Hello! Recently, I noticed that every department and store within the Vroman's Family, minus one, is led by women. This made me feel REALLY GOOD as I reflected on that fact. I decided that I wanted to interview some of these women; my co-workers, leaders and mentors, and see how they felt about it and what led them to their current positions.
The women who answered, are as follows:
Allison H., CEO and President of Vroman's and Book Soup
Sherri G., Head Book Buyer of Vroman's and Book Soup
Nadine V., Book Soup General Manager
Hillary R., Vroman's and Book Soup Controller
Erin P., Vroman's and Book Soup Inventory Manager
Corie H., Vroman's Pen's and Stationery Manager & Pen Buyer
Irma G., Vroman's Point of Sale (P.O.S) Manager
Catie P., Vroman's Bookstore Receiving Manager
Alison K., Head Gift & Stationery Buyer of Vroman's and Book Soup
- Did you ever imagine that you would end up in the position you are currently in?
Allison H.: There’s no way I could have imagined that I would end up as the president/ceo of anything—I studied English and peace and justice in college! But I always knew books would be central to my life. My first job was in business though—I started my own company, Kid Power, when I was 14. I had two employees (one was my brother) and I ran a summer camp in my front yard for neighborhood kids—I had figured out that I could make more money creating programming for groups of kids than I could babysitting one at a time. So maybe I was on a path to ceo all along!
Sherri G.: I always hoped that one day I would be in this position, and have done a lot of different jobs at Vroman’s over the years. However, when I started as a sales floor clerk over 20 years ago, I had no idea that I would be able to do this for a career, and I can’t be happier about it.
Nadine V.: Not particularly. I knew I wanted to work with books, but I honestly never envisioned myself managing a bookstore – let alone one in California! I’m from the East Coast and when I pictured myself working with books, I tended to imagine a towering publishing company office in New York City. Lots of glass and steel, bagel carts, that sort of thing. I did live that life for a while, but LA began calling to me, and I knew I had to heed its call.
Funnily enough, when I told the people I knew in the New York publishing world that I was planning to relocate, almost every single one of them said, quite emphatically, “you have to work at Book Soup!” They knew where I belonged before I did.
Hillary R.: I hoped that I would keep progressing in my field when I graduated college, but didn’t know exactly what direction I would end up going. I didn’t know much about Controller positions at that time, so probably didn’t imagine myself where I am now.
Erin P.: I never thought that I would end up as the Inventory Manager. I tried out for it one time prior to being offered the position and did not get it, so I was very happy when the second time around I had proven myself and the position was offered to me.
Corie H.: Not at all! I started as a clerk at the corner store and never imagined I would ever be in a management role, but I was only 20 when I started, so I was still a kid (TBH I still am).
Irma G.: Yes. I have been working in the book business since '98. I was timid at first and always thought it would be hard to be a Manager. However I had great mentors that broke me out of my shell.
Catie P.: No! My oldest sister started at Vroman's in 1989, I was only 6 years old. Meghan started at the same time that Clark and Sherri started. They were all friends and would hangout outside of work as well. Meghan worked her way up to be a girl boss of the children's department and I always looked up to her and admired her. Then Erin worked her way up to be a girl boss and lastly my brother Danny was also the receiving manager at Vroman's before he left. I can tell you when I was 6 years old coming to Vroman's to visit my sister and read books, I never thought I would be so lucky to have a future here.
Alison K.: Not really. I did know that if there was anywhere I wanted to see myself grow in the company, that it would be this position, but honestly, I never thought it would become available, or at least in time frame that aligned with mine. I am thankful to my lucky stars that they were willing to take a chance with me, and entrust me with this position.
- How long have you been in your current position?
Allison H.: I’ve worked for the company for 13 ½ years. I’ve had my current title for about 4 years.
Sherri G.: I’ve been the Head Book Buyer for seven years.
Nadine V.: I’ve been the store manager at Book Soup for about five months. Before that, I was a supervisor at the store for a year.
Hillary R.: I’ve been in my current position for a little over two years now.
Erin P.: 9 years.
Corie H.: I have been the Pen and Stationery Department Manager since the beginning of the Pen and Stationery Department-we're going on 5 years, August 1st.
Irma G.: 5 years.
Catie P.: I have been the receiving manager for a year and a half. I started as the receiving supervisor years ago and with hard work I was offered the position of Receiving Assistant Manager. I am so proud of this accomplishment because Vroman's has never had a Receiving Assistant Manager. They felt my work was so good that they would make this position just for me. After I was promoted to Manager, the Assistant Manager position disappeared again and returned to Receiving Supervisor. It feels great to know that your hard work and dedication were appreciated and seen.
Alison K.: 4 years as Head Gift & Stationery Buyer, 15 years with the company.
- How does it make you feel to be a part of a company that is led by women?
Allison H.: Awesome. I’m so inspired to be surrounded by so many great women.
Sherri G.: It makes me feel great!
Nadine V.: It’s a wonderful feeling! In my life as a reader and bookseller, I try to prioritize diverse and underrepresented voices, and I read/recommend a ton of books by women. (I instagrammed a photo of the massive to-read pile next to my bed recently, and realized only after taking it that the entire stack was composed of books by women!) It feels good to work for a company that prioritizes women, too, where women’s voices are routinely the loudest in the room, that takes their competency as a given (like, duh), and that places women and trans people in positions of leadership.
Hillary R.: It’s very inspiring. I’ve worked for a few different companies and it seems to be pretty rare that mainly women are filing the management positions.
Erin P.: I have always felt very special to be a part of Vroman’s. Since I started 20 years ago, we have always had very strong women running things. As a young adult it was inspiring to see that Vroman’s had so many women working in management positions.
Corie H.: It's pretty awesome! I am proud to be surrounded by such funny, smart, witty, strong, passionate and dedicated women.
Irma G.: I feel very inspired. Allison (Hill) is a source of constant inspiration. She is someone I aspire to be.
Catie P.: Incredibly lucky. I am surrounded by women who I admire and look up to. I have learned a lot from working with these women.
Alison K.: It makes me feel supported, strong, understood, but also a little out of touch with reality sometimes. Vroman’s was my first job, and the only place I ever worked, and since I have been here, women have always been a strong majority of the management team. Just last night, watching the Senate on C-Span, I was reminded of how men dominate our work culture, and lives really, and how I am so fortunate to work somewhere that protects me from that.
- How does it feel to be one of those women?
Allison H.: Really lucky—though someone challenged me on that thought recently reminding me that women always say they feel lucky in their careers while men say they’re proud so let me change that...proud AND lucky.
Sherri G.: I feel honored and proud that I get to do this job.
Nadine V.: Honestly, my gender identity doesn’t have a lot to do with my job, and I don’t think of myself as a “girl boss” per say. As a manager, I ask that my staff bring their authentic human selves to work (after all, the human experience is what differentiates us brick-and-mortar booksellers from our stiffest competition!), and I try to do the same. I feel very grateful to be part of a company where our uniqueness is an asset.
Hillary R.: It makes me feel proud. Especially that we’re running a successful company that has had such a lengthy history and is so ingrained in the community.
Erin P.: I have never thought about this. I feel good to be part of such a great group of women but I have never thought of myself as one of those women. Is that weird?
Corie H.: I am still 20! Well I feel like I'm still that 20 year old kid who started at the corner store, so it's hard to see myself as being all the things I listed about my peers. I look up to everyone so much and know there's still so much to learn from everyone. I can say for sure that I am honored to be in the same circle.
Irma G.: I feel a sense of comrodery and achievement, especially as someone who is originally from another country. I came here without speaking English and now am a part of a great group of women who are all my equals.
Catie P.: I feel like my hard work and dedication have paid off. Vroman's isn't just a job for me, it will always be a part of my life. These women and Vroman's have helped shape the woman I am today. From when I was 6 years old I saw strong girl bosses at Vroman's and will continue to see this as long as we have Vroman's. They gave me the courage and belief that I can be one of these girl bosses!
Alison K.: #blessed
- Do you have any advice for a woman who wants to be a future girl boss?
Allison H.: Find female mentors. Read business books by women. Even better, write a business book! (There aren’t enough bestselling business books by women!) Consider getting your MBA. (Fewer than 29% of full-time MBA students are women. And there are scholarships available! Don’t be afraid to ask!) Learn early in your career to own your value and negotiate your titles and salary. Demonstrate hard work and integrity—it’s still a winning combination and rarer than you think. And never stop learning. We live in an age where there is so much information at our fingertips. We can constantly be learning, challenging ourselves, and growing. I think that’s key to being a great boss because if you do that for yourself then you can provide it for those who work for you. The result is a stronger team and a more successful company.
Sherri G.: Do your best with integrity and grace. Learn as much as possible and don’t lost your drive to keep achieving.
Nadine V.: Don’t stress too much if you’re not exactly where you want to be yet – or even if you’re not sure where that is. That and send handwritten thank you notes. I can’t tell you how far a good old-fashioned letter has gotten me in my career (plus it’s just a nice thing to do).
Hillary R.: Don’t let the man bring you down! Haha. But seriously, keep pushing forward and doing the right thing. Don’t let stereotypes dictate your behavior.
Erin P.: If you put your mind to it, you will achieve it. Nothing is out of reach. If you work hard and prove yourself, good things will follow.
Corie H.: Work hard, stay creative, ask questions, know when to fight and when to fold, stay hydrated (no one runs well on fumes), which reminds me- always get gas in your car before the light comes on...hmm what else...oh yes and always keep some Golden Bears nearby (mmmm the white bears are the best!).
Irma G.: Always be patient and kind.
Catie P.: Always take pride in your work! I don't care if you are cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming the floors or the CEO of a company, it shows that you know you are valuable. Don't just be a "boss" but be a leader. One of the most important things I try to show my staff is that I will do everything that I ask you to do. Do as I do, not as I say. Your staff will respect you if you respect them. Go after it! You never know what is possible if you don't try! I didn't get hired the first time I applied to work at Vroman's. I also didn't get the receiving supervisor position the first time I applied for it. If you are persistent and keep working hard you will eventually get where you want to be.
Alison K.: #slay. Just kidding (but really, #slay) I would say, you never know what’s just around the corner, and to surround yourself with an uplifting support system. I was reluctant to apply for this job, as I felt like a long shot, but I had a supportive group of women (& a really great husband) who told me I should, and that I could do it.
- Are there any books that have helped you in doing your job?
Allison H.: Soooo many. To name a few... The Gifted Boss: How to Find, Create and Keep Great Employees is one of my favorites and definitely helped shape my management philosophy. Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers by Lois Frankel, Ph.D. is a book I’ve recommended a lot over the years. Frankel talks about behaviors that we learn growing up as girls that don’t serve us well as women in business. The Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook: The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand Out—my friend Lisa was one of the writers on this project and it’s a fantastic tool for managers.
Nadine V.: Every book I read helps me do my job! It’s the best part of being a bookseller: I can justify my compulsive need to acquire books at a rate far faster than I can consume them on the basis that they’ll all help me do my job better eventually.
Hillary R.: Rich Dad Poor Dad, inspired me to think outside of the box about my career and managing employees.
Erin P.: I really like the One Minute Manager. When I was running receiving it helped quite a bit.
Corie H.: 1001 Ways to Reward Employees- because let's face it, I'm only a great manager with the help of my team and finding different and unique ways to reward is fun for everyone.
Irma G.: In general, I think reading while growing up, made me a better person. It got me to where I am today. It helped me become more passionate, kind and positive-which in turn, made me a better manager. I don't think it was one specific book, but rather, many combined.
Catie P.: I don't have any books that have helped me. I do have a large support system here at Vroman's that has helped me. I am never afraid to ask for help and Allison, Sherri, Erin and Corie are some of the women who are always there for me. I value their opinions and am always willing to take criticism from them to help me grow.
Alison K.: I have always been an avid note-taker. In terms of my learning style, I comprehend more from lecture and notes, then reading it from a book. So, my biggest help in learning to be a manager and to juggle my job, is my favorite girl boss, Allison Hill. I cannot say enough how much we have hit the jackpot in terms of bosses and mentors. She always just knows what to say, and what to do, and is easy to bounce ideas or thoughts off of, whether they be big or completely insignificant. I am in complete awe of her, and everything she accomplishes, and I couldn’t have asked for a better leader to teach me, and make me better in all I do, in the office, or in my life.
- What is the #1 book you would recommend at the moment?
Allison H.: If we’re not talking strictly business books now then...Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro. It’s not your typical melodramatic memoir about a relationship gone wrong, but a beautiful, honest meditation about what it’s like to be with another human being for a lifetime. If we’re talking business... Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss. This book jumpstarted my year. I read it over New Year’s and it inspired me to set new goals for the company and myself in my position.
Nadine V.: I’ve never been a big poetry reader but have been exploring the genre recently, and I am so smitten with Anne Carson. Her Autobiography of Red (a “novel in verse”) is weird and funny and tender, manages to make poetry – of all things – downright suspenseful, and features an unforgettable protagonist, the monster/boy Geryon, who clawed his way inside my heart and hasn’t left yet.
Hillary R.: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Although it was written about 30 years ago, it’s still a relevant commentary about women’s roles in our modern society and a cautionary tale of how things could be if women don’t fight for their right to be independent.
Erin P.: I am reading Going Clear at the moment and I really like it. Going Clear!
Irma G.: I would recommend, Gentleman in Moscow. I liked it not just because it was beautiful, but because it reflects the time period so well. I know that time period, related to it and can vouch for it. It was written how things actually happened and I admired that.
Catie P.: I love mysteries! The last book I read was The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. I couldn't put the book down until I was finished with it! I haven't had a book hold my attention like this in years!
Alison K.: I know this is a book blog, but I’m gonna do what I do best, and recommend my favorite gift item for inspired women: a Ruth Bader Ginsberg String Doll Keychain. ($11.99)
- Any other thoughts you would like to add?
Allison H.: 19% of the U.S. Congress is made up of women. 21% of the U.S. Senate is made up of women. 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. Equality for women in terms of laws, healthcare, pay—all of it is dependent on more women being in positions of power. It’s in all of our best interest to support women in politics, mentor women in business, and nurture future girl bosses!
Hillary R.: Women rock! J I’m proud to be working for a company holds women’s opinions and decisions in such high regard.
Erin P.: Keep true to you!
Corie H.: Golden Bears and ibuprofen...you're everyone's friend keeping "pain reliever" close at hand.
Irma G.: I believe that the book business and book selling, specifically, is one of the most noble professions. I feel lucky, especially at Vroman's, to work in this world. Vroman's is so well known and so special. I feel completely honored to work here. It is amazing.
Catie P.: I would like to add that another thing I value about Vroman's and the women working here, are that they value us getting an education. I doubt I would find another company who works with me like Vroman's does. I want to be the best girl boss I can be and continuing my education lets me feel more empowered. You are never finished learning!
Aren't my people pretty awesome?? I hope you find some inspiration in their words, as I continually do.
Thank you to all my girl bosses for answering the questions I posed! You all are Triple Bs: Busy, Beautiful & Badass.
Bye for now!
<3 Jen in the Bookstore