The next woman who wows is Dallas-based Deborah McMurray, the founder and CEO of strategy, design, content and technology agency Content Pilot.
There are so many great things I want to say about Deborah. She is kind, smart, witty, funny, elegant, wise and humble. We were introduced through mutual friends in the legal marketing industry about 15 years ago, hit it off immediately and have remained close ever since. Whenever she is in New York City, we have a girls night out and catch up. She has given me great advice over the years both professionally and personally, and despite being a very busy CEO, always makes time for me. I’m lucky to have her in my life.
Learn more about Deborah below.
Why did you choose your profession?
I chose only one profession and that was to be a professional classical flutist and conductor. When I decided to switch careers to business, I gravitated to what I thought was the most creative part of business, “marketing.” It was a circuitous path to end up in professional services marketing, and particularly my passion, strategy, design and technology – but I’ve never looked back!
What do you love most about what you do?
Each day is a new day. Literally, no two days behave alike. Free-range thinkers do well in our environment. We require a lot of discipline and rigor when it comes to process and performance – but the core of all of it is creativity and innovative thinking. There is nothing more exhilarating than a blank piece of paper that starts to take shape.
Tell us about a woman you look up to and why.
I look up to my my mother, Muriel Joy Hanson, who died in 2008 at the age of 91. As a brilliant classical pianist and 50-year piano teacher, she taught me about perfectionism (which I’ve had to temper my entire life) and what being a survivor looks like. She was both a dreamer and a pragmatist and she sought joy wherever she could find it. Usually in friendship, food and travel. On her 90th birthday, she performed three 45-minute piano recitals for beloved friends, followers and admirers. Standing-room only at her party – we should all be that blessed.
Do you have a mentor?
Not in the traditional sense. I have countless mentors who are experts in certain things that I want to learn (or that I’ll never learn, but for which I want more than a superficial understanding). Most of my mentors have no idea they are one for me. And many of my mentors don’t know who I am.
Any advice to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Focus less on being observed and more on being observant. Our culture is too “all about me” in my book. If you focus on being a contributor to something extraordinary, the attention will come. You’ll have earned it.
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
Dig deeper to find the authentic you. You think you’ve got it? Nope, you don’t – dig deeper still.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
“Be yourself.” My 4th-grade teacher wrote this in my yearbook when I was 9 and I had no idea what she meant. It took me decades and a lot of therapy to figure out where she was headed with that comment.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I mostly don’t. I work A LOT. Partly because I volunteer a lot and say “YES” a lot. It’s not my Content Pilot work, but I routinely take on stretch assignments to raise money for favorite causes/charities, chair events or give back in important ways to LMA. To excel and make remarkable things happen, it takes a fervent desire to make a difference. That is the common thread between my work and my play – a passion to make a difference.
How has social media helped you build your brand?
I love to write, share stories and points of view – it’s given me a platform to authentically elevate above the banal, the fray and take the high road. Those who follow me know that I work hard to stay out of the mud.
Which woman most inspires you and why?
The women who inspire me most are those who were courageous can-doers against all odds. The first global celebration of International Women’s Day was March 8, 1911 – just imagine the astoundingly accomplished women we need to remember and honor through history – in science, the arts, music, medicine, literature, sports, the law, aviation and astronomy . . . the list is as long as time itself.
What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
I am a voracious learner, a quick study, I never think I have all the answers and I truly enjoy collaborating and working with others. And I want to have FUN. Most of us work way too hard not to have FUN. Oh – and I love what I do. I really do.