Amy Zhou is a versatile marketing professional whose career has ranged from grassroots door-to-door sales to managing key brands for multinational corporations. A go-getter since her university days, Amy’s dynamic journey is marked by early internships and entrepreneurial ventures like Gaucho Creative, which she co-founded during her time at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Today, Amy navigates the high-stakes world of brand management at Warner Bros Discovery, working on beloved brands like LEGO. Known for her knack for communication, she also serves as a career development chair at the American Marketing Association, where she provides invaluable advice to professionals embarking on their own marketing careers.
In her wide-ranging roles, Amy has thrived on her adaptability, her willingness to learn, and her uncanny ability to connect with people. Her story is an inspiring one for anyone interested in the marketing field, especially those intrigued by brand management.
While you were a student at UCSB you took on numerous internships and started early on. How did that early exposure to the marketing world shape your approach to your professional career?
My very first internship in college was as a door-to-door salesperson for a solar company. I didn’t know what career I wanted, but I knew I enjoyed talking to people and wanted to make a living doing exactly that. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it taught me how to sell myself and my product in the shortest amount of time, from my eye contact, hand gestures, voice, grammar, and posture. I look back fondly at my first internship and how much it has influenced my career, and knew I wanted to be in a role that allowed me to exercise those sales skills but on a larger scale – and that is how I found marketing!
My marketing path was shaped through a series of trial and error. I knew I liked marketing, but there were so many functions that it was impossible to determine which was the best fit without trying them all. I tried SEO, PR, PM, paid media, social media, and none of them stuck with me like brand did. I’m fortunate to have been able to find a career that I genuinely loved so early in my career, a luxury that many take a lifetime to find!
You mention in your Tedx Talk that your internship at Amazon was your dream job, yet you were left with the question of ‘what’s next?’. This feels like such a common sentiment, both at the start of, and at times, throughout a career. What advice would you give to someone who is at their ‘what’s next?’ moment in their career?
It’s hard to identify when is your “I should move on” moment. I always struggled with deciding if I was ready to move to the next step or to stay where I was and dive deeper into the role. Both are legitimate and meaningful options, but I always find myself looking at my manager to determine if I was ready to move on. If I could look at my manager and say to myself “I want to be just like them in 3-5 years”, then I’m in the right place. If not, then I look for other opportunities.
You’ll always be asking your “what’s next” question, and I find myself constantly asking myself and also being frustrated when I dont have the answer. If you’re feeling in a place where you’re ready to move on, but don’t know where to go – I advise you to talk to people. I’ve gotten all my “aha” moments at the randomest times, but they always stem from talking to people who can offer me different insights. You’ll find yourself chit-chatting with someone and find yourself saying “If only someone came up with ___”, which is how my inspiration for Gaucho Creative Agency started!
Speaking of Gaucho Creative Agency. You launched that with Devanshi Mehta, and it’s an amazing program that’s still going strong today.
You’ve shared that your partnership with Devanshi worked because you are a risk-taker who thrives on ambiguity and learning along the way while Devanshi very much likes to focus on the details. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to take risks in their career?
It’s important to weigh your alternatives and ask yourself what you have to lose. If you’re in a mid-senior position on track for a promotion soon, then quitting your job to pursue your own start-up would be a large risk (doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, just that what’s at stake is larger). However, for a student or those early in their career, you dont have anything to lose besides time!
I’ve never gone headfirst into anything in my career without self-doubt and failure – but I always trust that I’ll learn along the way. Nobody has a perfect vision of how their ideas will work out – you just have to take that first step and get comfortable with your plans changing – your vision will adapt, iterate, and become clear along the way!
You’ve had the opportunity to work in a variety of environments, from a start-up like Gaucho Creative to multinational corporations like Amazon and Warner Bros Discovery. What advice would you give to someone transitioning between very different company cultures or sizes?
Honestly, I wouldn’t say there’s that big of a difference. Both require someone who is proactive, communicative, and adaptable. I do think at a larger corporation, it is always in your benefit to befriend people and have more people in your corner. Your connections mean everything to succeeding in a large corporation as they’re able to show you the ropes. At a startup, being proactive means everything. You’re going to have to get good at many things, and it starts with having the enthusiasm to tackle many roles that you might not be good at. I’ve approached working in both company cultures in the same way, but each culture teaches a new set of skills.
Let’s talk about your role as an associate brand manager working on LEGO. Could you share a little about what a typical week looks like for you?
I love being in brand management! I work with our brand team to create a vision and executable actions towards that vision. As brand manager, we work on 1 game at a time from 1-3 years and become the product specialist for that game. This involves creating the publishing plan, the branding vision, trailers and key art, and promotional material.
Typically, I’m in the weeds of a game launching in the next year and doing everything I can to secure our promotional material. I work with our cross-functional teams, development, first-party platforms, and agency to ensure those materials are created and aligned across partners. In brand management you’re going to lead and actively participate in TONS of meetings, so knowing how to communicate and lead large teams efficiently is extremely important.
We’d be remiss to not talk about all the amazing work you do to help people develop and advance their careers. As a career development chair at the American Marketing Association, what are your top 5 tips for someone looking to make their resume stand out?
So glad you asked! Would highly recommend checking out my youtube video for that!
Before we wrap up, what advice would you give to someone just starting their journey in brand management? Anything they should be prepared for?
- Learn a little bit of everything. As brand managers, you’re the specialist of a product but not a certain function. Instead, you’ll have to trust other experts to be able to deliver your vision properly. It’s in your best interest to learn a little of every function so that you can guide others better. Learn some code, SEO, Excel, paid media, etc – you’ll be a much stronger candidate and brand manager!
- How you communicate is everything. Much of my job involves communication, whether that’s in writing, face-to-face, or over video call. Knowing how to communicate through each device, how to deliver your message in a clear, professional, and non-threatening way is a skill that takes some time to grasp. Most people know that being friendly is important, but knowing when to make small talk, and when to move a conversation forward is also important.