As professionals, we work hard and train for years to be the “best of the best” and achieve success in our positions. How often, though, do you step back for a moment to reflect on not what but who has gotten you to this point in your life? Sheeba Philip returns to the blog to discuss how she found the courage to make big career moves, while constantly finding reminders of the true source of any courage and success that she found along the way.
You can listen to this entire conversation with Sheeba on our podcast, Driven 4word! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.
How do you work up the courage to make big changes in your life?
Speaking to my career move from corporate to non-profit, that change was God, and it was a journey. I’ve used that word a lot because it truly was incremental steps. Mm-hmm. I was raised in a home that was very focused on performance achievements. So from very early on in my career, the focus was about getting the biggest job I could get with the highest paid salary you can get. But God started to really pull me into this bigger narrative in my mind, a conversation with myself on purpose. Like, why did God give me the skills He’s given me? Why has He given me the experiences that He has? What’s the bigger story in all of this?
Everything I have and have accomplished is from Him, so what does He want me to do with it? I started to really wrestle through those questions, through those experiences, like being in faith and work at Redeemer, walking alongside other Christian women who are professionals and grappling through those conversations about purpose together. When I was at Harvard Business School, I decided to get involved with the Christian ministry on campus and helped lead the ministry there. Throughout my life and career, I’ve made these little decisions that made me understand my life has purpose, that I have been given talents for a reason and I need to steward them well. For me, that journey and those little decisions and that belief system growing inside me got me to a place where, when I got that email from International Justice Mission, I said, “Okay, I’m ready to take it to the next level and take a step of faith.”
Was it difficult to take what you had learned from your years in the private sector and successfully apply that experience to the nonprofit arena?
It was satisfying in the sense that it was an incredible intellectual challenge to go from marketing cookies to talking about human trafficking. But marketing is still marketing, whether you’re marketing Oreo cookies, or you’re talking about a serious issue like human trafficking. I’ve become a much better marketer, frankly, because I’ve been moving across industries and have taken my skills that I learned in the corporate world over to other industries and nonprofits.
The “hard part” of the shift was understanding that this was kingdom work. At the end of the day, all of the work we do is kingdom work, but in ministry, there’s an added layer of nuance. I’d never worked with just Christians, and in a way, working with other Christians is much harder than working in a traditional work environment. In a secular workplace, there are many faiths represented, and you can kind of hide your Christian faith a little bit because you’re not under a magnifying lens and people aren’t evaluating you because of your faith.
But if you’re in ministry, your faith is the first thing people see. Your co-workers might be wondering, “Is she really a good Christian? She was a little snippy in that meeting.” I had to really reconcile the idea that I know what I believe, but am I fully expressing it in the way I lead people, do my work, and care for my employees? And yes, we should be doing that all the time, in any industry. But in ministry, those desires to lead like Christ were really at the forefront of my mind. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t think about that as much before I was working in ministry.
Why do you think that God even allows for us to experience success in our life?
I think there are tangible things God wants us to do in the world, and He needs us to be successful. I believe that at the highest order, we are called to be excellent at what we do. We are called to be the best of the best. We should be striving to be the best employee, the best leader, and the best business person. On that journey, yes, you’re going to fail sometimes and you’re gonna succeed sometimes, which goes back to my viewpoint on success and setbacks—you have to let go of the constraint of the black and white view of them.
God gives us success so that we can be an incredible witness to God. To be able to say, “I’m an incredible CEO or a marketer or a computer programmer and I’m great at what I do and I’m succeeding,” shows the excellence that God has put in you and glorifies and honors God. There is also a work He wants us to do. If you succeed, the Kingdom of God succeeds. Look at Esther. If Esther was not successful in going before the king, the Jews would not have been saved. If Joseph wasn’t great at what he did and gotten through the setbacks that he endured, he would not have been able to lead Egypt through a time of famine.
There are actually big goals God has in the world for us to do, and He needs us to show up and be excellent and be successful. But I think the success relies on Him. He gives success to us so that we can humbly understand that it never comes from us. It is truly His grace. Yes, we participate and have a part to play, but we’ve got to give it all back to Him. The beautiful and dangerous part of success is making sure you stay humble, and you understand that everything comes from Him.
Sheeba Philip has built a 25 year career leading purpose-driven brands and businesses at startup, mid-size and Fortune 50 companies, as well as across retail, CPG, and non-profit sectors. Her experience leading big and small businesses across multiple industries has given her deep expertise in brand marketing & communications, ESG strategy, and global operations. Sheeba has managed multi-million dollar P&Ls ($700MM+) and transformed multi-billion dollar iconic brands ($12 Billion+). She has revitalized consumer brands in mature categories through redesigning brand marketing, product assortment, and customer experience. Sheeba leveraged her Fortune 50 experience to also establish start-ups for growth. She has built and led organizations with an international footprint across East Africa, Latin America, and South/Southeast Asia.
Sheeba’s leadership and work have been recognized by outlets such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, NY Times, BuzzFeed, People, PR Daily, and Vogue. She is a member of the Kraft Heinz Creative Council, a select group of brand leaders across industries that provide strategic counsel on the company’s marketing & advertising initiatives. Sheeba was featured on InStyle Magazine’s 2021 List of “50 Women Making The World A Better Place”. Sheeba is passionate about integrating her faith and work. She is a board member for Redeemer City to City, a global ministry founded by Tim Keller. She is also is an advisor for faith-driven entrepreneurs and regularly speaks on brand building and Christ-centered leadership. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
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