Women in Business Q&A: Kate Hironaka, Chief Strategy Officer, B-Reel

08/10/2017 03:06 am ET Updated Aug 10, 2017

Kate Hironaka is the Chief Strategy Officer at B-Reel, overseeing client partners’ brand communications plans and driving their businesses forward. Kate also leads business development, fostering new relationships with brands looking for innovative ways to connect with their audiences. Kate has had a direct role in creating partnerships with Nike, Google, Facebook, and MTV, to name a few.

Prior to joining B-Reel, Kate held strategy leadership positions at 72andSunny and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. And before getting into the wide world of advertising, Kate began her career as a writer, reviewing gadgets, at WIRED Magazine.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

When I was little, I grew up playing sports. And for the longest time, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. When I was about seven years old, someone told me I couldn’t, because I was a girl. That was the first time in life where I realized that if you listened to idiots, you’re going to do dumb stuff. (For the record, I wanted to be a baseball player for another three years, until I realized how boring baseball really is, even to play!)

More seriously, though, growing up playing sports really shaped the person I am today. Or at least who I hope to be. Sports helped me learn what it means to commit, prioritize the team, and stay flexible.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at B-Reel?

The biggest impact of my previous jobs has always been the people. I’ve had the absolute honor (and dumb luck) of working with some of the best people in the business. People who care so much about what they do that it becomes contagious and everyone holds themselves to a higher bar because of it. That’s what has stuck with me most throughout the years; that when you care so much about making the work great, it creates a new sense of responsibility and ownership in the whole team.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at B-Reel?

The biggest highlight is absolutely watching teams get excited about the work. Whether it’s a big campaign that’s about to launch, a great new business pitch, or even an internal prototyping sprint for a messaging bot that calls the elevator to our 24th floor office, the best high is seeing other people stoked on what they’re doing. Of course there are challenges, too, but those mostly come in the form of inopportune flight times between LAX and JFK.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

No (wo)man is an island. The biggest asset in this industry is partnership. Find people to learn from and partner with to create the best environment for yourself to develop and grow.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

If it’s for the good of the work, it’s worth doing.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

My dog, Holden, is a good reminder to get outside, take a walk, and breathe some fresh air. He has literally peed in meeting rooms to remind me.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

We’re still at a deficit when you look at the numbers, whether it’s wage inequality or a disparity in leadership positions held.

Obviously it’s an issue, but we can’t focus too much on the hurdles at-hand. We’ll go nuts. I prefer to focus on the things I can most immediately control – how I behave. So I try to focus my energy on being an inspiring and motivating leader, to push the work, and to create more opportunities for the next wave of talent.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

The most significant growth and reward I’ve experienced in my career to-date has been from watching other people succeed and win, rather than it being me to be the one to do it.

Creating environments and opportunities for other people to grow and find what they love is what I enjoy most about my job.

And in terms of my own mentorship, I find inspiration and guidance from so many people in my life – from my parents, to my husband, to my brother, and my friends. It really does take a village to raise someone like me.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I admire any woman who goes out there every day and uses her powers for good – kicking ass to give us all the momentum to succeed.

My mom and my two (completely badass) grandmothers are my biggest source of my inspiration – whip-smart, hardworking, and forever gracious. Since not everyone knows them, I’ve got a more high-profile hit list of others: Gloria Steinem, the Notorious RBG, Michelle Obama, and JC Wyatt (Diane Keaton’s character in “Baby Boom”).

What do you want B-Reel to accomplish in the next year?

I look forward to B-Reel growing our team of super talented and extraordinarily kind people to make our best work yet. We’ve got a killer team, brave clients, and an absolutely crazy world landscape to make work that matters this year.  

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