THE BLOG

Women in Business Q&A: Samantha Fennell, MD, Out There

05/21/2015 05:12 am ET | Updated May 21, 2016

Samantha Fennell is the Managing Director in New York for Out There, a creative and media agency with a notable client roster. Out There is a quickly expanding agency that has an all-star team that has led campaigns for a number of high-profile clients. Samantha has helped with campaigns for clients including Michael Kors, Roberto Cavalli, Farfetch, Z Zegna, and Pomellato - which recently featured Salma Hayek. She concentrates her efforts on growing the business of the U.S. market through her many years of sales and business development experience with brands and media agencies alike.

Samantha's past experience has been very impressive. She is a global sales and marketing executive with a 20 year proven track record driving sales and leading teams at the world's premier media and marketing companies. Prior to joining Out There Samantha has held sales, senior management, and advisory roles at Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Huffington Post and held corporate sales and marketing positions at both Condé Nast and Time Inc.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up I was always encouraged to be independent and resourceful. I am eternally grateful to a family, who never let it enter my mind that there was something I couldn't do, be, or accomplish. It made me hard-wired to try just about anything and believe I had a reasonable chance at succeeding. To me - resilience is the key. To keep getting up when you get knocked down.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Out There?
During the entire course of my career I have worked in the client service business, where my success is based on helping clients perform better and generating revenue for my company in the process. It is in my DNA to find solutions and solve problems. In fact, my mother will tell you this trait revealed itself early on in high school when she'd say I was always "plotting and planning".
So during my many years in publishing working for magazines, such as Vogue and Elle, it was always paramount to me that if I was able to provide genuine benefit to a client first and foremost, growth would result.

We employ the same tactics at Out There - which is a luxury creative and branding agency, where I'm based in New York (though we have numerous international offices, including Milan). We are focused on helping our clients forge meaningful connections with consumers and we approach each challenge strategically. Throughout this process we make sure we are providing the best in class service. Our clients tell us they appreciate the fact that they interface with the senior members of our team throughout any project.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Out There?
I think the greatest highlight is that in less than three years Out There has attracted some of the most world renowned brands to its roster - including Buccellati, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bal Harbour shops, and Farfetch. We have built a great team across our six offices around the world. It proves our business model is working and that we have found a white space in the market that is attracting great partners.

Of course there are many challenges with starting a new company in growth mode: from staffing with the right talent, to establishing systems and protocols, to forging strategic partners that will foster growth and extend service capabilities. But if you love to build things, as I do, there is nothing more rewarding than creating something that didn't exist before with a team you really enjoy.

What advice can you offer women who want a career in your industry?
Be passionate and resilient, because for every victory there are plenty of disappointments along the way. However, staying positive and focused is key and will help with career development.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's my personal belief that in the 24/7 always connected world we live in, balance is about flow, not about trying to force a separation between "work time" and "life time". It's also about constantly setting boundaries and priorities. Focusing on and prioritizing your desired outcomes whether they are personal or professional is liberating. I'm constantly shortening my list of what's important and staying clear on why it's important. That "why" will pull you through.

Also, make sure to take time out a couple of times a year to rest and recharge. Create some "nothingness" in your life - it's like oxygen.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
While gender equality in the workplace has not been universally achieved, I believe women are obliged to adopt the same tactics most successful men do, which includes showing up, following up, speaking up and delivering. To me these are gender-neutral musts in business and absolutely essential in any work environment. It's so important to harness your talents and energy in a positive and productive way.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have had the privilege of working with some of the industries' bold face names in media and publishing. Each has contributed to my own management and leadership style in everlasting ways.

As such, I try to impart the wisdom I have gained over the years to my staff and colleagues. And in this day and age I believe mentors should also be mentees. If you are a 45 year old in media who wants to speak with the ease and fluency of a digital native, you should hang out with 20 somethings now and then versus relying solely on Digiday and Mashable to stay ahead of the curve. There is so much to learn from each other.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I tend to admire female leaders who have more than just their "femaleness" to set them apart. Women who come to mind are ones who have transcended what many would consider limitations and have gone on to thrive in the business area they've chosen while helping others along the way.

Michelle Obama is an amazing example of this. A single five minute conversation with her back in 2008 was the catalyst for me quitting my job to work on her husband's 2008 presidential campaign, as a volunteer no less.

Another female leader I admire is U.S. Rep Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee war veteran who did not let her physical injuries hinder her passion to represent her country in Congress.
Then lastly I'd have to say Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox. We know how few female CEOs we have in this country, so to be the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company who focuses so heavily on education initiatives in areas where young girls do not naturally excel makes her truly remarkable.

What do you want Out There to accomplish in the next year?
We want to continue to expand our client base and client categories and we believe having a balanced portfolio of high-end clients across a breadth of business types is a smart strategy.
We are also focused on further developing our digital media and content capabilities. Our last three hires were in the digital and social spheres and I'd like to see us produce even more beautiful and engaging content such as what we've recently created for Z Zegna and Buccellati. We've also worked with some great talent, including Salma Hayek who was recently in the Pomellato campaign.