chatting with...sally parrott

Getting in touch with Aritzia's Sally Parrott for a YWiB chat was easy.  I only had to email once, and she replied within a couple hours.  Sally's efficient and innovative, and I'm guessing that's how she moved her way up the ladder at one of Canada's best-selling clothing retailers for women.  Here we talked about her journey to the top. name three people you'd like to have a dinner party with. That’s funny, I just had this conversation with someone the other day.  I have so many but I think three that are top of mind for me now are Maya Angelou (every woman should know her name), Anais Nin (I just find her life fascinating) and Mick Jagger (I know, he’s not the most intellectual choice but I bet he has some amazing stories).

you’ve been with aritzia for seven years, starting as a one-person department and now overseeing both marketing and creative services as vice-president of marketing.  what’s the biggest change or shift you’ve seen in marketing strategy during your time at aritzia? I think the biggest shift, and the most obvious, has been in the emergence of social media.  We now have both the opportunity and challenge of interacting with our customers on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  Gone are the days of developing a campaign for a season and then leveraging it across three or four key mediums.  Now we have to be very clear about our brand and key messaging and then develop a content strategy and plan that can be leveraged across a host of mediums that are multiplying by the month.

after working at proctor and gamble for four years, you had an “early-life crisis” and travelled in southeast asia for 18 months.  what kind of influence did your overseas adventures have on your career?  I think the time away forced me to take a step back and identify what I really wanted out of my work and my life.  Ultimately I identified that I did like my chosen career (at that point I was open to anything from being a mountain guide to a travelling nomad) but that it was important to me to work in an industry I cared about and was fun.  Life is too short to be unhappy – we spend a lot of time at work so we’d better enjoy it.

That time also taught me to trust my gut and my instincts.  I don’t always succeed in this regard but it’s a lesson all of us should learn.

Finally, that adventure and the many I’ve had since have taught me that life is all about lessons and my career will grow and evolve as I do.  Taking a step away every now and again helps me to evaluate with a clear head.  To take the path less travelled means that I will make mistakes and sometimes find myself in a place I didn’t envision – and that’s ok…sometimes even great.   To walk this path takes courage and multiple life crisis and I’m convinced it’s all worth it.

what makes aritzia a great place to work? Aritzia is full of young, extraordinarily bright, motivated individuals (the majority of whom are women) who are all passionate about what they do.  I also think there is an enormous amount of trust in the leadership of the organization.  It’s difficult to maintain a successful company for over 25 years and Aritzia has done just that.  It’s confidence inspiring. Having respect for the leadership, right from the very top, is something I think is extremely important.

why do you think YWiB and the YWiB philosophy is important for young women in the community?  Regardless of our age, gender or career status I think having both a strong foundation of peers AND mentors is essential in becoming our best versions of ourselves.  I don’t think it’s wise to sit back and expect our educational institutions or employers to own our career development.  We need to own our owns paths and I think one of the best ways to do that is to reach out into the community and connect with people who are aligned in values and can help us to grow and learn.  YWIB gives young women that opportunity.  I’ve been so impressed and, frankly, awestruck by the talent and motivation of the young women (and mentors) I’ve met through the group.