UT Austin, Bachelor of Arts, Plan II Honors
Many young women dream of a job in the beauty industry – wondering what it would be like to create the hue in our favorite eye shadow or that perfect shade of fuchsia lipstick. Sara Friedman’s job is to market those very products for iconic beauty brand Mary Kay, but when she started college she was intent on becoming an orthodontist. Chemistry class nudged her to a different career path (she even considered work as an architect or teacher), but it was helping others feel like their best selves that eventually propelled Sara to her dream job as Mary Kay’s Vice President of U.S. Marketing.
Before working to capture more market share for Mary Kay in the $60 billion beauty industry, Sara worked in various roles at the company for more than a decade, including Director of Consultant Business Tools for the company. In this role she supported the company’s more than three million Independent Beauty Consultants through programs and business tools, including the Starter Kit; bonus programs BizBuilders and Ready, Set, Sell; product education; and MKConnections. Previous to joining Mary Kay, Sara worked for as a manager and analyst at Accenture for nearly six years.
To stand out, you need to stay on the field so you can help shape the game.
When you went to college did you know what you wanted to do?
Of course I did … I wanted to be an orthodontist! During organic chemistry, I realized that I wasn’t going to develop a love of studying science any time soon, so I began considering other options, among them architect and teacher.
Once you graduated, how did you land your first job?
During my senior year, I submitted my resume through the Liberal Arts Career Center, and I started interviewing with companies that came to campus. There were so many possibilities in terms of companies and careers, so I decided to try the business world first, knowing I could enter the teaching field later.
What inspired your move from Accenture to Mary Kay?
I’ve always been driven, and my goal at Accenture was to make partner. However, when I looked at the female partners, I saw how they either travelled with their nanny and little ones or left their nanny at home with their family, and I didn’t want either option. At the same time, Accenture had just gone public and the dot com bubble had burst, and I felt like I was a commodity rather than an individual. Put all that together, plus the fact that with our schedules, I only saw my new husband two days a week at best, and I was ready for a change.
With so many responsibilities in your job and at home with two boys, how do you organize your day?
I have an amazing support system. I have to delegate, not just at work, but also at home. I’ve learned I can do so much at night after everyone has gone to sleep. It helps that I’m a night owl!
What is the culture like at Mary Kay? Why do you feel women are drawn to work for the company, whether at its home base or as an independent beauty consultant?
The culture at Mary Kay is amazing … enriching women’s lives is built into our DNA. It’s such a pleasure to work at a place where the goal is the same, is clear, and is supported at every level of the organization. There is also an amazing partnership between the independent sales force and the corporate office; we are all working with a shared value system to enrich women’s lives.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I wake up wanting to be here!
What challenges keep you awake at night?
I believe Mary Kay is the best product and business opportunity out there, and until everyone in the U.S. agrees with me, there is still work to be done!
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Perception is reality.
What qualities do you look for when building a team?
Flexibility, inquisitiveness, and a can-do spirit
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
I don’t think I know a person who doesn’t struggle with balance … even those who don’t work outside the home. Our lives are all so committed, that it’s all a balancing act! What always gets me through it is reminding myself that “this too shall pass.” And, as my husband tells me, “If this doesn’t bring you any joy, why do you spend your time doing it? It just means you’re giving up time with someone or something you love because you didn’t want to say no.” That has helped me prioritize.
Are there any landmark moments in your career so far that you’re very proud of? What are they and how did they make you feel?
The first time I was asked to be a mentor was a landmark moment for me because it meant I was respected for more than just the quality of my work. Also, managing a team in another city taught me a lot about effective ways to lead; while I wouldn’t consider it among my best projects, the challenges I faced in operating in a completely different way helped mold my leadership style.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Golden Rule; and assume the best in and of others – they won’t let you down.
What do you feel it takes to stand out in today’s workforce, and what advice do you have for women who want your job?
It takes effort to change the status quo, and it requires persistence and creativity to overcome some of the hurdles you will face; to stand out, you need to stay on the field so you can help shape the game. My advice for someone who wants my job: be the kind of leader you would like to follow.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Right where I am supposed to be.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s considering becoming a Mary Kay independent beauty consultant?
Try it! You’ll be amazed at the people you’ll meet, the stories you’ll hear, the lives you’ll touch – and how awesome your skin will look. Plus, there’s a 90% buyback guarantee on your purchases within the last year; it’s practically risk-free.
If our readers could walk away from reading your interview with one key thought, what would you want them to remember?
You have so much to offer, so embrace who you are!