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Speaker Stories: Debbie Millman, host of Design Matters and CMO of Sterling Brands

Sep 21st, 2016

“If not now, when.” That is the best advice Debbie Millman, host of the Design Matters podcast and Chief Marketing Officer at Sterling Brands, has been given and one she shared with us during an intimate talk and Q&A session following the 2016 Masters of Business (MBO) conference.

With a career that has spanned everything from podcasting to book writing and teaching, Debbie began her work life as an agency account executive – after initially applying for a job in the creative department. The fast-paced, work-heavy life at an agency taught her one thing – don’t work for someone you don’t like. Throughout this time, she was continuing to create her own art and began to think about how she could crowdsource information with other creative folks and share it with those that were aspiring to become designers – thus Design Matters was born.

Self-described as podcasting since before that was even a word, Debbie has grown the award-winning Design Matters from a program that talks about design in life to one that covers the design of life. The ability to have control of her own work from inception to execution has been huge for Debbie, who says self-doubt was her one of her biggest issues throughout her career. “It is more about courage than confidence – the more risks you take, the more comfortable you become with taking them, which builds courage – and that in itself produces confidence,” says Debbie. She also learned another valuable lesson from working to book guests and build her podcast from the ground up – tenacity – something she has applied to every part of her work and personal life.

This persistence in creating her own work, and her experience working with brands at Sterling Brands, led her mentor and friend, Steve Heller to approach her about launching the world’s first master’s program in branding at the School for the Visual Arts in New York City. Additionally, Heller began to talk to her about potentially writing a book centered around design – she credits him with continuing to push her for better ideas and giving her honest and constructive feedback until she shaped the opportunity in her own – and an amazing book. “The key is to say yes and, not no but” when an opportunity presents itself but may not be perfect.

After 20+ years at Sterling Brands, Debbie is now looking to the next phase of her career, which includes being the editorial and creative director of Print, the oldest magazine centered around design in the United States. With years of diverse experience, Debbie says that “validation comes with age” but also to “not worry about what over people think, they will eventually get over it.”

Thanks again to MBO16 for partnering with us to bring Debbie’s amazing story to Indianapolis women!

Want to connect with Debbie? Check her out on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Interested in attending our next event? Sign up today!

Debbie Millman event