Britt Dougherty On Making Beer Gender-Friendly

Britt Dougherty is Senior Director of Marketing Insights at MillerCoors. Being a female marketer for a traditionally male-focused product has provided her an opportunity to teach others about modern gender. As part of her work, she spearheads MillerCoors initiative aimed at being more inclusive of females in the company’s marketing of beer brands. Britt has spent her entire career in market research and in 2016 was recognized by Advertising Age on their esteemed list of Women to Watch.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember wanting to do what my parents did.  My Mom was a teacher and my Dad was a business person. I didn’t know what a business person was but I was, and still am, really close to them and believe they unintentionally influenced me in what I wanted to become.

Who would you most like to be stuck on a desert island with? Why?
Without a doubt, my husband and kids. They are total clowns and if I was stuck on an island I’d need to laugh, so it’s definitely them.

What single book has had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I can’t say a single book but I feel so grateful for all the books that I read in grade school. They started my love of reading and an appreciation that reading was another way to learn other people's stories.

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
I go to bed at 10pm; earlier if I'm tired, later if I'm working. I wake up every day at 5am no matter what. My kids are really early risers and I like to get into the office for quiet time before my team arrives.

Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
I have always worked in research. I like to think that it was fated. My degree was in marketing and when I completed my studies I started a market research internship with Millward-Brown, an international research firm with a focus on advertising effectiveness and strategic communication.

I worked with Millward Brown for several years and got a great foundation in the fundamentals of market research. I moved across to BP, the oil company, in 2004 because I wanted to be in-house so I could see things through a bit more and have more influence. I worked on all their US market research and had a lot of fun.

After five years at BP I moved to MillerCoors. Up until that point I’d been making my career decisions instinctually and without a ton of direction, but over the last seven or so years here at MillerCoors, I feel like I've found my voice. My career has taken on more meaning.

This category has completely captured my heart. I finally started to have a voice here and ideas about what our insight team could look like, and what our business could and should look like.  I'm on a mission to humanize beer. I want to bring empathy and human understanding into this business.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
It’s hard for me to not make this personal. My youngest son has cerebral palsy and in a lot of ways, he’s changed me professionally. Having a kid with special needs has created a space inside me that is both soft and brave. I feel an incredibly active sense of purpose because I’m more aware of the needs of everyone around me, both at work and at home.

What motivates you?
To do my job well. I love learning new things and I love people's stories, but at the end of the day I love creating change. I love the concept of motivating people to create change. People generally want to work on things that matter, so I feel like I'm always trying to find the intersection of big ideas that can create change and work that matters.

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I used to worry a lot about things that were out of my control, and it wasn't until I let that go that I trusted that I would be good enough.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I celebrate everything. As a working mom some days I celebrate that my shoes match and I’ve brushed my hair! I also celebrate that I have a team of people that come to work and make a difference.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
Working with a balance of empathy and candor.

What is your life motto?
It’s the Golden Rule. I was raised on it and it's got me this far: Treat others how you want to be treated.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad always said you should do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life, and my grandpa always asked me if I was in charge yet! In some ways I'm working to say 'yes' to both of those things.

What’s your favorite TED Talk?
Margaret Heffernan: Forget the pecking order at work

Who do you most admire in business? Why?
In trying to come up with a person, I realized what I admire are certain qualities. I admire the listeners, because people want to be heard. I admire the teachers, because people are motivated by feeling like they're learning and growing. I admire people that have vision and high expectations, because people rise to the challenge. I’m going to sound like I’m pandering but our CEO exerts a lot of these qualities – it’s a great time to be here because of that.

What do you believe is the secret to rising up to the top?
It’s not really a secret. You have to work hard and earn it. More so as a woman, you have to advocate for yourself. Success happens when you create it for yourself.

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
It’s important to find your network that is going to tell you like it is. I have work colleagues that are a wonderful sounding board. They are candid and direct.  My dad and mom have always played that role in my life and my siblings are all really close. And obviously my husband.

What are your favorite traits about women in the workplace?
I consider myself a raging feminist but I keep coming back to these things that I admire in people regardless of their gender. I want to work with people that are human, that have empathy and kindness, and people that have flaws. I don't want to work for a robot. From a female perspective, sometimes we try and hide those things that make us who we are, and actually that's the very thing that people love the most about us.

What's next?
I’m super excited about a team we’ve created called HX, which stands for 'Human Experience.' It’s all linked to driving empathy and human understanding into the business. Our big effort is to re-balance our orientation, look at the world, and have some inverse implications on how our business should operate with that in mind. It’s about looking to the horizon and realizing growth for the business through our understanding of people and culture.

I love that the business values insight so much to give us permission to do this. I love that they value this team and their thinking on the business to give us permission to look out into the future, and push the boundaries of how our business operates. I'm getting so much energy from it.


As told to Caroline Hugall over skype on Monday 3rd October. Britt lives and works in Chicago.
*Profile Photo Credit: Elise Trattner