Career lessons learned from top U.S. marketing executives

From left to right, Lizette Williams, Pam Hollander, Becky Frankiewicz, Allison Cirullo and Julie Foudy. Robby Klein

In a conversation with Julie Foudy at the espnW: Women + Sports, Chicago event, four marketing executives from some of the country's most high-profile companies discussed advice for getting ahead. Here's what they had to say about finding success at work, mentorship, failure and balancing work and life.

On finding success:

"Lift as you climb. One of the things I've always done is invest in other people. ... That has helped me exponentially above anything I've done: being able to assist someone else at a time when they need it."

-- Lizette Williams, multicultural marketing leader at Kimberly-Clark North America

"Surround yourself with people smarter than you. ... You know those times when you're working with people, and you're like, 'Gosh, those people are just brilliant?' Attach yourself to them. Surround yourself with people who you know complement what you do, who can challenge you to new levels, who can help you."

-- Pam Hollander, vice president integrated marketing at Allstate

"Courage. I've taken a lot of jobs that no one else wanted. ... [It's about] stepping out and saying, 'What's the worst that can happen?' ... If I can think about that, then I can have the courage to step out."

-- Becky Frankiewicz, senior vice president and general manager at Quaker Foods North America

On mentoring:

"[Find a mentor] earlier. I didn't really pay attention to having a mentor or networking until I got further in my career."

-- Allison Cirullo, general manager consumer marketing at Edelman

"I look for someone who I respect. I don't care what gender. I look for someone I know I trust because I want to have very honest, open conversations. And I do look for someone sometimes outside of my organization, so I can have that new-eyes perspective."

-- Hollander

On failure and courage:

"We have to start talking about failures. My favorite acronym for 'FAIL' is actually a 'First Attempt In Learning.' I absolutely try to live that way."

-- Frankiewicz

"I probably failed the most in times where I focused too much on what the next thing is instead of just doing a really, really good job of being in the moment and doing good work. Ambition is awesome, risking is great, and it gets you really far. But being in in the moment, and really learning and really absorbing and listening to other people ... is a good balance."

-- Cirullo

"One of my favorite quotes, I have the saying over my desk, is, 'True courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.' So it's not that I'm not scared. A lot of times, I have to stand up at a meeting and I have to say something so uncomfortable in a room of people that look nothing like me, but I know it is the right thing to do for the company, and I know that it's the right thing to do for our consumers."

-- Williams

On advocating for yourself and others:

"[It had to come from] an organic place so I didn't feel like I was talking about myself. So I talk about the project, I make it about the work, and I make it about the results and what we're trying to achieve."

-- Williams

"Be a student of yourself. What do you love? What motivates you? What do you hate? ... I've learned over time what I need in a role, what I need in relationships, that make them something I can give my best to."

-- Frankiewicz

On balancing work and life:

"You can have everything, but you can't have it all at one time every single day. I try to look at the month -- I've been home for the really critical moments, for a baseball game or to see my children to bed or I'll try to stay home for dinner. Have I been a good employee? Have I been a good wife? Although that sometimes falls down the list [laughs]."

-- Cirullo

"In terms of work-life balance, there is no such thing. It's what you make of it. ... You have to forgive yourself. It's OK. I am a working mom, and I love it. And I love that I am raising two boys who can see that their mom is working and is happy and is doing some great things and making an impact."

-- Hollander

"I had to let go of traditional notions of what it is to be a mom and what it is to be an amazing executive. I had to let it go and not feel bad about it. I'm not going to be home making cookies -- I'm just not. I don't have that kind of a life. I have to combine work and life to be one holistic thing."