However, I always had ambitions of taking on larger roles and bigger assignments. One thing I did learn early on was to get as much as possible from my current role by delivering great results day after day, being proactive, and always taking on more responsibility than was asked of me. I was a sponge soaking up as much knowledge from my peers, my boss and people in other departments. I largely worked in consulting companies so it was a fabulous way to meet people in other types of agencies and also understand how my client’s businesses worked. My past jobs have taken me around the world conducting research, hosting meetings, running workshops & training sessions and presenting new strategies across four continents and 35 countries.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Regardless of the role or company, there are always challenges, set backs and for every high, there will be a low. While it felt absolutely crap at the time, looking back I can now say that each of these situations has helped me grow, become smarter and more versatile. From a big important meeting turning into a disaster, to being passed over for a promotion, to losing a multi-million pound pitch, to sexual harassment, to being made redundant. There will be lots of obstacles, it’s okay to feel down but then think about what you can learn or create from the situation.

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Now that’s a tough question. Some of my biggest achievements have proudly been as part of a team working together to bring something new to the world. I find that teams with the most diverse skills & backgrounds produce the most interesting and unexpected ideas. I’d say this has led to some of my career highs – being part of the team that developed & launched Starbucks VIA or working with Wrigley’s global leadership team in China, Germany and the US to develop a new vision & purpose to guide the company and inspire employees around the world. Perhaps my biggest achievement is some of the exceptional young talent I mentored that have gone on to run their own companies and are in senior roles in big global companies.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Always hiring people that were smarter than me and training them to one day push me out of a job. Having a talented team is everything. I’d also say being resourceful and looking for the positive in every situation.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be curious. Always listen & learn from every situation/experience. Don’t sit and wait for training to be offered, think about how you can gain new skills/develop yourself, not just related to your job or other useful business skills. Approach your career as building and gathering skills and then think about where else those skills could be applied. Tap into networking events that are targeted to your interests be it start-ups, wellness, design, etc.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I’m new to the tech world and have used my expertise in other areas, building brands, customer experience, launching & embedding new ideas into organisations for my current role at ZavFit. I’m going to say something that I actually haven’t done yet, find a mentor to help you break through the barriers.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

That’s a good question, why aren’t there more women in tech. If there were more female founders, then this could spark some change. ZavFit is a female founder business and we are quite proud that 50% of our team is female!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Since ZavFit is a HealthTech company, I’m obsessed with all things Health & Wellbeing at the moment, so my list includes anything from the Global Wellness Institute and WellToDo. I’m also into trends, so reports from the Future Laboratory and Intelligence Briefs are really useful.  Lastly, I’ve been really impressed with the career, networking and start-up content at AllBright, a club/community for women.