This month, we are excited to share a deep conversation with Sheeba Philip about the successes and setbacks she’s experienced in her 25 year career leading purpose-driven brands and businesses at startup, mid-size and Fortune 50 companies. The conversation begins today with a discussion of why Sheeba does not adhere to the “black and white” definitions for success and setback. Check back each Monday to hear more of Sheeba’s wisdom!
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.
Who is Sheeba Philip?
The first thing that comes to mind is Daughter of God. That’s what defines me. I am His beloved daughter, and I think that relationship is expressed through multiple ways because I’m an actual daughter to somebody, I am a sister, a best friend, and a leader. But if you ask me who I am at the core, I’m a daughter of the Most High. I’m a daughter of God.
What do ‘success’ and ‘setback’ mean to you personally?
I actually don’t define successes and setbacks according to the typical definitions. I think everything is ordained by God. Everything has a purpose. And to me, success is, are you learning from mistakes? Are you growing? Of course, there’s the tangible success of hitting it out the park, hitting your business goals, overachieving expectations. But success in my mind is, ‘are you on a journey of learning with God, of growing, of responding to failures and mistakes in a way that allows you to be further used for Him?’
Failure, in my mind, is someone who doesn’t want to grow, who doesn’t want to learn from the mistakes that they’ve made, who continues to repeat mistakes and walk around the same tree over and over again, because they’re not participating in exploration with the Lord.
We all want to come into our work and have successes, at least as we deem them. We want to hit the bar! And failure sometimes feels like you’re falling short of that bar. But I really want encourage those reading my story that I think success and failure have very black-and-white definitions, and I think all of it is used by God for His purpose. It’s how we respond in those moments of disappointment or incredible excitement that ultimately makes each situation a success or a failure.
Did you develop those personal definitions the ‘hard way?’
I definitely have a more ‘out of the box’ point of view, but I’m not immune to the idea that failure exists. I have run businesses that have not done well. I have lost a job. I’ve been told I’m not meeting expectations. Those are failures. Those are what we are told are failures…and those situations feel like failures. They’re disappointing and they’re hard and they make you cry.
I went to Harvard Business School. I was able to drive multi-billion-dollar brands and I was able to really turn around business situations. Those are all what would be considered ‘successes.’ But I think what is undergirded through all of it has been a growing relationship with the Lord. I am not defined by those successes and those failures. I’m not even defined by what I do. I’m defined by who I am—a daughter of God. As you become closer and closer in your relationship with the Lord, as you understand how much He loves you, how much He adores you, how much He sees you. Realizing that it’s not about what I do relaxes the constraints around how I see success and failure.
You made a big and somewhat scary to diversify your professional experience, and it ultimately became a success for you. How?
In 2013, I was working at Kraft Foods, leading the global Oreo business, which was a phenomenal experience. I had a tremendous career at Kraft and was doing really well. At the same time, I was traveling to India a lot for work, and when I was in India, I started to see so many impoverished women and children, and saw the plight of the poor. And I thought to myself, ‘OK, I want to figure out a way to use my resources, or even volunteer my marketing skills, to help organizations that are fighting human trafficking and helping women and children in India.
Again, at that time, I ran the global Oreo business. I had a pretty fast-paced career, loved what I was doing, but started to feel like, ‘What am I doing? Where is my purpose? I’ve been at this company for 10 years and I love it, but is there something else that I can be doing?’ That backdrop of India and those visuals I saw of those women and children just sat with me. And that’s when I got an email out of the blue from a friend who said International Justice Mission, a large Christian ministry based in DC that’s fighting modern day human slavery and human trafficking in countries like India, was looking for a Vice President of Marketing.
They were looking for someone to come in and help them build their brand. It was such a scary moment, because I felt that call from God. I knew there was something bigger than the work I was doing at Kraft, so I made the courageous decision to say, ‘OK, I’m going to walk away from a high-paying and fast-paced executive career that could really move me to become CMO of a large publicly traded company, and instead dive into Christian ministry. And I’m proud of myself of that, of that decision.
This was an example of a spiritual success for me. It was about finding the courage to step out in faith with God, like when God calls Peter out of the boat to walk on the water towards Him, and as long as his eyes are fixed on Jesus, he can walk forward. The minute he looks at the waves, he starts to drown. For me, this career move was an invitation like, ‘Are you going to step out of the boat? Are you gonna follow Me?’ I knew that I had to keep my eyes fixed on God, because the minute I thought about the money I was walking away from, or the uncertainty of working in a ministry and wondering where my career would go next, I would have been right back in the boat.
So to me, this shift was a success where I finally got into a level of intimacy with the Lord where I said to myself, ‘I trust Him, and I’m willing to take this adventurous step forward with God.’ That success of stepping out in faith marked a two year journey with IJM where I helped rebuild their brand and left the world of cookies and Oreo behind.
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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