Rewirements: Andrea Hunt makes space to reimagine her next chapter

How the former Arterra Wines CMO is reassessing the values that drive her career.

IMG_6926

By Will Novosedlik

As industry leaders responded to the seismic changes of the last two to three years, a new trend is emerging. One where execs elect to put their responsibilities on pause, whether that’s just for a break, or to completely overhaul how they imagine their lives and work.

Hence, our new Q&A series, with thanks to Jeff Hilts, who stepped away from the creative helm at FCB after 15 years, calling it a “rewirement.”

First in the Rewirements series is Andrea Hunt, who last year was awarded Marketer of the Year for the success she achieved in her role as CMO of Arterra Wines Canada. Previous to Arterra, where she was also EVP and which she left in April, Hunt built a strong reputation during senior remits at companies like Weston Foods, Mondelez International, Kraft-Heinz and Cargo Cosmetics.

What led to you leave?

This decision was definitely unexpected by many who know me. Like most of my peers, I have worked uninterrupted for decades. The last few years have been anything but typical, and the start of the new year prompted me to take pause and consider what I value and how I commit my time. Professionally, it was an opportune time to close my current chapter. I had completed my initial remit and the organization was about to embark on a new phase with a new CEO and new stakeholders.

I also reflected on the fact that the next few months were an unprecedented opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and on passion projects. It won’t be forever, so this scarcity of time is driving my agenda.

How much did the pandemic have to do with it?

The pandemic had everything to do with it. Had it not been for the circumstances of the past few years and the resulting impact on our lives, I would not have been as reflective nor had the inclination or courage to opt for a less-travelled path. It was a time of explosive growth and opportunity that was both energizing and empowering, but it was equally true that the pace was difficult to sustain in perpetuity.

What are you hoping to achieve in your time away?

It has already been a success in terms of the time I have been afforded to spend with family, but I still have ground to cover. Global circumstances have fundamentally reset what it will take to compete and win across industries. More than ever, a diversity of experience and an expansionist mindset, together with a firm handle on business fundamentals, will be demanded and I’d like to explore what this could mean for me personally – maybe less for where I work, but definitely for how I work. It can be destabilizing to imagine you might need to rethink all you have held fast to by this point, but it is invigorating. I love the possibilities.

What have you learned thus far?

Unless we push ourselves to expand our day-to-day through new conversations, media and even leisure pursuits, we will not grow – so that is taking effort. I have also been reminded there is no substitute for the feeling of being part of a mission and a team. I miss the congeniality and power of minds tackling a problem so any future path will not be a solo pursuit.

What has been the best, most difficult, and most surprising thing about being away?

The best has been realizing that interest versus necessity, or what is possible or available, is proving to be a great compass for assessing what is really most compelling in terms of professional opportunities. Most difficult is the lack of a formalized routine and the lack of calendar control.

How have the circumstances of the past few years changed you – and changed our professional lives as we know them?

DTC and the online world are rewriting the world of possibility, and in many respects, democratizing commerce like we have never seen before. Previously, agility and innovation were seen by many as nice-to-have traits with typical reward structures valuing continuity more heavily. I think this has changed forever. Necessitating constant evolution, and considering external as well as factors internal to organizations are imperative. Overall, it could be more taxing for the average employee, but will also be more exhilarating and rewarding.

When you do think about your future, how different does it look from the way your life/work looked before you left?

From a whole-life perspective, I have always tried to be pragmatic about how best to spend time balancing travel, in office, thinking and connection time. Any new world will truly be an opportunity to embrace optimized tech, rebalanced priorities and an environment that will encourage communication on what matters most.

Have you got any ideas about what you’d like to do?

I’d like to drive outsized growth on a compelling business with fabulous people. Life is too short not to have impact and love what you do every day – what industry or position that ends up being in is less consequential. Lifestyle categories are exceptionally interesting but it’s always the people and leaders that make all the difference. I would feel lucky to be challenged in new ways, and in return, bring a diverse perspective to a business that might view my track as atypical in their world. Any role that seeks strong commercial management in pursuit of an ambitious goal and embraces a creative perspective could be magic.

Any regrets?

Perhaps that I hadn’t ever considered doing this before. I was fortunate to have been able to make the time to step away, but I see now I was full-throttle on a single professional track – not taking sufficient time to live in the moment or look beyond it.  I will continue to prioritize making the space to keep abreast of changing horizons…and of course keeping the energy reserves high .