We had the good fortune of connecting with Zack Hamilton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zack, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor behind my success has been redefining ‘winning.’ Let me explain… growing up, I was always involved with sports. I began competitively swimming at 4-years-old. My mother was a single-parent raising 4 children working double shifts in a factory and joining the local swim team became a way for our mother to see us enjoy a sport. All of my siblings were successful, and I have plastic totes full of ribbons and trophies. In junior high, I burnt out of swimming, and picked up a tennis racket. I immediately fell in love. I could play all day long. It was a new challenge for me, and I quickly began training with a pro. I had a very successful high school career which transitioned to a Division I tennis scholarship. Winning to me was about the final score. Did I win the race? Did I win the tennis match? How many trophies did I have to prove I was ‘successful?’ After college, this transitioned in to my corporate life and career. I viewed myself as a ‘corporate athlete.’ I judged my work ethic matched the time I spent in the pool or on the tennis court. I quickly climbed the corporate ladder with promotion after promotion. I judged I was ‘successful’ – promotions, pay raises and titles. However, my career began to plateau, and frustrations began to mount. As I reflected back on my day-to-day activities, I thought I was doing everything needed to ‘win’ – long days, putting in the hours at the office, launching successful initiatives, driving revenue and profit for the organization, and having a high performing team. It wasn’t until I began to work with an Executive Leadership Coach the impact my ‘winning’ had on others. My leadership ‘training’ consisted of a life-story assessment, 360 degree feedback assessment and a MCEIT assessment that lead me to the greatest discovery – what was driving my current definition of success or my ‘winning.’ The 360 degree feedback helped me understand that although I had a high-performing team and we were executing key initiatives at a high-level, I was leaving a volatile wake behind me of team frustrations, burnout and misunderstanding. Not to mention, burning myself out. I realized the way that I defined ‘winning’ (titles, promotions, salary) was limiting my thinking and a barrier to thriving in my career as a professional and person. I redefined my ‘winning.’ I invested time into understanding what ‘winning’ meant to my team and colleagues, and devoted my energies in to helping people achieve their own ‘winning.’ To me, ‘winning’ (success) is elevating the people around me while achieving balance in my own life – personal, professional and health.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I firmly believe that humans deserve better experiences as citizens, employees, and customers. For far too long, society has placed revenue, profits and business metrics as greater priorities than their employees and customers. The first 10-years of my career was a clear representation of dollars above experiences. Discovering your passion is challenging. There are always defining moments in your life/career that lead you to your passion, and I am fortunate to have experienced one of these ‘defining moments’ in my early-30’s. While in an executive meeting discussing a key initiative, the discussion focused on revenue and margins by ignoring customer desires and behaviors. It was frustrating. At that moment, I had a surreal flashback to my childhood and a shopping experience with my mom who visited a department store to purchase a new lawn mower. My mother told the salesperson she didn’t need all the bells and whistles at the time – a lawn mower that would get the grass cut and keep her children safe in the process. She also was on a tight budget. As the salesperson began to show her the top of the line mowers, my mother quickly walked out of the store frustrated her needs were ignored. As we drove to a store across town, my mother asked us to promise her ‘that no matter what profession we go in to, never minimize the needs of others to achieve your own goals.’ That executive meeting was my defining moment to pursue my passion in Experience. My goal was to lead our experience management strategy that ‘built/created for our customers by our customers.’ Turning their experiences and feedback in to action that ultimately delivered the sales, revenue and profits for the organization. We were fortunate enough to utilize the Medallia Experience cloud, and my goal was to eventually join the pioneer and global experience management leader. Now, I am the Solutions Principal, Global Head of Retail Experience. I am fortunate to partner with 100+ global retailers around the world and help them achieve their business objectives by elevating the experience for employees and customers.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We moved to the Atlanta area about 6 years ago. We are still exploring the city and area as there are so many incredible things to see and do. I am an outdoors adventurist so my itinerary would be focused on enjoying the outdoors. One of my absolute favorite places is Red Top Mountain and Lake Allatoona – the views and scenery are breathtaking. My daughter and I are die-hard Atlanta United fans and season ticket holders so if there is a game at the Benz, we are absolutely there! If you are looking for a great place to run or bike, the Silver Comet trail is a favorite of mine. Throwing the SUP on the Hooch is also a must-do. Also, the Georgia Aquarium is amazing! While downtown, visiting the Centennial Olympic Park is inspirational especially if you are an athlete. Being a vegan and pizza lover, Peace Love and Pizza is a favorite ‘go to’ of mine.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people that have been apart of my journey that deserve SHOUT OUTS! First and foremost, my mother. As a single-mother raising 4 young children, her work ethic and unconditional love for us became the foundation for our lives. My step-dad (who we call Dad) who used the farm to teach me life’s lessons not learned in school: work ethic, negotiations, the seasons of planting and harvesting, and just pure love. My inner 4-year-old boy who was physically and mentally abused by my biological father while repeatedly being told ‘you will never amount to anything in life’ that never allowed me to give up or give less than my best in sports, business or life. My family (wife and children) who have unconditionally supported me in my undying pursuit of achieving my ‘winning’ and my ongoing battle with Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia (Waldenstrom’s – non-Hodgkin lymphoma). They are the reason I pursue my balance, and I hope they will be proud of the man I am and continue to become. My Executive Leadership Coach, Julie Ziadeh, who challenged me to redefine my ‘winning’ and pushed me to become the ‘corporate athlete’ I am today. Understanding everyone has their own definition of ‘winning’ (success). The Leadership Team at The Aaron’s Company that allowed me to achieve/fail which is where I found my passion in Customer, Employee and Brand Experience trusting me to lead the organization’s Experience strategy. The Leadership Team at Medallia (my current organization & professional home) that empower me to bring my whole self to work. I feel so blessed and humbled to practice my passion with the pioneer and Global Leader in Experience management surrounded by the ‘best of the best’ in the industry.