A Chat With Cindy DiPietrantonio, President of Alex and Ani, Part 2
We’re excited to share part two of our interview with Cindy DiPietrantonio, president of Alex and Ani, an omnichannel retailer of meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry and accessories. The interview below features insights into Cindy’s leadership style, what she's looking for in prospective hires, and much more.
Women in Retail Leadership Circle: Which business leaders do you admire?
Cindy DiPietrantonio: Maybe football is just top-of-mind because the NFL season just kicked off, but some of the leaders that inspire me most come from sports. I really admire the old-school coaches like Vince Lombardi from the NFL, and John Wooden from college basketball. I’ve read books on their philosophies and love how their priorities were people building, team building and culture above all. There's a lot of carryover between business and sports. A strong work team is just like a strong sports team, where all members have each other’s backs and are fighting towards the same cause. In business and humanitarianism — and I know I’ve said it already — Carolyn is a huge inspiration to me. She built a company on a dream, and the fact that she has given $49 million back to charities to date, and has touched so many different people’s lives, is simply astounding. I really learn so much from her every day.
WIRLC: Tell us about your leadership style.
CD: I believe that you win on people, so I try to take a people-centric approach to how I lead my staff. A guiding quote of mine comes from Maya Angelou, who said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I strive to create a culture where employees feel valued and important, and where I can empower them to make best practice decisions on their own. To me, that all comes down to how you treat people.
WIRLC: Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentee? Can you tell us about your relationship(s)?
CD: I’ve had a lot of different mentors. Having mentors is something I really believe in, and it’s something I tell my children, and my employees, about all the time — get a mentor. My two most compelling mentors have been Wes Card, my former boss and CEO of The Jones Group, and my mother.
Wes taught me that you don’t always need 100 percent of the information to make a decision. You just need to gather 80 percent of the information and trust your ability to do what's right. Sometimes that involves taking risks. Wes also taught me about life balance, and to this day I firmly believe that the people who get to the top and stay there are those who are able to find some kind of sustainable balance in their lives.
My mother is famous for her one-liners. She has all these little pieces of advice that I’ll always hear in my head and that I continue to return to. She has given me some of the best advice, like always dress for the job you want, not the job you have. You can be anything you want to be — never let anything hold you back. She made a lot of sacrifices to earn two nursing degrees and raise five children, and that will always continue to inspire me.
WIRLC: What's a life lesson you've learned that you wish you could have told your younger self?
CD: A piece of advice I would give to my younger self would be that there's no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs, and you have to take one step at a time. I think this is an especially timely lesson, with millennials increasingly entering the workforce. Millennials are often branded as craving instant gratification, but I would caution young people to really enjoy the journey and not to rush it. The beauty is in the process, and success takes time.
WIRLC: Tell us a bit about your hiring strategy. What do you look for in a prospective candidate? What are some red flags?
CD: Our hiring strategy is focused on sourcing and identifying top talent. To do this well, we're continually building and refining our approach to building organizational talent throughout the employee life cycle. Alex and Ani's brand ethos is “Designed to connect you,” so our hiring strategy is really about connecting the right people to the right roles. Our strategy is focused on bringing people to the organization where they can work in their craft in a place that's committed to Made in America and giving back to its communities.
To hire right, we need to know who we are looking for. Our HR team works very closely with the hiring manager to build a candidate profile that defines success by taking into account organizational fit as well as ability. We're a humanitarian company with a unique culture that's defined by positivity, creativity, collaboration and commitment to sparking change through giving back to our communities. We look for experts at what they do with the potential to advance beyond the role we're filling. We look for energetic and creative individuals who have a passion for what they do, a passion for the brand and believe in the power of giving back to the community. Once the candidate profile is built, we source candidates through a variety of ways by looking within Alex and Ani as well as outside the company through online job boards, networking, employee referrals, job fairs and university partnerships.
We believe in identifying talent early. We have a very successful intern program from which we've placed interns into full-time roles. We have a 360-degree approach to our interviewing strategy with the candidate being interviewed by their hiring manager as well as their peers, direct reports and key individuals that they will work with cross-functionally. Once hired and onboarded, our hiring strategy shifts to ensuring that we retain top talent by providing a culture that encourages creativity, collaboration, open dialog, work-life balance, give back time off programs, and the ongoing work we're doing to build development and recognition programs.