073: Boston Speaks Up with Endicott College's Gina Deschamps
Gina Deschamps currently serves as the Director of the Angle Center for Entrepreneurship at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. She’s in a fascinating position with a role focused on embedding entrepreneurship into the DNA of a college campus.
Previously, Deschamps enjoyed a successful career as a senior sales and marketing leader while always remaining closely aligned with higher education. In 2020, she was the recipient of the Salem State University Alumni Association’s Elizabeth Williams Wade award for her years of dedicated service to her alma mater.
She has also served in leadership roles with organizations such as Montserrat College of Art Board of Trustees, AIGA Boston, Girls, Inc. of Lynn, and the Printing and Publishing Council of New England.
A life-long learner, Deschamps is currently working to complete a Professional Development program in Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford University.
Where did you grow up? And how would you describe your childhood?
I grew up here on the North Shore in a very working class neighborhood - lots of kids in my neighborhood. What I remember most is that we were always outside playing with friends; riding bicycles; playing kickball and basketball. It was a great childhood. We had to be home every afternoon at 5:00 for dinner - dinners were always a family event and it was at dinner that we all “debriefed” the day and talked as a family.
Who were your role models growing up?
That’s an easy one - my parents. My parents had a tremendous work ethic - one rooted in always doing the right thing. They taught us at an early age that the only thing you really own in the world is your name and the reputation that you build around your name. That’s it! It is a lesson that I think about every day and one that I teach my students.
I had a second important mentor, Dr. Geraldine Branca. She was a professor that I had at Merrimack College. Dr. Branca pushed me toward achievements that I never thought I could attain. What I loved about her was her unwillingness to accept less than what you were capable of - she saw things in me that I did not see in myself at the time. She was amazingly brilliant and such a terrific role model!
What is the first career you remember wanting to pursue?
I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I even got into law school. Then I took a summer internship at the Mass Attorney General’s office. It was there that I realized practicing law was not for me! It was the right move for sure.
To help out our younger listeners tuning into the show, can you speak on your internship experience? Or first job out of school? (Looking to hear about the importance of early on career development)
Getting real experience is invaluable! I actually cannot imagine not having the chance to work at an internship - it is what makes Endicott’s program amazing! So after I decided the internship at the Attorney General’s office was not for me, I landed an internship at Polaroid, in the marketing department no less. Being there was the Apple Computer of its day - totally amazing and I learned so much. It was there that I realized I needed to be in a creative environment. It was there that I learned that all companies, whether established or start-ups, need to always keep an entrepreneurial mindset. It was terrific. I even landed a job offer there after graduating!
What’s your advice to young people breaking into the sales/marketing world (whichever you’d prefer to talk about)?
Work harder than your peers.
Listen more than you speak - learn to listen to what is not being said.
Be positive, polite, and respectful.
Don’t wait to be asked to do something - be proactive.
Keep your learning cap on - we are never the smartest person in the room.
Be collaborative. It’s fun.
Is there a particular person or event that helped shape the career path you took?
His name is Jack Spillane. He was the former Director of Advertising for The Salem Evening News. Hard to believe, I was painfully shy and had a bit of a stutter when I was nervous. So the notion of being a “sales person” was so beyond my thought process. Well, wouldn’t you know, Jack decides to promote me to be an Account Executive, one who is on the road, dealing with ad agencies in Boston, being in front of clients. A job so not in my wheelhouse at the time. Jack was the sort of fellow that you did not argue with. So, I jumped in, terrified as I was! It was the start of selling and marketing, and being in front of people. Who knew?
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome getting to where you are today?
Great question. There are so many of them but I would sum up the biggest challenge as growing up in the business world when I was generally the only female in the room. I was fortunate though. I had amazing bosses every step of the way who treated me as a capable person and thus, afforded me opportunities that may not have come my way had I not had them for a boss. It also helped that i worked very hard and took responsibility for my actions - that lesson that my parents taught me early on was always in the back on my mind - it never failed me even to this day.
Serving as the director of the Angle Center, and assuming many leadership roles in your past, what’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your experiences leading others thus far?
The biggest lesson that I have learned is that you need to listen, intently! Listening helps you understand what motivates others - and it is different for everyone. I think of the best leaders that I have had a chance to work for and what made them great is that they made room for others to be their best. They understood that they were not always the smartest person in the room. This goes a long way to great collaboration and creating a feeling of respect and inclusion. When this happens, I think people do their best work. And that in my mind is the value of great leadership.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I think it has changed over the years. As I have matured and become more confident in myself, I crave environments that foster collaboration and recognition of the talents that those I work with have. It is likely born out of understanding that the “work” is always better when many minds can weigh in to help. Perhaps that is the innovation side of me. So I would describe my leadership style as collaborative, honest, and hard-working.
What’s the most exciting part about leading the Angle Center?
The students - it is a privilege to be around young people. I am jazzed everyday by their eagerness to learn and experiment with their ideas. There are never two days in a row that are the same - it is such a dynamic environment!
What do you find most exciting about the startup space right now?
There has never been a more important time than right now to be in the startup space. Let’s face it, the world has changed over the last 2 years. And we need to innovate our way out of where we are right now. So in my opinion, the sky is the limit!
What sorts of challenges and opportunities have you found in the pivot to virtual business and networking during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Interestingly, I think of the sociologist, Marshall McLuhan all the time. Many decades ago, he predicted that humans might run the risk of losing their ability to interact face-to-face. Well, we have sort of come to a place, not by choice, where the biggest casualty might just be our human connection because of the pandemic. With so much going virtual and remote, we have realized that as humans, we really do need to be face-to-face with each other. So the face-to-face interactions have been the biggest challenge - trying to keep the human connection alive - it is so important!
What are some of the most recent trends you’ve been seeing in the startup world? What do you believe will succeed in longevity?
Great question! There are a couple of trends that I am seeing - apps are always popular and perhaps driven by the social environment that we find ourselves in. The second area is anything touching on sustainability - food, consumer products, you name it. I think both of these areas will succeed long term.
FINAL QUESTION: We like the idea of ending our episodes with a challenge for the listeners/readers. Whether it be reaching out to an old friend, reading 5 pages a day from a book, creating a new healthy habit… what is one challenge you have for the listeners?
Another great question and a challenge that I present to myself at the start of every year. I have 2. The first is to read one book every week (so far on track). And the second is to learn a new language - for me it will be Italian - I just signed up for Babble.