THE BLOG
05/19/2015 04:50 am ET Updated May 18, 2016

Women in Business Q&A: Christine English, SVP Sourcing & Merchandising, Joinem

Christine manages the expert teams of Merchants and Merchandising Operations professionals at Joinem. Christine is obsessed with creating the best mix of products at the right prices for Joinem customers. She values partnerships with leading vendors to continually address customers' needs with fresh and relevant brands and products.

She joins the team from Woot.com (an Amazon company) where she launched the Home.Woot site and built a successful team while expanding from home electrics to furniture, soft home, tools, lawn & garden and pets. Prior, at CompUSA, Christine was responsible for all aspects of notebook category in retail, business and online--generating $400M in annual revenue. She also directed the business sales merchandising team that drove $1.2B annual revenue and the company's most important growth segment.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Both of my grandfathers, on my mother's and father's side, worked in retail: one was a buyer for Kmart, and the other was a regional manager for A&P and a master at produce displays. Every time we walked in a store was a lesson in merchandising. My grandfathers loved to point out what was wrong with the store layout - if a product was moved closer to the register or an endcap was rearranged, the store would sell more. They lived and breathed retail marketing, and I inherited their passion. My grandfathers have since passed, but I still feel their influence, urging me to always do better. The drive they instilled in me to constantly seek ways to do things better is what led me to Joinem. Social media is a massive digital consumer market with over 2 billion users and unparalleled influence - and the retail world has yet to figure out how to fully leverage its potential. At Joinem, we have a unique retail business model that will tap into social media's group buying power and revolutionize the way we look at buying and selling digital goods.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Joinem?
My previous employment experience has reaffirmed my personal motto, "make the impossible possible." There have been multiple occasions in my career where I have been asked to undertake a major project with a daunting - some would say impossible - timeline. At Computer City, the company came to me when they wanted to open a department focused on pieces and parts...and open it in 90 days. Shortly after I began working on launching the new department, CompUSA decided to restructure the entire business and I had to overhaul my plans to align with the company's new strategy. But I dove into the job and was able to get it done within the allotted timeframe.

At Woot, the Amazon company I worked at prior to Joinem, I had a similar experience where the company wanted to launch a home goods department in an extremely short window. The time between the decision to launch the new department and the launch date was less than a month. Once again, I was able to get the job done because I built a team who shared the core belief that anything is possible.

As my career has progressed, I have increasingly seen my role as helping my team stretch themselves beyond what they think they are capable of and working with each individual to achieve their personal growth goals. Now that I am in the fast-paced startup environment at Joinem, this background of inspiring the best in myself and others has proven invaluable in getting key initiatives off the ground.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Joinem?
I was the fifth person to join the company, when the concept for Joinem was still a vision. We set out to create a digital platform that would bring together social media-savvy shoppers and great products, leveraging the power of collaborative buying to unlock group savings. The business is the first of its kind, empowering consumers to not only drive down pricing on the brands they love, but impact merchants' product array and selection. We're introducing a game changing business to the retail world and it's incredibly exciting to play an integral role in its success.

Of course, starting any new business is not without its challenges. When you walk into a startup, you don't have all the infrastructure and operational processes that are a given at a well-established company. But while the prospect of building everything from scratch can be intimidating, it's also a huge opportunity to build your business to your exact specifications. I've been able to leverage the lessons I've learned at previous companies and incorporate them into the foundation of Joinem as we build the business.

What advice can you offer women who are looking to enter the tech and business world?
Just do it! There are no limits on what women can do in the tech and business worlds. Sometimes the biggest limitations on our careers are the ones we place on ourselves. While there are undeniably barriers for women in these fields to overcome, a good starting place is believing in our own capabilities. I started in business on the tech sales and marketing side when there were few women in the field and I've loved every challenging minute. Get involved in tech and business early, push your limits and encourage and support your fellow women.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
There have been studies that show a long commute negatively affects your happiness, but I have to say I look forward to my twice-a-day 45-minute ride on the local light rail. During the morning ride, I catch up on emails, set my agenda and plan for the day. I use the afternoon ride to read for my own enjoyment and enrichment. I read everything from historical novels to autobiographies to books on business management. I'm fascinated by stories about how someone got from point A to point B and the tools they used to get there.

My family time is also a priority - doing things together we all enjoy - cooking, gardening and playing with the dog.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women are often made to feel like they have to make a choice between being a good mother and a good employee. There is a prevalent - and false - idea that women can't succeed at being both. It's important that working mothers are given the flexibility they need to advance in their careers.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I owe much of my success to the mentors in my life who have challenged me and pointed me in the right direction. One of my most impactful mentorship moments came early in my career, when John Arnos, then Vice President for Canon Computer Systems, Inc., told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was underselling myself. My current job, he said, didn't match my abilities; I could do better. He encouraged me to stretch my wings and take the next big opportunity. When an opportunity came along, I leaped, moving from a small single store retailer to a national chain with over 100 stores, a move which was unheard of at the time. Thanks to John's initial push, I'm now ready to take on my next big challenge - establishing Joinem as the leader in social commerce.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have been a longtime admirer of HP CEO Meg Whitman. I've partnered with HP in various ways for a number of years and watched the business change and face some difficult challenges. Ms. Whitman has handled these complex situations with ease and turned around the company, an impressive feat for any leader, male or female.

Carol Meyrowitz of TJX Companies is another leader who I find inspirational. The success she's achieved with TJX companies is a retailer's dream, and a beacon of hope in the current tough retail environment. Her leadership style places an emphasis on fostering talent and training at the buyer level and developing relationships with merchants. While Joinem has a completely different business model, we share the same emphasis on prioritizing trends in merchandise and growing relationships with our vendors.

What do you want Joinem to accomplish in the next year?
I expect to see Joinem become the leading voice of the collaborative buying phenomenon, and the driver of the next generation of social media shopping conversations. I hope that savvy shoppers across the country will discover Joinem as a fun and easy way to save both time and money.