A Notable Young Professional: Amanda Bartley

Amanda Bartley is the Shopper & eCommerce Insights Guru for Unilever Canada. She creates custom research designed to get to the heart of their shoppers’ behavior and what resonates with buyers to address challenges faced by Unilever’s Canadian brands. Her role supports all categories like food and personal care products, and she is “fortunate to work with some pretty cool brands”, including Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, TRESemme, and Axe. Amanda has always been passionate about understanding human behavior, in all our complexity, so for her this role is a great fit.

Where did you get your drive/ambition from?
My drive comes from my parents and their accomplishments. I was in Jamaica a couple of years ago on the way home from a restaurant akin to one that my mom passed as a child but couldn’t afford. She talked about how fortunate she is for her successes and casually mentioned that my dad didn’t get his first pair of shoes until he was 8 years old. My parents are the most resilient people I know, but I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of their resilience until that night. I have had opportunities in my life that my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents once could only dream of. They taught me to always push forward, that strength is multifarious, that dignity should be showcased in even the most minuscule tasks and humility is necessary to succeed. My parent’s foundation has helped me to best that I can be, and I make sure to never forget that.

How do you stay self-motivated?
A big part of my motivation is directly linked to my identity. At my core, I am a black woman, a daughter, a lifelong learner and friend. I can be relaxed, colloquial, sentimental and emotional and I feel a personal sense of responsibility to represent the different facets of my life vibrantly and authentically. I am motivated in knowing that my experiences help to disrupt barriers and stereotypes that often shadow black women, in and out of the workplace, and I am conscious of how my daily thoughts and actions can inspire younger women of color. It is my responsibility and motivation to create positive change.

What is your preferred way to network?
When it comes to networking, I think I’ve used pretty much every medium. Email, LinkedIn, Instagram… you name it; I’ve tried it. I’m also an advocate for informal connections such as friends of friends or people I’ve volunteered with. I truly believe that if you want to connect with someone, you’ll find a way to make it happen. If someone is kind enough to share their time, I want to ensure I make the best use of it. Actively listening and trying to seek a deeper understanding of the professional and personal influencers that shape our conversations are two ways I ensure my networking interactions remain authentic and real. The greatest lessons I’ve learned come from connecting the dots, not necessarily what’s said.

Describe your process for deepening relationships?
I think there are a couple of things that can really help to deepen relationships and at the top of that list is a willingness to give as much as I’m willing to take. I’m cognizant of the different personalities and skill sets that often comprise a team, and it’s important that my co-workers feel comfortable around me even when we may not share the same perspective. As Obama would say: “when you disagree, don’t be disagreeable”. I am not afraid to share my perspective, but I do so while also being open to the viewpoints of others. Employing empathy and understanding is also a necessity that has shaped some of my strongest working relationships. It’s even been a catalyst in turning co-workers into lifelong friends. At the end of the day, we all have a role to play but screw-ups will happen and the ball will be dropped and it’s important to be fearless in helping people get back up. We’re all human and in times of adversity people never forget the way you’ve made them feel.

What are your preferred tools for keeping organized?
While I would love to say that I’m a naturally well-organized person, it’s something I’m constantly working on and my methods are pretty old fashioned. Using a to-do list and sticky notes on my computer are probably my number one resource. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s no point in dividing my tasks based on dates because that either fuels my inclination to procrastinate or causes me anxiety when I feel like I’m falling behind. Instead, I order my tasks based on priority. There’s something really satisfying about checking something off my to-do list. So, if it doesn’t get completed today, my check marks keep me motivated to tackle it tomorrow.

What is your favourite way to market your product or services? Or, what has been the most successful way you marketed your product or services?
For me it’s a bit different because I currently market my services to people within my organization, but in moving from agency to client side I know the lessons remain the same. To effectively market my service, I must ensure that people trust me and the quality of my work. It requires a thorough understanding of what people want and need when they approach me to commission a project. There’s multiple ways to approach research, but I’m always looking to showcase why my suggestions are so unique, compelling and helpful that people want to work with me again. How can my expertise fuel creative insights that changes behavior? I have a strong background in driving insights that are actionable versus simply interesting, and I want people to be confident that what I am bringing to the table is going to be game changing.

Who has been your mentor in helping you find success?
Mentorship is an interesting topic because it took me some time to understand the type of support I needed and was looking for in a mentoring relationship. I think it’s important to not get discouraged if someone hasn’t necessarily “taken you under their wing”. To me, strong mentoring relationships manifest with people I respect and trust, whose area of expertise I can tap into. I’m able to share my thoughts, successes and challenges with them and we can strategize on ways forward. I think there’s also a preconceived notion that your mentors should always be older or more senior than you and I don’t believe that’s always true. Some of my strongest mentors are within my age range. They’ve given me perspective on what it takes to be a strong mentor and it’s a huge aspiration of mine to apply that knowledge to my own relationships going forward.

What social issue does your organization raise funds and/or awareness for?
One thing I really love about Unilever is the commitment to Diversity and Inclusion, which has been a passion point of mine for years. Since university, I have worked with various organizations supporting marginalized communities both locally and globally. That said, I would love to take this opportunity to mention Family Service Toronto, an organization I currently serve on the board for. FST has been supporting families and individuals facing a variety of life challenges throughout the Toronto community for over 100 years. I’m a firm believer that I have a responsibility to shape the environment I envision for myself and future generations to come, but the reality is sometimes set-backs and barriers can be exhausting. FST’s success is rooted in its people, and I’m amazed by their commitment to fighting for better, each and every day.

How do you continue to learn?
I believe that learning manifests in multiple ways and since it’s my source of growth it takes precedence in my relationships, jobs and ways I travel. For work, I’m always looking to expand my knowledge base beyond my existing role. Right now, I’ve teamed up with an analytics counter-part in my office to learn more about the types of projects she works on and share my Shopper and eCommerce expertise. For travel, my learning comes from living the local life. Recently in Rio, I went to a LGBTQ Brazilian funk party hosted at underpass of a highway. The people reaffirmed my definition of being resolute and I got a pure glimpse into the resilient soul and future of Rio. In terms of relationships, I try to connect with people whose backgrounds differ from my own. Don’t get me wrong, these things have come with many obstacles, but I’ve developed some strong relationships and I have some life-changing experiences under my belt. At the end of the day, I’m a smarter person for it. As Laura Jerret eloquently stated, “you can never have too many good friends or setbacks in life- both give strength and build character”.

Do you have a fitness ritual that you live by?
When it comes to fitness I’ve tried everything from Muay Thai to CrossFit. Recently I started small group training and I’m loving the intimacy. It’s a combination of strength training and cardio and highly effective! Every day I know it’s going to be a different work out and my trainers, Lindsay and Brennon are incredibly attentive. Their focus is always ensuring that my workout is done correctly and I’ve slowly been able to strengthen my back muscles and reduce my lower back pain. Results came within the first couple weeks which works perfectly with my sometimes-hectic travel schedule. When coming home from a trip, I need to hit the gym immediately and knowing that I can get back into shape quickly is necessary for me to stay motivated.

How do you feed your soul?
For me, feeding my soul and self-care go hand in hand. I love to carve out alone time in my day or week to self- reflect. With heavy work weeks, taking breaks to connect with my closest friends always helps me to recharge. I’ve been diving into the world of art and architecture recently and I’ve fallen in love with so many pieces. Cleo Wade and Rupi Kaur are personal favorites of mine and I read some of their pieces and feel like they’ve opened a window into my soul. I also love dissecting interesting articles and contentious topics with my best friends and cousin. I normally just send through an article with the headline, ‘full stop’ or ‘let’s discuss’ and we tease apart every angle. I leave those conversations feeling intellectually nourished, and in awe of the brilliance that surrounds me.

Who is your favourite personality to follow on YouTube or social media?
I don’t currently have a favorite personality on YouTube, but since I’ve taken an interest in architecture I’ve been following a New York Realtor named Steve Gold. His level of success in NYC is intriguing and I think he would be a cool person to sit down with over coffee to hear more about his journey.

In terms of compelling Instagram content, there’s a couple things that come to mind. The black travel community is phenomenal and close knit. I love sharing my travels and having a network of supporting young black millennials that I can reach out to for recommendations when I’m exploring somewhere new. I think travel has always been viewed as this luxurious and sometimes unattainable endeavor for some and by default some might argue that it unofficially belonged to a certain demographic. The black travel community has brought to light the diversity that exists within the statement “well-travelled” and I can’t get enough. I also love activist and feminist pages such as UndocuMedia and Guerilla Feminism, both are great sources of knowledge for those that want to stay critically engaged or sometimes don’t know where to start in the fight for equity and equality. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said: “we should all be feminists”. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

What lifestyle brand would you say shares your values most?
I don’t really feel connected to a particular brand at the moment but I’m loving the messaging behind Rihanna’s new makeup line, Fenty Beauty. The lack of support for women of color in the beauty industry has gone on for far too long. Rihanna came in and filled that gap beautifully.

Who is your favourite artist?
Gosh, there’s so many different artists that I love but I think my favorite would probably be Otis Redding. I can listen to his pieces for hours on end and, ‘These Arms of Mine’ really makes me believe in that exciting, challenging and fabulous love all over again.

Where is your favourite place to unwind?
My all-time favorite place to unwind would probably be ‘Breary’, which was my grandparents home. The Jamaican property is stunning and my grandmother had one of the best gardens around, but the essence of the house and how much it’s seen is what makes it special. From my Aunty Del getting married in the front yard to my grandfather’s funeral on the veranda, the family huddled around in the teahouse while the cats lazed around, to the family convening in the kitchen area as my grandmother would make roti on the tawa. Our family has grown and some of the children and grandchildren have moved away, but it continues to be the one constant tying every generation together. The first place you go when you land in Jamaica and the last place you stop off before heading to the airport to leave. It’s our family’s ‘hub’ you could say, a home to everyone and I think that’s largely due to my grandmother. She was glue that held our family together and Breary, being her home, is an extension of that. It’s one of my favorite places to unwind.