AdaPia d’Errico admits that she’s “innately restless.” But that’s not a bad thing. Cutting her teeth in business the hard way during the financial crisis of 2008, AdaPia’s adaptive nature, entrepreneurial spirit and buck convention attitude were critical components that led her from a European exchange program to CMO. “It’s been a wild ride,” she says.
With a career that’s included owning her own business, developing intellectual properties for big brands and advising startups on brand development, it might be surprising to learn that AdaPia admits she’s been her own worst enemy. In fact, learning to not underestimate herself and own her success has been critical to landing her position at Patch of Land, a startup that connects real estate investors and borrowers through online crowdfunding.
“I truly feel I’ve found peace with my never-ending quest for growth [at Patch of Land],” admits AdaPia. “This position … feeds my need for personal career achievement … because I feel like it’s mine.”
We’d love to hear more about your career path. How did you go from college graduate to chief marketing officer?
In a very unconventional and non-linear way! There are days when I think to myself, “How did I get here?!” I’ll start by saying that I’m very fortunate because of all the incredible experiences I’ve had that have brought me here. My innate restlessness and need to better myself have pushed me very far.
When I was still in college, I decided to undertake an exchange program to a European university, which led to me living in Switzerland and working for a hedge fund during the financial crisis of 2008. At the time I didn’t know it, but I had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, which had been manifesting my entire career as intrapreneurialism — and that would often get me in trouble because I was perceived as a threat instead of a “good, obey-the-rules, do-only-what-you’re-told” employee.
After the fund cleared the most dangerous period after the initial crisis, I went rogue! I embraced my inner entrepreneur and started a business with my sister. In my 7 years as an entrepreneur, I charged headlong into the entertainment, publishing, licensing, gaming and consumer brands industries. Along the way, I learned that I had an innate ability to understand and ‘feel’ trends.
After moving through Vancouver, I landed in LA three years ago to help large consumer brands develop new intellectual properties. There, I got into the Silicon Beach scene, where I met many startups and advised on growth strategy and brand development. I came across news of equity crowdfunding and my research led me to real estate crowdfunding.
I went to a conference and met the founders of Patch of Land. We immediately clicked, and I was thrilled that such a young company would see the value in bringing on a strategist in brand and marketing.
It’s been a wild ride (the stuff startup stories are made of!) and I truly feel I’ve found peace with my never-ending quest for growth. This position allows me to make a massive contribution, which also feeds my need for personal career achievement.
What does a day in your life entail? How do you organize your day?
My daily life is organized around goals, big and small. After my daily morning exercise, I’ll review email priorities — I do not check email first thing when I wake up — and my daily calendar so I know what kind of work I can get done that day (forget concentrated writing or strategy on a day full of meetings). Then I set goals for that day. I ask everyone on my team to send me their daily to-do goal list, as well as a weekly Big Five, which we recap on Fridays.
I’m usually in the office late, since I like to take my time getting my head together in the morning. I work at a standing desk and have a gym ball as a chair. I will literally get antsy if I sit in a normal chair for more than 20 minutes! The office is very vibrant with lots going on, so if I have to do any form of concentrated work, I’ll do that from home or on the weekends.
The days can easily be taken up by calls, meetings and various strategy sessions and planning with my in-house team. I love to cook, so I do that every night, as it relaxes me. Currently I’m planning a remodel of my house, so I’m spending a lot of time on Pinterest!
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
Am I allowed to say that it’s everything? It’s a fit because I feel like it’s mine — not just my job, but the company as well. Having come in as the first employee, I’ve given my heart and soul to Patch of Land. Building it and seeing it grow has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.
Now, as I shift from gritty do-everything-and-anything to managing a team and prioritizing organized, large-scale efforts and campaigns, I’m learning a lot about myself as a leader and manager. I love the mix of entrepreneurship, finance and brand/marketing work that I get to do on a daily basis. I’m honored to work among a still-small group of professionals who are literally creating an industry every single day. There are some rules, but for the most part, it’s carte blanche.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Overall challenges that keep me up relate to the company. Even though we’ve raised a Series A, we still have so much work to do and so much to build. I wonder and worry about regulatory and business hurdles, or one of our competitors failing (as that would be no good for us).
On a personal level, though, it doesn’t keep me up. I find myself wondering whether I know what I’m doing; whether I’m good enough, know enough and am doing enough to get us where we need to be. I try to keep the OCD in check, but with so much to do, and so many activities happening simultaneously, I worry I may not have it all covered at all times.
As a CMO, is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I tend to have an obsessive personality, so I’ve learned the hard way that balance is about being okay with things and that perfection is not the goal. Dedicating or focusing 200% on any one thing, no matter what, is not the way to success. There’s more to life than a singular focus. Success is about feeling good about life — every part of it; not just one thing.
Health is very important to me, as I have been near anorexic, but I also manage a chronic illness, Crohn’s Disease. That makes me the resident health-nut at the office, eating celery sticks while everyone else eats chips! I prioritize my health, both physical and mental, by eating right, exercising and doing yoga every day. That sets the tone for my entire day. Giving myself a no-nonsense but not too rigorous schedule each morning, I feel good about tackling the rest of my day at work — no matter how many hours that may be — and allowing myself to rest in the evenings and have a fulfilled personal life.
Through a mindfulness-centered philosophy, I’ve learned to accept my shortcomings and be nicer to myself. I’m still working on the ‘loving myself’ part, but I’ll get there; it’s on my journey to achieving true balance.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
The biggest lesson in my career is directly related to self-love. I’ve always been competitive, overly critical and harsh with myself. Though that pushed me to strive, it also made me doubt myself. A lot.
The result was that I underestimated what I was able to bring to the table and was unable to sell myself properly. I always ended up unhappy with either my pay or my position, because I knew somewhere inside myself that I could do more and was worth more. I often thought everyone else was better or smarter than me, so I didn’t make the right moves to get ahead. It wasn’t until I started my own businesses that I began to come into my own power and understanding.
Aside from that personal struggle, I’ve learned that no matter what you know, the most important factor to success is how you deal with people. Emotional intelligence and people skills transcend technical knowledge; they are the way to lasting success.
For someone who is interested in a career in marketing, what do you think it takes to stand out in the workforce?
It takes a genuine willingness to dive into things and learn. Marketing is everything these days — it’s strategy, creative, tech, trends, product, channel, social, advertising, video, message … Unless you have a thorough understanding of your underlying value proposition, it can go to waste.
Taking a holistic approach to marketing will make you stand out, because marketing is not a silo; it’s woven into every part of a business. Additionally, curiosity for trends, anthropology, society, culture, behavioral psychology and tech will give you an edge in creativity and allow you to hit those moving targets.
What are some of the rules you live by?
- Admit when you don’t know something.
- Be nice and be humble.
- Be curious and seek to learn.
- Be nice(r) to yourself.
- Don’t ever forget family or where you come from.
What advice would you give someone transitioning careers, or looking to move into a new industry?
Be smart and be flexible. When making any kind of transition, professional or personal, it’s important that you learn to adapt to new environments quickly. When I moved to Europe, I was not prepared for the culture shock. I had to teach myself how to adapt to completely different attitudes and ways of life.
When you’re making a professional transition into a new industry, be sure to do your research before making the move. Make sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into and that it’s something you truly want. Other than that, I’d say go for it! Do what makes you happy and always try your hardest.
There’s more to life than a singular focus. Success is about feeling good about life – every part of it; not just one thing.