Success, on Her Own Terms

Today, Skye Hallberg is a highly sought-after marketing professional. She runs a thriving business from her home, with an office that overlooks the picturesque landscape of Napa Valley. It is a new phase in her life and her career, marking a long, fascinating—and ongoing—journey from Scripps, some three decades ago.

In 1973, Skye Hallberg graduated with a Phi Beta Kappa in English literature and philosophy. “I was dead broke,” she remembers. Her one hope for employment was a position that was somewhat typical of the fare offered to women at that time: assistant to a secretary. Along with her offer, she was also given a typing manual.

Procter and Gamble soon came through with a more attractive offer. With a mandate to add females to their workforce, they made her one of the first women in the Corporate Marketing Department. “It was a large company, and I had a secretary, older than I was, who would type what I wrote,” she says. ” It was a very corporate environment; every memo had to be approved by four or five people up the chain. I did very well there, but I soon realized that I didn’t want to wear high-heeled wingtips for the rest of my life.”

From P&G, she entered the more dynamic—as well as fast-paced, and highly competitive—world of advertising. “I worked at DDB Needham in New York and agencies in Chicago and Dallas. I was a supervisor on a number of accounts; if I walked into a supermarket today, I could fill up the shopping cart with 60 products I’ve worked on over the years.”

Job promotions came quickly for Skye. The advertising agency Young and Rubicam recruited her, at age 31, to run its San Francisco office. Y&R rewarded her continued success by sending her to New York, which proved to be a mixed blessing: “I was commuting from San Francisco to New York, and I hated it. So I quit,” she notes.

 

Not having any plans to start her own business or search for new clients, the clients instead found her. In 1988, Skye started Hallberg, Schireson & Company—now known as Folded Corner—a marketing consulting firm dealing in branding, naming, positioning, graphic design, and marketing research for package goods.

“I just started getting calls,” she says. “It was really nice. Clorox was a big piece of business for me, and other clients soon followed. So I started a company. At its peak, I had about 12 people working for me. We had a three-story carriage house on Union Street with clients like Apple, HP, and Microsoft.”

After several years of commuting and increasing management responsibilities, Skye decided to scale back. Today she works from her home. “With technology these days, you can have a virtual agency. I work with art directors in San Francisco, Marin, and Denmark, and copywriters in Texas and Chicago. I have a select group of long-term clients, and I’m very happy.”

In addition to her business, she also owns a house in France, complete with vineyards, on which she grows Pinot Noir grapes. She feels content with her professional achievements, and happy that she has finally been able to bring her business into harmony with her personal lifestyle.

Asked what advice she would give young women entering the business world today, she states adamantly, “Don’t get a business degree.” When I’m hiring, I don’t want someone who just knows business, I want someone who has a liberal arts background and a facile mind. In my career, I learned that my Scripps background has been much more valuable than an MBA would have been. And, when I look back at it all, it has worked out really wonderfully.”

 

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