We talk to a lot of important women at Glamour—astronauts, pro athletes, executives, and the occasional First Lady. And while they span the professional spectrum and live all over the world, we’ve found that high-ranking women tend to have one thing in common: They’re truly excited to hold the door open for the women coming up behind them. In our Future Forward series—part of our College Women of the Year coverage—we asked some of those industry leaders to welcome the next generation to the table with their hard-earned life and career advice. Maya Bowie, Walmart’s vice president of omni retail marketing, shares hers below.
Every company has a diversity and inclusion strategy in 2022, but Maya Bowie has been cultivating D&I conversations for decades: At Duke University, she was part of a group of student leaders who hosted an event called Race Day to elevate discussions on race and foster improved community across campus.
“Early on, bridging different communities and helping them to work more collaboratively was a passion,” she tells Glamour. And she says she’s continued to bring that passion to every company for which she’s worked—including, today, Walmart, where she oversees the megastore’s U.S. retail marketing strategy.
Bowie says she wants everyone to see themselves in the teams she builds and the products they sell—and she’s doing the work to ensure that happens. (Led and advised employee resource groups? Check. Launched multiple multicultural strategies? Check. Actively recruited and hired a diverse workforce? Check.)
And she’s eager to help others rise up to do the same. (That’s just one reason she agreed to mentor one of Glamour’s 2022 College Women of the Year, Mallory Butts, who dreams of launching her own cosmetics line.) “I think one of the biggest things leaders can do is reach back—to coach, inspire and develop others and ultimately help them reach their career goals, whether it’s through advice, mentorship, direct sponsorship, or development,” Bowie says.
A veteran marketer and merchandiser, she can quickly tick off career advice—what it takes to succeed in marketing: an obsession with customers, a hunger to learn, and serious interpersonal skills.
But despite her professional success, Bowie’s best life advice boils down to not working too hard. “A lot of people are career driven and, in some ways, live to work,” she says. “But there comes a point in life where you work to live, really fueling the areas of your life, whether that’s time with family, exploring your hobbies, traveling. Those are the things that you look back on at the end of your life. So, make sure you balance broader things in your life that make you happy.”
Read on for more words of wisdom from Bowie.
Glamour: What time do you wake up in the morning?
Maya Bowie: I’m unique in that I don’t have a consistent time. It generally ranges from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., and it depends on what time I go to bed, because I like to get about seven hours of sleep.
What is your typical morning routine?
The only thing I’ve tried to incorporate consistently is a form of daily meditation. When the weather is great, I love to go outside and just kind of feel the earth, staying focused and grounded. And I think about my energy across four dimensions: I think there’s emotional energy, mental energy, physical energy, and then, ultimately, spiritual energy. I really try to center myself on why I’m here, what my purpose is, what’s important in my day, how I want to show up, and making sure that I come from a place of gratitude and joy. We often have busy days, but how we engage with people ultimately impacts how we feel and the output of our work. And so, starting with some very focused time, and remembering what’s important, really sets my day up for success.
What was your first childhood dream job?
When I was younger I wanted to be a “doctor scientist.” Science was a big focus of my mom’s, and she exposed me to science in interesting ways, invention and innovation. I was given exposure to everything from robotics and NASA astronauts. Plus, exposing girls and women of color to science was kind of popular back in the day—and I won’t name the decade!—so, I talked about wearing those dual hats for a couple of years.
What was the moment you realized, “OK, I might actually be successful?”
I wrote in a college paper that success is a journey, not a destination. I do really believe that. I think it’s a mindset of how we approach life. I was someone who was achievement-oriented throughout my life. Being accepted into Duke University was an accomplishment because it’s a great school with competitive students. That felt like a great moment. But at different points in my career, I’ve always felt that I’m on a journey, with a real desire to do something great. I don’t think I ever felt like I “arrived.” I’ve just always been on the journey.
What’s a piece of career advice you wish you’d learned in college?
Early on, I thought I had a plan—a very clear plan—and I thought I had a timeline. And I’ll say, it’s been none of that. It’s great to have a plan and to have goals and to have a set of things that you want to achieve or do or be. But be open along the way.
Don’t be too caught up in your plan and make sure you have openness, because sometimes when the plan doesn’t go as you wanted, that could be the time that leads to the greatest opportunity for growth, for momentum, for an end state that’s even better than you imagined.
What personal quality is non-negotiable for success in your field?
Integrity is important. When you’re in a leadership role and making important decisions and have some accountability for the business, a high level of integrity is non-negotiable.
If someone’s just starting out in your field, how can she position herself for success?
Find the concentric circles of what you’re good at, what you love, and ultimately, what you can get paid for. Your first job probably isn’t going to be the perfect balance of all those things. But work really hard at it. I do think, working hard, giving your all, early in your career—with a balance for your mental health, obviously!—really demonstrates an excellence that can carry your reputation. Set that positive first impression early on with a good work ethic.
What does the future of the industry look like?
We’re in a digital world and how people consume content, as well as how they engage in commerce, is really different. More people have the power to influence than ever before. Connecting authentically with people—expanding the pie, if you will—of how you make decisions, and including the crowd in your strategy and in your marketing, is, to me, the future.
How can someone impress you in a job interview?
Have questions. There’s always so much to learn before you’re working for someone or in an organization. So those who demonstrate curiosity really stand out to me. When people don’t have any questions, that’s a red flag that they won’t bring curiosity into their work. A curious person who demonstrates eagerness to learn more is always impressive.
What makes a person’s résumé or cover letter stand out to you?
I love to see people come through in their résumé. I love to see that they’re engaged in various activities, whether it’s nonprofit work or someone who took advantage of their four-plus years of college through extracurricular activities. And then, I do look for leadership—those who emerge amongst their peers, whatever they’re doing, whether it’s leading a sports team as a captain or the president of a club. It demonstrates to me that not only are they able to do the work and have intellectual prowess, but they also have the support of their peers who nominated or selected them for a particular role of leadership. I think that speaks volumes.
Post-interview thank-you notes: handwritten, emailed, or don’t bother?
I do personally like some sort of follow up and I don’t mind if it’s an email. But I try not to judge people for not sending them. So honestly, I don’t think of it too much. But those who send a nice note that reinforces their interest, that shows, really, a passion for wanting the role.
Name your go-to thank-you gift.
I love flowers because I think they just brighten a room and I love to get them. So, flowers—or a plant—are go-tos for me.
If you weren’t in your current job …
I would be a world traveler, reviewing great restaurants, hotels, and cities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Jillian Kramer is a journalist who writes about health, wellness, science, and adventure. She taps into a broad network of experts to write in-depth articles for leading publications, including Glamour, The New York Times, Scientific American, Travel + Leisure, EatingWell, and Food & Wine.
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