Katie Griff is one of those elusive women who always seems to project an air of “I’ve got this.” In the past year she’s had her first baby and started a new job at HATCH (makers of the best bump-friendly clothes ever). The fact that her in-control attitude hasn’t wavered is ridiculously impressive. We spent an afternoon with her and 7-month old Grace to try and unearth some of her secrets. Spoiler alert: Wine is involved.
Hi Katie! How did you become VP of HATCH? What was your career like leading up to this?
I grew up in northern New Jersey and wanted to test out a different part of the country for college so was determined to either go South or West Coast. I ended up at Duke and, much to my husband’s dismay, am a Blue Devil for Life :).
Duke is a true liberal arts school so didn’t really have applicable get-a-job majors like finance or marketing. I studied English and Economics (with a minor in Slavic Studies). I’ve always been equal parts right brain/left brain—creative & analytical—and my entire career trajectory has been the story of me swinging the pendulum too far one way and missing the part of my brain I was neglecting. It seems so simple in retrospect but it took me a while to figure out.
I interned every summer in finance: in sales & trading, at a hedge fund, and in LA in CMBS/RMBS in the summer of 2006. Post college in 2007, I joined Blackstone on the investment team in their Hedge Fund Group, BAAM. I worked with incredibly bright, talented people in a really interesting and dynamic space. I won the lottery with my team, especially my boss. He was the real deal: authentic, smart, humble, & hard working. As I have grown in my career and have built teams and managed others, I strive to be the kind of leader that he was.
After 5 years at Blackstone I left to get my MBA at Columbia Business School. Though I loved my time at Blackstone, the idea of doing what I was doing (not tomorrow or next year, but in 15-20 years) triggered a real “Oh Sh*t!” feeling. I realized I didn’t want to be an investor, evaluating from the outside, but an operator that was effecting change from within.
I worked throughout business school at Calypso St. Barths, LVMH, and M’oda Operandi. Post business school I joined Gilt in a hybrid strategy / business development role. I realized I wanted to be on the brand side, and left for the marketing team at Madewell. I’ll never forget my interviews with Mickey and Jenna – Mickey told me that on a scale of 1-10, I was a 4. Jenna wrote “very smart” at the top of my resume and underlined it. I like to think she nailed it…and that maybe over time Mickey changed his mind!
My role really grew over time at Madewell. The company was thriving and it was a bit like drinking from a fire hose, if you did your job well and put up your hand and asked for more, for the most part, you got it. I learned to truly invest in others and the importance of a “YES” mentality.
When I went on maternity leave in August of 2017 it was my full intention to return to my team at Madewell but giving birth to my daughter Grace was an oddly cathartic experience. All of a sudden it became crystal clear to me what I wanted and didn’t want professionally, what I was willing to make time for and what I wasn’t. What I loved was taking something from concept to reality…from 0-80%. The ongoing maintenance phase, the 80-100%, didn’t make me jump out of bed in the morning.
I had an old friend from college who had joined a cool and upcoming brand. They were going through a transition and looking for some marketing thought leadership and I was all too happy to stay intellectually engaged between feeding sessions. Flirtations became dating and got serious fast and I accepted my biggest professional opportunity and challenge to date: Heading up marketing for HATCH. My Madewell team couldn’t have been more supportive of my decision, and with tears but also a ton of pride knowing my team had and would continue to step up in my absence, I took the leap.
I came on board at HATCH in mid-November, just before Black Friday/Cyber Monday, headed into Holiday, just under 2 months out from launching beauty and realized my first day that the pace of my life had dramatically changed...and a 3 month old was only part of it!
Tell us about your pregnancy! was it smooth? difficult? memorable moments?
I hated being pregnant. In my current role, that irony is not lost on me, and I know how many women out there would give anything to be pregnant, I was incredibly lucky, but it’s the truth. That said, it is so UNBELIEVABLY worth it. I will do it again, no question (fingers crossed). The thing that got me through it (other than my husband who was literally a saint) was how awesome the science of it is. I signed up for every single countdown app there was and bought and read all the books. My husband thought our Amazon account had been hacked. I knew not only what fruit my baby was on any given week but what French pastry, weird but cute animal, and inanimate sporting object… I would also regale my team with scientific anecdotes: Did you know babies can breathe water (why do we lose that ability)?
I was super sick from week 4 till about week 19, in and out of the hospital, and I lost about 8lbs my first trimester as a result. I found out I was pregnant in early December and told my friends and family early because me turning down a glass of wine would have been otherwise inexplicable. Also because of the incessant puking. Mid-pregnancy, I felt better for about 2 weeks, then I just started to get uncomfortable. I have long legs but about 4 total inches between my hip bones and rib cage…so as she got bigger, I got cranky.
Early into my pregnancy, I found out I had placenta previa so I discussed the possibility of a C-Section with my doctor. By the end of my second trimester, my placenta previa corrected but Grace flipped into a breech position with her head lodged in my rib cage. I did acupuncture, moxibustion, rubbed ice on my belly, played loud music and did all sorts of funny inversions to get her to flip. But, stubborn like her mom, she stayed put. I had moments of sadness thinking I wouldn’t experience a natural birth but in retrospect I think there are some experiences in life I am fine forgoing. The way she came into the world mattered far less than her arriving safe and healthy. I had a scheduled C section at 39 weeks, 1 day and it was the most civilized thing in the world. Like checking into a hotel.
C sections are funny. It’s a game of operation on your body, which you are fully present for. I delivered at a teaching hospital and they teach. You hear things like “get in the game” and “no, no not there”… all the while local ads play over FM radio and your thoughts range from existential on human existence, to literal concern over which organ is or is not accounted for in your abdomen, to annoyance over your (really your spouse’s) lack of a playlist to have avoided the aforementioned local ads. It all goes really fast. I was a champ till the baby was out. Then I got a cramp in my shoulder and they knocked me out.
Growing up, did you have many working mom role models in your life?
All moms are working moms. My mom was a stay at home mom, so didn’t get a paycheck for her blood, sweat, and tears but dear god, she worked. My mom raised my brothers and I from Monday through Friday. My dad commuted and worked long hours and generally got to be the good guy. My mom was the disciplinarian, the sounding board, the tough love, the snuggles, the pep talks, the chef, the multi-tasking Spanish quizzer, transportation-providing, Carly Simon-belting, reliable, selfless, inexhaustible, somehow still in insane shape, mom. Being a mom is at the same time the most amazing and the toughest gig that exists. We need to be there for each other, we are working the hardest job in the world—paid or unpaid—and we need to lift each other up. I think that’s a more prevalent mindset today than it was for my mother’s generation…but it’s not nearly as ubiquitous as it should be.
Currently, do you have many working mom role models?
On the leadership team at HATCH, all of us are moms. Some have more experience, some have more help, some have more kids, and everyone does it differently. On the surface, some moms pull it together better than others but the idea that any of us have it figured out completely is laughable.
What are their secrets?
I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all secret. If there is, I am in the dark! I do think though, that there are things that help. A supportive partner, for one. My husband believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself. He is my biggest advocate even on my worst days and for that alone, I am the the luckiest girl in the world. Confidence and decisiveness are big ones. Even when you have no idea what you are doing, forward is the best direction. Last, but not least, being present. Some weeks I only get three hours with Grace between Monday and Friday. While there is a part of me that hates that with every piece of my being, I am not going to spend the time I have with her wishing it was more, nor am I going to be glued to my email. Being present isn’t easy and it’s something I continue to work hard at, but forgoing the limited time I do have with my daughter is worse. I think the best moms out there know at their core that being a good mom, however they define that, is a non-negotiable. Then they reconstruct their life in a way that protects that belief.
Most terrifying part of being a mother?
That at the end of the day it’s out of your control. Or maybe that it is forever? I think sometimes it’s important to realize that you can miss something terribly (free time, an exercise routine, the luxury of rolling over and going back to bed, etc.) but not want it back.
The sheer joy on your child’s face when you walk into the room.
Describe Grace to us. What's her personality like?
Grace is happy, she’s focused, she’s curious. She gets FOMO. She is playful but can also concentrate intensely on something. She is bizarrely punctual. She seems to get pleasure out of making other people smile. Or maybe she just vibes off of good energy. I like to think that she is smart and kind and worry-free.
What are the products you've found most critical in your mothering experience? (for you or baby!)
Wine! But for Grace...there really is so much good stuff out there. She loves The Chew. She has Hello, Sunshine and it seems to be much easier for her to hold than others.
Her nanny bought her a VTECH cube with really pointless but catchy song lyrics and Grace gets intensely into it. She also really likes these stackable cups that friends gave her, a Jellycat that we named BQE The Pig, and a super soft elephant by Little Giraffe named Bonk.
My cousin bought Grace a Baby Einstein Jumparoo for Christmas. It takes up a ton of space in the apartment, makes lots of noise, and is brightly colored and not in keeping with my uber neutral living room palate but Grace loves it so I love it… kinda.
Thank you, Katie!