2019 Women in Print and Promo: Madaline Gonzalez, Safeguard
Promotional Support and Project Manager, Safeguard, Dallas
How she got her start: After graduating from college at the University of Texas in Austin, I moved back home to Dallas, where I planned on pursuing an MBA in international business. My best friend was working at Thermo-Serv, and I started working there just to fill time before going back to school. Thermo-Serv then went through a reorganization, and I went to work for a start-up distributorship as an account executive. One of my first accounts was Safeguard. Back then, the company outsourced promotional product orders. About a year later, Safeguard decided to bring promotional products in-house. I went to work for Safeguard as one of its first employees in the new promo department. I’ve yet to get started on my MBA. I’m confident if and when the time comes, the experience I’ve had along the way will serve me well.
What she does: A main focus of my role is distributor education. I support Safeguard distributors and their marketing efforts to customers using promotional products and apparel. I work with our network to develop an online presence and sales growth through social media, websites and company stores.
What brings her joy professionally and personally: I’m an explorer at heart. I love the unknown and figuring out how to build something from not much. In my 17 years here at Safeguard, I’ve had many opportunities to play a critical role in new initiatives. Aside from being one of the first hired for our promo team, I began our weekly educational email newsletter, In the Know with Promo, to Safeguard distributors; co-developed/co-lead our new monthly series In the Know with Promo videos; and I’m always eager to get involved with projects that include mixed media opportunities, such as marketing campaigns that incorporate full-color print, digital media and promotional products.
Her proudest career achievement: In 2018, our promo team was awarded a prestigious Gold Stevie Award for Customer Service Team of the Year by the American Business Awards. We were recognized for our work to educate our network on the latest industry trends through communications, such as our In the Know with Promo series. For me, this brought great personal satisfaction not only because of my role in launching the newsletter years ago, but also to see how it has evolved and grown as I moved to a more supportive role and the entire team collaborates on each edition.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: For me, I’ve always felt that my main challenge was not being taken seriously as a leader or as an expert in my area. Because of this, I make it a point to speak up when I have an idea or a question, and I sit in the front or near the leader in meetings. Yes, sometimes, my idea is off point, but I practice putting myself out there, and I do not shy away from being vocal. Aside from that, I’ve had the good fortune of working with amazing women who were always very supportive of me as a professional and as a mother.
Her job advice to women: My advice would be to embrace a lifetime of learning. Our industry is evolving, and with change come challenges and new solutions to be worked out. It’s important to be flexible, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are many opportunities to learn new technologies and emerging trends—take advantage of the expertise that our suppliers and industry associations offer.
Who she turns to for career advice: There are a number of people I regularly reach out to when I’m looking for some professional advice or feedback. Their insight and experience have been invaluable to me. Safeguard’s director of training and communications, Michelle Oonk; supervisor of Safeguard’s promo department, Joanna Hilton; Safeguard’s director of promotional products and distributor support, Tracey Barton; and Safeguard sales associate, Wendy Jones. I consider myself lucky to have had the privilege of working with the caliber of women such as these. I also think it’s a testament to the culture of Safeguard that I can cite so many female mentors from within my own organization.
Her upcoming goals: This year, I’m hoping to earn my project manager [certification] through the Project Management Institute. It’s been awhile in [the making], but I’ve got a good feeling about this year! I’m also looking forward to expanding our use of video technology as a virtual connection with distributors and customers. From a personal standpoint, I’d like to focus on finally achieving a work/life balance I can be happy with.
How she maintains a work/life balance: This is a common struggle for many, to be sure. We have three kids, ages 14, 12 and 9. As [my children have] gotten older, I have been surprised to find that, in many ways, they need me more now than they did when they were younger. I work a flex schedule with three days in the office and two days from home. This allows me to attend special events and teacher conferences and still get work done, even if it’s late at night. There is still a lot of room for improvement. I constantly feel like I’m short-changing both work and my family. Though I suspect I’m my own worst critic. I’m there for my kids, but the house isn’t typically “company-coming-over” clean, and we sometimes have cereal for dinner.
Final thoughts: This is an exciting time to be a part of this industry. It is evolving and, in some ways, making itself into something completely new as full-color print, promotional products and digital media blend together to offer businesses powerful tools to connect to their target audience. It’s so much fun to be in this creative space. There are some who’ve been in print or promo for many years and doing something different feels uncomfortable. But don’t put your head in the sand, lest you get left behind. Step outside your comfort zone, if only a little each week. In our industry, there are many who can offer advice or guidance. And, at the end of the day, enjoy the journey!