Celebrating Women’s Leadership and Innovation

Recognizing the Impact and Inspiring Journey of WD Partners' Leading Women

Celebrating Women’s Leadership and Innovation

Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes

It is both a privilege and a responsibility to shine a spotlight on the remarkable women who have made indelible contributions to WD Partners. Their resilience, ingenuity, and unwavering dedication have not only shaped our organization but have also set a precedent for excellence in their respective fields. In celebrating these trailblazers, we not only recognize their achievements but also acknowledge the profound impact they have had on our collective journey towards progress and inclusivity.

Within the virtual halls of WD Partners, these women stand as pillars of inspiration, embodying our values of do it for the people, courageous collaboration, and innovative excellence. Each of their stories serves as a testament to the power, perseverance, and limitless potential of women in the workforce.

In this special tribute, we invite you to meet a handful of our inspiring 200+ female associates and learn from their experiences. Through their stories, we hope to honor not only their professional accomplishments but also the profound influence their leadership continues to exert on our company culture and beyond.

Jen Merkich, SVP, Talent Care at WD Partners

Jen Merkich | SVP, Talent Care

Jen leads a fantastic team of professionals dedicated to ensuring that we’re not just attracting top talent, but also nurturing and retaining them in an environment rooted in our core values. With her strategic guidance, we’re building a culture where every associate has the support they need to thrive, learn, and succeed.

What truly sets Jen apart is her genuine passion for creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere where associates feel comfortable sharing their concerns, celebrating their achievements, and making a real difference in each other’s lives.

What specific skills or knowledge do you believe have been crucial to your success?

I feel that adaptability has been key. Situations change rapidly and you have to be able to look at the big picture and respond. I’ve always been open to jumping in and helping wherever needed, and I think learning so many different aspects of the business has been so valuable. Teamwork, problem solving, and communication play a critical part in our day to days.

What do you think sets your/your team’s approach or perspective apart from others?

I think our Talent Care team’s approach to everything is holistic. We love to connect people and opportunities across the business – when things come together that align with WD’s goals, it’s an awesome thing to see. We have the ability to work with all functions, which many people don’t, and it’s amazing to see how everything is interconnected.

You can hear Jen talk more about her work at WD on our careers page!

Gabby Rosi, Director at WD Partners

Gabby Rosi | Director

Meet Gabby, our accomplished Director with over 20 years of experience in retail design, specializing in the grocery, cannabis, and food service industries. A proven thought leader and award-winner (among which includes the VMSD Top Women in Retail Design award), Gabby’s multi-disciplinary background in interior architecture, graphic design, and operations fuels her passion for solving creative problems.

As a purpose-driven leader, Gabby is dedicated to improving team performance, driving positive change, and innovation at every turn. Gabby’s vibrant energy and dedication to excellence inspire those around her, making her an invaluable leader at WD.

How do you approach mentorship and fostering growth among your team members?

I try to follow the principal of Conscious Leadership and strive to be open, curious, and committed to learning. The most important piece of the mentorship puzzle to me is to always lead by example, act with integrity, and follow through on one’s commitments. I also accept that I’m not perfect, and always have something to learn from others. This is especially important when mentoring other women to understand what is possible for their career growth. I’m their ally and women need to be their own allies.

What specific skills or knowledge do you believe have been crucial to your success?

The spirit of appreciation and validation has been a huge part of my leadership thought process. I end team meetings with appreciations. The magic happens when the team appreciates each other. We are always so focused and busy that ending a meeting on a positive note gives the team a moment to reflect and see that team harmony is critical to our collective success.

Can you discuss a recent innovation or breakthrough that has influenced your work or thinking?

I had a mentor once that said, “No one is trying to do a bad job” (she actually said “no one is trying to suck here.” 😁) Looking at opportunities or successes with that lens reminds me of the importance of seeing the big picture, being authentic, listening and taking responsibility. Again, this shows others to also take responsibility and creates a system of trust that the team has with me and with each other.

Read more from Gabby here! You can also learn more from her time at Whole Foods leading the customer experience and brand aesthetic in her WDCast.

Kate Fisher, Sr. Manager, Business Development at WD Partners

Kate Fisher | Sr. Manager, Business Development

Kate is a Senior Manager in WD’s Health + Wellness practice and has over two decades of experiences in sales and health and wellness. In her role, Kate focuses on expanding WD’s portfolio through adept business development strategies and contributes to thought leadership pieces and social media outreach that showcase insights on the latest trends in health and wellness.

Kate’s entrepreneurial spirit has led her into a diverse range of endeavors, including historic real estate preservation, digital and content marketing, and construction management. Her multifaceted expertise coupled with her passion for innovation and community engagement makes her an invaluable asset in providing services to streamline and scale brick and mortar health and wellness facilities and innovate the patient journey for a better user experience.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to leadership roles?

I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with wise mentors and strong female role models. My mother, a trailblazing entrepreneur, always instilled the practice of entering life and business scenarios with grace and patience and to let moments flow while finding ways to evolve with the times.

A former female boss gave me a snippet of advice in my 20s on how to keep moving up in life: “Fly your own flag. Nobody else is going to do it for you.” I always took that to mean – promote yourself and your strengths and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you aren’t cheering for yourself, who else will?

Can you share a trend or emerging technology that you find particularly exciting or promising?

Over the next decade, we will see massive changes in Health + Wellness. I’m thrilled to see a strong interest in women’s health. I’d love to see a healthcare ecosystem that helps women not just to survive but to thrive at all ages. I’m also closely watching the trend to move from reactive to proactive healthcare. By 2030, it will be interesting to watch the Wellness Trend evolve as it pertains to Food Is Medicine, Data Wearables, Longevity Centers, and AI.

Learn more about what Kate is working on at WD.
A Revolution in Women’s Health
The Retail Healthcare Arms Race

Ansley Phillips, Sr. Creative Director, Brand Communications at WD Partners

Ansley Phillips | Sr. Creative Director, Brand Communications

As a strategic creative lead, Ansley loves opportunities to inspire innovative design that empowers consumers and makes a positive impact. She breathes life and personality into brand experiences to captivate the imagination and ignite the senses. Ansley enjoys growing collaborative relationships, always seeking to embolden individuals and unlock the full potential within her teams.

Ansley has spent more than 13 years envisioning and developing brand strategy, experience design, content creation, and interactive experiences. She has a roll-up-your-sleeves approach, diving headfirst into projects and championing the idea that the magic of creativity lives at the crossroads of insight and intuition. Ansley was honored with design:retail’s “40 Under 40” award in 2019 and continues to push the boundaries of what’s next.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the industry and how have you overcome them?

I believe that our weaknesses are also our superpowers. Like many of us, I’ve been the only [something] at the table countless times – whether that’s woman, person who is LGBT+, person whose primary language is English, person over or under X age, etc. It’s easy to feel that difference, but focusing on it only creates another barrier. Instead, I try to focus on what unique value I can bring to the table and how I can use my differences to my advantage. Is there a different perspective that I can offer to the conversation? If I’m being “noticed” by others because of a difference, how can I use that extra attention to share my point of view? I can’t control others’ preconceptions, but I can control how I respond to them.

What role do you believe women can play in shaping the future of your industry?

As women in the retail design world, we are actively creating experiences that are more inclusive, enjoyable, and impactful. For example, in our sports apparel work, we’re having real conversations about the pain points (literally!) of bra shopping. How do we make it comfortable and seamless? How do we promote inclusivity regarding gender identity? How can we empower young women who are experiencing physical changes that can make them uncomfortable and self-conscious, which is also a leading factor causing girls to stop participating in sports? Doing meaningful work that can truly have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing is genuinely really exciting!

Can you discuss a recent innovation or breakthrough that has influenced your work or thinking?

Artificial Intelligence is stimulating so much conversation in the creative world. There’s a lot of fear that AI can replace artists and craftsmanship, but I see the opposite. AI elevates human intelligence by punctuating the magic of creativity and intellectual property that can’t be replicated by a machine. Just like the industrial revolution or the dawn of the internet, AI is a tool. It’s a resource that can alleviate and streamline tasks so that humans and creatives can spend more time focusing on innovation and problem-solving.

Read more from Ansley here!

Joanne Heyob, SVP, Strategy Operations & Design at WD Partners

Joanne Heyob | SVP, Strategy Operations & Design

Joanne is the wizard of operations at WD Partners, bringing 20 years of experience rooted in retail and store operations. As the SVP of Operations Strategy & Design, she’s the brains behind our innovative growth strategies, leading a team dedicated to revolutionizing retail and restaurant operations. With a resume adorned by giants like Express, Frontgate, The Limited, and Victoria’s Secret, Joanne’s leadership ensures every project hits the mark, from captivating concepts to seamless logistics.

At WD, she doesn’t just think outside the box; she redesigns it entirely, bringing innovation to life through operations-right executions. Out of the office, Joanne can be found taking the stage at events like RestaurantSpaces, RetailSpaces, and MUFES, sharing her expertise on ops. When not in work mode, Joanne is empowering her community to get active, leading running clubs and fitness classes. She tries to get a run in at every new city she visits, and even wrote all about what running and operations have in common. Check out the piece here!

What inspired you to pursue a career in your industry?

I fell in love with the service industry at an early age and I loved leaving work every day feeling like I could make a difference. Whether it was making a memorable experience for a customer or teaching someone something new and watching them excel, I absolutely loved being in a fast-paced environment. Later, in my career, I found that the more streamlined things were and the more standards that were in place, the easier the job got for my team. That’s what led me to a career in operations—making things easier and more efficient for associates and customers.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to leadership roles?

Make sure your voice is heard and find a mentor that will be honest with you. Someone who will push you to get uncomfortable and will give you feedback. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and challenge others respectfully. It’s okay to have a different POV and be provocative with your thinking. Be vulnerable—you don’t have to be the expert at everything! Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you so you can learn from them, empower them, and watch them grow.

What strategies do you employ to stay innovative and ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing industry?

Always be willing to be the student of your craft. Stay curious, ask questions, do research, but most importantly, stay connected with people who do the job every day. The best ideas come from those who are in the trenches, so spend time with them and ask them what they need. You never know when a million-dollar idea will be shared with you 😊

Check out these articles to learn more from Joanne.
Mastering the Online Returns Game
How to Treat Your BOH Like the Heartbeat of You’re Store

Manjari Das, Associate VP at WD Partners

Manjari Das | Associate VP

Manjari, a principal leader in our India office, is a seasoned HR powerhouse with over two decades of experience shaping the business landscape in Asia. Manjari thrives with challenges and is always looking for ways to turn ideas and visions into sustainable revenue growth solutions. A natural-born innovator, she brings order to chaos with her systematic approach, crafting business visions, boosting performance, and turning employee experiences into epic adventures.

Manjari is passionate about working with a multi-generational and diverse workforce and has a strong desire to benefit WD by implementing HR best practices from a technology, digitalization, HR data analytics, and leadership development perspective.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that shaped your professional journey?

I am a programmer and HR practitioner turned into a business ops leader. The transition from a technical role to functional HR enabled me to build and foster meaningful human connections. The next pivotal moment in my career was taking on a business leadership role, which helped me connect the dots between attracting the right talent, establishing the appropriate organizational structure, and cultivating the correct culture to achieve strategic success.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to leadership roles?

Keep striving for knowledge–the pursuit of learning is the key to unlocking your full potential.

Believe in yourself and never settle for less–keep pushing and asking for more.

Embrace your power to inspire change–you can inspire others to follow in your footsteps and create a ripple effect of positive change.

Amanda Seevers, Sr. Director, Strategy & Insights at WD Partners

Amanda Seevers | Sr. Director, Strategy & Insights

Amanda plays a dynamic leadership role on the strategy and insights team and has a talent for blending creativity with strategy in the retail and restaurant industry. With a background in design, Amanda brings a playful yet purposeful approach to her work. She’s not just about the trends–she’s one of WD’s masterminds behind crafting unforgettable brand experiences.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to leadership roles?

Build and foster multi-generational relationships with women you admire–their perspectives can provide valuable insights that you can’t get from any book or article.

Can you highlight a recent project or initiative you’ve been involved in and its impact on your team or the industry?

Working with the rebel and Nike team to help bring to life a unique experience for women in sport has been rewarding. Creating more inclusive experiences that authentically connect to women has been important within our industry and it’s been rewarding to be just a small part of that.

Check out what else Amanda is talking about!
Empowering Women in Sports
The Truth Behind Greenwashing

Jody Wasbro, SVP Strategy & Experience Design at WD Partners

Jody Wasbro | SVP Strategy & Experience Design

As SVP of Strategy & Experience Design, Jody leads the team in inspiring, guiding and shaping the customer experience. Working across a variety of brands, she helps bring forth meaningful and actionable customer & business insights. She oversees the strategy & insights team, identifying innovation opportunities, and collaborating with Creative and Operations teams in order to create seamless and integrated solutions for WD clients.

In her time at WD, Jody has identified innovation opportunities to impact customer experience strategies as well as created frameworks and approaches leveraged across the portfolio of offerings. She has a passion for uncovering motivations and translating findings into strategic brand building initiatives. You can catch her and her team at any number of industry events including GroceryShop, SXSW, ShopTalk, and RetailSpaces.

What inspired you to pursue a career in your industry?

I was an advertising major in my undergrad and learned that the agency environment was too tactical for me. I switched to client-side brand management where I was able to drive more of the strategy, which also required getting an MBA. Today, being back on the agency side and especially in my current role, I get to work with a variety of clients all with different problems. Solving those problems is the most rewarding part of my job, and the day-to-day variety keeps things interesting.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the industry and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I face is when I’m the only woman in the room. It’s important to create relationships and partnerships outside of the room so that there is support in the moment.

What role do you believe women can play in shaping the future of your industry?

Women tend to lead with empathy and understanding. We’re also strong advocates, support each other and are strong mentors for new talent. Bringing that to the foreground helps create more an organization where associates are able to do their best work and grow in their respective roles.

Read more from Jody on our website!
How the Test & Learn Approach Can De-Risk Your Idea and Guarantee an ROI
The Evolution from CPG Stock-Up to "Spearfishing"

Honoring the Women of WD Partners

The women at WD Partners have made significant contributions that resonate both within our organization and across their respective industries. Their resilience, creativity, and unwavering commitment serve as beacons of inspiration, setting high standards for excellence. Through their leadership, they embody our core values and foster a culture of inclusivity and innovation.

As we acknowledge their achievements, we are reminded of the importance of mentorship, diversity, and staying ahead of industry trends. With their collective wisdom and trailblazing spirit, we are poised to continue thriving in an ever-evolving landscape.

About Wayfind

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