Pivotter Series: Kieley Taylor and Making Partner at 28 - What it takes.

The Pivotter Series explores the themes of ambition, motivation, and productivity as experienced by high-performing women.

Kieley Taylor, Partner/ Head of Paid Social, GroupM - NY, NY


What are some of the most important things to know about you?

I'm a pragmatic optimist. I try to to understand where others are coming from and find mutually beneficial solutions. I stay calm under pressure and look for the lesson when things don't go well.

Why do you do what you do?

If I broke this down into it’s most basic components, my drive comes from:

1) A genuine interest in what I do

2) An appetite to learn everyday, and to share what I learn with others, resulting in efficiencies within my organization

3) Being naturally wired to achievement and being competitive – which have served me well in NYC

A little more about what I do: I’ve always been fascinated by advertising and chose it as my career because it’s a really interesting intersection between art and human behavior. It’s my goal to make consumer experiences better. I aim to do that by raising the relevancy of social advertisements and delivering hyper-targeted ads that the end customer actually finds useful. I am energized by social media because it is constantly changing. It gives me lots of opportunities to experiment and refine my approach.

What does ambition personally mean to you - what place does it have in your life?

I've never thought of myself as ambitious. My current mode feels like the norm for me, I’ve been like this my whole life. From a young age, I was granted a high level of autonomy, which increased my sense of responsibility and made me a leader.

I think I’ve gotten to this point in my life by working like hell to become a subject matter expert and by always keeping my eyes open for the next opportunity to round out my experience.

Now, I’m pretty confident in my professional abilities - which helps extinguish the “I don't know what to dos” and “how is this my job?” that inevitably pop up from time to time. Quelling those fears or thoughts is important, because it allows you to focus on problem solving, which only adds to your experience, growing your confidence to take on even more complex problems.

Do you think our culture perceives “ambition” to be a dirty word for women? Why or why not?

    To me, the word “ambition” feels a little hollow. When applied to either a man or a woman, it signals a sort of of  machiavellian nature or selfishness.

    I prefer “driven.” To me, this represents a better balance between goals and effort. Ambition without effort has a habit of turning into entitlement which is and should be a dirty word.

    Please share one of your current, important goals (can be personal or work-related).  Why is this a goal and how did you realize it was something that you wanted to work on?

      For years, my New Year’s Resolution has been to achieve a better work/life balance. Half the time, I’ve said that while working on New Year’s eve night. I have come to realize that the nature of my job lends itself to lots of urgent problem solving, which is like kryptonite for balance. So recently, I revised my goal: Instead of a chorus of “I shoulds” (I should have gone to the gym this morning, I should go to dinner with friends during the week, I should spend more time at home) I am focused on creating a healthy routine for myself.

      What’s your plan for achieving it?

      By shifting from an absolute view that if I'm working a lot, I'm failing at my goaI. Also, by defining a bit more of what work/life balance personally means to me. What it means for me now, is allowing myself to define “healthy” and seek health in many ways. I established a routine to take daily supplements, with the goal of generating a healthy body from the inside-out. I aim to find time everyday (sometimes more sometimes less) to meditate and focus on my breath. I view time spent doing absolutely nothing with my boyfriend and our two kittens as “healthy” because it grows healthy relationships. I drink less. By expanding my definition of work/life balance from “fewer hours in the office” to “higher quality time” when I'm not working–I feel like I have finally made progress around my goal.

      What do you do if you are having a hard time defining goals?

      I focus on doing a great job at what I'm currently doing and stay open to opportunities. Additionally, I try to be as helpful as I can, and pay it forward with a focus on sharing and support for others. Things have a way of working themselves out when keeping these things in mind.

      How do you stay motivated to fulfill your goals and sense of ambition, and what do you do when you get stuck?

      I've learned to celebrate the small victories because they happen more often and are subtle reminders that the work I'm doing as an impact. I save these small victories in a folder called “rainy day” they include praise for work, congratulations, and examples of my team acting as a community.

      I also am very quick to get pulled back to the day to day and am already on to the next thing without celebrating major accomplishments. But I know how important it is to remind yourself that it’s ok to be proud of what you’ve done. A few years ago I started buying something tangible when I accomplished a milestone. When I made partner at GroupM I splurged and bought designer boots I'd had my eyes on. I wear them to this day and affectionately refer to them as howdy partner boots. When I lead and won a $70mm client I bought a badass leather jacket. When I wear these items now it serves as a subtle reminder to myself of my work being recognized.

      Moving forward, I plan on using this quote from Barack Obama as a way to get unstuck. In it, he is describing his failed attempt at running for Congress in 1999: “But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ – then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

      What is one tool/trick/lifehack/resource/service do you use to stay productive?

        For work, a deck (presentation) hack I’ve learned is to focus on creating foundational, or template, slides. By building decks with an emphasis on modular slides, I can create custom work without custom effort. The result? Instead of starting from scratch every presentation (and I have to give a lot!) I have become strong at boiling down a problem to a recognizable issue then pulling from various presentations to curate a response to the issue at hand. Then, I addresses the specific problem with minor tweaks.

        What activities do you do outside of your full-time gig? How do you find time to do it? How does it make you more successful in your full-time gig?

        Travel sparks something in me unlike any other activity. At work and even at home, I can feel pulled in many directions. While traveling, I fully immerse myself in the present. I love exploring down narrow streets, climbing the highest point I can find to see the view and taking tons of pictures. Traveling is stimulating and is one of the few times I truly disconnect from work in favor of the new experience around me.

        When not traveling, in my downtime, I read trade publications, and magazines like Wired and Fast Company. Or, I’ll read up on current events, pop culture. For books, I prefer memoirs, psychology books and business books.

        Reading informs my approach to leadership and strategy for my clients.  Daily there are articles about a client’s category, competitors, or relevant thought pieces that I try to connect to the teams so that they can be informed and offer more strategic guidance to their brands.

        What would you do with an extra 15 minutes a day?

        I'm not one for routine so it would depend on the day.  I’d probably try to make myself a warm breakfast or I’d get to the gym more (15 more minutes being the difference to make going to the gym worth it). More sleep also comes to mind as a solid candidates for most days.