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Lisa Cieslak: 2019 Woman of Influence

Milwaukee Business Journal recognizes GMR's chief financial and business operations officer

by Sue Pierman, as published June 26, 2019 in the Milwaukee Business Journal

Lisa Cieslak: Corporate Executive — A people person at work

You may not expect a company’s chief financial officer to be a people person. But Lisa Cieslak defies stereotypes. She revels in getting to know others, and mentoring plays a huge role in her life. As GMR Marketing’s CFO, not only was she the lead architect of its mentorship program, but she currently mentees seven people — three at work and four outside the agency.

Cieslak, 45, maintains that people without mentors find it more challenging to move up in an organization.

And during her 19 years at the New Berlin company, Cieslak has consistently worked to advance its employees. In 2015, she spearheaded the creation of Growth, Leadership and Opportunities for Women (GLOW) at GMR. Since then, the percentage of women in leadership positions has almost doubled, according to the agency.

Following her work with GLOW, Cieslak became the executive sponsor of GMR’s Diversity + Inclusion (D+I) initiative “because diversity goes so much farther beyond gender. ...As we focus on diversity, not only do we have to have a diverse talent pool, but we need to make sure when we recruit people, they feel included. It’s important as an organization and as a leadership team.”

Cameron Parsons, GMR’s chief executive officer, said Cieslak’s leadership is extremely valuable.

“Lisa has a very, very strong professional skill set. She also has a very strong set of people skills and has the ability to see issues from both sides with great clarity,” he said. “In her role as business leader, coach and mentor combined, she really makes a difference.”

Not only has Cieslak made a difference with employees, but she’s positively impacted the company’s bottom line. She was CFO of the Year winner in a Business Journal awards program in 2015, and on her work at GMR, one colleague recently wrote: “Due in large part to Lisa’s leadership, GMR now stands as a dominant global marketing agency.”

And she’s not done yet.

“I like opportunities to look for ways to make improvements. I like to look at how to use technology and automation to make mundane tasks automated so people can do more exciting, fulfilling work,” she said.

Cieslak also makes a difference by volunteering for a wide range of community organizations.

“I was brought up blue-collar, middle class, with a hard-work ethic, and I’ve been very blessed and fortunate with education and career opportunities,” she said. “I feel very strongly if I’m serving on a board, I want to understand the community they serve by giving a bit more of my time and expertise. If I know something or have something that I can share to help somebody else, that’s what it’s all about.”

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