Episode 24: Change, Agility and the Power of Connection

In this special episode, WWD Voices welcomes guest host Sarah Engel, president of January Digital, who talks with Sharonda Weatherspoon, senior vice president of stores and co-chair for diversity and inclusion at Ralph Lauren, and Salima Popatia, chief digital officer at Orveon, in a program titled, “Women in Leadership: Change, Agility and the Power of Connection.”

The session, timed for Women’s History Month, covers challenges facing the industry, and how the pandemic caused a shift in how women executives lead. They noted how women leaders connected during the pandemic, and how networking and sharing ideas are critical to leading through change.

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They also discussed DE&I initiatives at their respective companies as well as leading with humility and the “agility imperative,” and also noted that it’s okay for women leaders not to be perfect.

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More about the speakers

Sarah Engel is the president of January Digital, a strategic consulting and digital media company. She assumed the role of president after leading as the chief marketing officer and chief people officer to realize more than 62 percent growth during her tenure. Engel serves as a board member emeritus and strategic adviser to leading industry organizations Shoptalk and Groceryshop. In addition, she is an advisory board member of Rebel Nell, an innovative jewelry company that is a certified women-owned, certified social enterprise that supports women with barriers to employment.

Throughout her career, Engel has provided strategic business leadership, marketing strategy, data actioning and brand development to leading global consumer and business-to-business brands for more than 20 years. Prior to January Digital, Engel guided the heritage fashion brand Lilly Pulitzer as the vice president of marketing and creative communications — focusing on brand building and strategic communications to drive the brand’s voice and visual expression forward across all customer touch points. Earlier in her career, Engel founded and led a high-growth strategic marketing and PR consulting firm as well as served as the chief marketing officer and head of HR for retail analytics company DynamicAction, which was subsequently acquired by Edited. She was also the vice president of marketing for Range Online Media, as well as its acquiring company, iProspect.

Engel was named a Top Women in Media and Ad Tech in 2022 in the category of “Magnanimous Mentor” by AdExchanger and AdMonsters, by Footwear News as one of Six Women in Power in the Technology Sector Creating Corporate Change in 2021, as well as WWD’s Top 20 Women Leaders in Business. She serves as an advisory board member for Lutheran Settlement House in Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization committed to serving children, adults and families experiencing homelessness and domestic violence.

Salima Popatia serves as the chief digital officer of Orveon Global, which is a collective of premium cosmetics brands, including BareMinerals, Laura Mercier and Buxom. Popatia is an entrepreneurial executive with more than 20 years of experience in digital branding and customer-first strategies, 14 of those years focused on digital beauty at Estée Lauder Cos. She is a consumer data expert with strong acumen in e-commerce platforms and marketing technologies, innovating across performance and CRM marketing channels to drive growth.

Popatia has led companies in all phases of growth, from being a founder to scaling businesses and turning around P&Ls to driving incremental growth within large enterprise-level organizations. She has worked for marquis brands, MAC Cosmetics, Stuart Weitzman and Ray-Ban building out teams and building new capabilities to drive digital consumer-first capabilities. Engel describes Popatia as a “truth-teller,” an advocate for those around her, “and one of my most trusted industry colleagues.”

Sharonda Weatherspoon is the senior vice president of stores at Ralph Lauren and co-chair for the diversity and inclusion efforts at Ralph Lauren. She is a dynamic performance-driven leader with more than 25 years in the retail industry. Weatherspoon is an accomplished executive with a reputation for driving results and profitability through high performing teams. Engel described Weatherspoon “as an inspirational leader that believes in working with team members to bring about sustainable solutions, believes in being a champion for others and believes in the power of customer experiences.”

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