The Editor-in-Chief of Glamour is not the hyper-glossed, ever-discerning dignitary you’d think someone of this stature would be. Although she reports directly to the acclaimed ‘queen’ of runway Anna Wintour, Global Content Advisor for Condé Nast, Samantha Barry has remained seemingly unscathed from the culture of the industry, admirably her self.
Barry came into the role at the moment Glamour transitioned from a print to strictly online publication, ending its 80-year history of monthly print editions. Hand-selected by Wintour for her digital media aptitude, Barry has since reinvigorated the magazine within the confines of its new, strictly online medium. Prior to taking on the helm of Glamour, Barry was the global head of social media at CNN Worldwide. She has extensive journalistic experience, having been a reporter for RTÉ and the BBC. Barry saw the digital landscape at Glamour as an opportunity to “tell stories in new ways, while still attracting a large audience.”
Ladders caught up with Barry at the Glamour headquarters in downtown Manhattan where she lent us insight on how the key to moving up the corporate ladder is, contrary to popular opinion, is not based on “networking” at all.
What advice would you have for recent college graduates coming into their first role?
“I think younger people underestimate their peer group in what that will eventually mean for your career trajectory. I don’t think the right attitude is to go into this process thinking ‘I need a mentor.’ While those relationships are really important, the relationships I’ve made with my peers have been long-term satisfying and two way beneficial. … These are the people I go to for advice when I’m moving jobs or I’m making a major decision … In your first job make sure to look around you. Some, though certainly not all of them, can be the people you turn to for advice in 15-20 years.
“You should absolutely be learning from the people above you. But, I see too many young people in the workforce not taking stock of the fact that some of their peers at their level could be influential contacts for them in the years to come. ”
What is your opinion of ‘networking’ as a career tactic?
“I don’t like the word networking, because it sounds one-way. It can come across as opportunistic. I call it instead, relationship building. For me, it’s all about relationships — the kind of relationships that don’t pay off immediately. Networking to me sounds like something you do on a Tuesday evening with name-tags. The reality is we’re constantly networking, but I prefer to think of it as forming relationships. This means managing up, managing with your peers, and managing down, as well.
“When I left CNN the person that was my number two ended up taking on the job; I had molded her into a place where I wanted her to take over that job. Whether it’s people on your team or people below you in a company, those people could be your boss one day.”
Is it ever too late to build the core relationships that shape your career?
“Absolutely not. I work in an industry where it’s really important to be curious. I don’t think it’s an immediate exclusive thing. Some of the best bosses I’ve ever had have been receptive when I put my hand up to say I don’t know this, explain this to me. Some of the brilliant managers, presidents, leaders, and CEO’s are constantly curious and are often looking to the people below them to help them understand new technologies or ways of doing things.”
You report to Anna Wintour. Tell me more about your experience working under her.
“Anna [Wintour] is one of the most curious people you can imagine. This serves her well because she’s not only a fantastic boss but, as the Global Content Advisor for Condé Nast, she’s always seeking inspiration from others and asking questions. She’s a great example of someone who embodies that curiosity. ”
Why do you think that the media tends to portray Anna Wintour as an intimidating, formidable CEO?
“The media applies this image to women who are very successful. I find her [Anna] to be extremely helpful, encouraging, and curious and could not ask for a better boss. I’m going to tell you this from my personal experience, but I’m not surprised that the media portrays women of a certain stature and success in this way. That does not surprise me.”
You frequently mention inculcating ‘curiosity’ as fundamental in moving up in your career. What is the best way to use this curiosity to your advantage?
“It’s very easy to tell if someone is trying to bulls**t. Have I climbed the ladder through the ranks of this industry by being in the beauty or fashion assistant? No, but I know what beauty and fashion stand for, and I’m not afraid to ask those with expertise in the field to help me or guide me in the direction we should be going. Some people try to bullshit their way through this process by pretending they know everything. It’s very easy to see that disingenuous nature. Curiosity comes with the humbleness of understanding where your gaps are, as well.”
What advice would you have for those trying to negotiate salary, whether that be a raise or an offer?
“If you’re ever negotiating your contract going into your new job or you’re trying to leverage your contract at your current job, knowledge is key. You need to know where you sit amongst your peers who have similar experiences or who have been in similar jobs. During my time at CNN, I made sure to figure out what the men, in particular, who were on the same trajectory as me, were being paid. I used this information to consider how far off I was from the amount I thought I should be asking for.
“You need to know what everyone is getting into terms of equity, salary, and bonuses, and incentives. Without that knowledge, you’re just going in blind trying to understand what you should be asking for. It’s a two-way street — you need to be willing to share your current salary with someone in order for someone to want to share their own.
“I know that I’m one of the few people of whom my friends will tell me how much their earnings because I’ll be open and honest with them and help them get an indication of whether they’re doing well and are above the curve, or are they under the curve and really should be asking for more. If earning more money isn’t a possibility, are there any ways of getting more benefits to their package. ”
What would you say to those who may feel undermined by their peers when comparing salaries or job titles?
“Your salary should not be your only driver of your job satisfaction. If you’re just comparing your friends’ salaries that’s not going to be a good place for anyone. I use the “Salary Whisperer Network” as a leverage to get to a place where you feel more confident asking for more. The reality is that salary is only one part of it. You need to consider your long term career trajectory … Early in your career, particularly in your mid-twenties, you may need to take a pay cut to do a job that you know is ultimately the right job for you that will lead to something bigger.
“You can’t get too fixated on job title. Rather, consider whether you feel you’re getting paid what you’re worth in the industry that you’re in…I’ve taken pay cuts to be in jobs I wanted to do long-term. I remember in my second job, I worked for a big national broadcaster. I was one of the younger women in the newsrooms, so I was being given more of the ‘kicker’ or ‘teddy-bear’ stories. I wanted to do serious journalism. I remember taking a significant pay cut to go to another radio station to do the kind of stories I wanted to cover. There, I was able to do the stories I wanted to do, come in at a higher caliber of stories, but got paid way less to do it. That for me was the flip-up point in my career where I knew money wasn’t my only driver.”
How important is it to become financially literate from a young age?
“Financial literacy is hugely important. I wish I was more financially literate in my 20s than I am now in my 30s…there are some jobs you won’t be able to take because they’re below your cost of living. Glamour is actually launching a podcast in the fall around the conversation of how women deal with money. This showcases the work we’ve been doing in the last 18 months around the idea of financial literacy as the ultimate feminist issue. We’re going to be talking to women across America about their financial situations and coming up with some great takeaways for anyone listening.
“It still surprises me how many young women don’t ask for more. Every guy I’ve ever known has never been afraid to ask for more. Always ask for more — you might not get it, but the knowledge that you’ve asked for more is so important.”
What are your favorite podcasts?
I listen to “The Daily,” “Modern Love,” The New Yorker’s podcast, and investigative journalism pieces. We actually produced one that was widely successful called Broken Hearts, around the Hart family. I think 9 million people downloaded it. I’ve listened to other podcasts like this, like “Gangster Capitalism” around the college admissions scandal and an Australian podcast called “Teacher’s Pet” from ABC.
What do you think are the major appeals of Podcasts for listeners, and as a medium?
“Radio was my first love. I grew up in a country that over-indexes on radio — Irish people listen to more radio than anywhere else in the world. I started working in radio overnights at RTÉ back in Ireland. There’s something quite intimate about audio. Some people find it quite therapeutic both to listen to and to be interviewed through. Audio can be an intimate medium.”
Tell me more about your philanthropic work outside of Glamour
“I’ve done work with Concern Worldwide, an Irish Charity that I’ve known since growing up. I went to Malawi recently and it was a really interesting trip. I’m also on the board of the Student Press Law Center, an organization that gives student journalists around the USA legal help. I’m also on the board of Room to Read which is a charity for educating girls around the world. I’m really interested in women and girls becoming educated and getting themselves out of poverty.
Tying into this, the Women of the Year awards, coming up in November, is this brilliant thing that Glamour does. It’s at the center of all we stand for. The event focuses on telling women’s story. Last year we honored Kamala Harris, the Parkland Girls, the Larry Nassar survivors, and Janelle Monáe … To be able to share and host a stage with these women is such an honor. Being involved with an event like this is one of my favorite parts of this job, if not my favorite.”