Operator Spotlight

Meet Universal Music President, Global eCommerce and BD Richelle Parham

Ambrosia Vertesi

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Universal Music’s Richelle Parham.

You’ve just joined Universal Music Group as President of Global eCommerce and Business Development. Can you walk us through your new role? 
RICHELLE: I am so thrilled about the new opportunity with Universal Music Group (UMG). The role is overseeing UMG’s global eCommerce strategy and business development across the company’s iconic labels, publishing company, operating units, and territories. I am able to use my eCommerce, consumer marketing, audience growth, business development, and direct-to-consumer experience to elevate UMG’s artists and drive the UMG vision of a holistic fan-centric ecosystem that complements partner platforms.

You’ve had such an impressive career in marketing and strategy spanning consumer, tech, and most recently venture capital. What inspired the move to the music industry?  
RICHELLE: I have had a tremendous career and a lot of fun! I was not looking for a new role, however, the more I learned about Universal Music Group and the opportunities to drive eCommerce in more impactful ways (with music as the foundation), the more excited I got. A lot of my focus is around building an ecosystem that connects fans to the artists they love, whether it’s through offline or online experiences, value added content, or merchandise. What has been great about my career is the expertise that I have gleaned over the years can be applied to most industries. I love music, and now I’m able to take my extensive eCommerce, marketing, and consumer knowledge and apply it to the music industry.

What advice would you give someone looking to navigate their next career move into a new industry or function? What are some strategies for evaluating new opportunities? 
RICHELLE: The advice I often give is to be a master in your field and understand how what you do well applies to the new industry you’re interested in. Take the time to learn the industry, ask good questions, and make strong connections.

One of the lessons I’ve paid attention to in my career is not being afraid to learn something new and ask questions. A lot of people feel like asking too many questions makes it seem like they don’t understand. But I actually find that the person in the room who’s willing to ask questions is seen as inquisitive, creative, and innovative. They’re able to see the world in a different way. It’s so critical to have a healthy curiosity and hear other people’s perspectives and viewpoints.

You’re also an active board director at high profile companies like Best Buy, Elf, and LabCorp. Do you have any tips for operators seeking their first board position? 
RICHELLE: It’s probably the same advice as changing industries. Be very clear on how your experiences, expertise, and background can be beneficial for the board and the company. Leverage your network to make connections and get to know the executive recruiters who focus on board opportunities.

It’s also important to build your legacy every day. You have to put points on the board and have key accomplishments that people will remember. Make sure you think about the impact you’re going to leave on any business you work with. 

In your opinion, what are some ways the tech and venture industries could do a better job of empowering the next generation of diverse leaders?
RICHELLE: Companies have to be deliberate about bringing in diverse leaders and elevating diverse employees. The power and opportunity comes when you have diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and thought in the room. 

For example, from a venture perspective, we built diversity right into our strategy upfront in my last position at West River Group. Each one of our sectors was co-led by a man and a woman, because we really wanted to create change. We were doing something different by investing in the folks that don’t generally get the money. If you have diverse people allocating capital, they will allocate to diverse teams.  

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?
RICHELLE: When I was a student at Drexel University, I was also interested in fashion and did three 6-month co-op jobs working for Valentino in New York. I was the Assistant to the National Sales Manager. One of my roles was being responsible for placing the multi-million dollar orders for major retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. One order would take days to input into the computer system because, for example, it would be an order for all the Neiman Marcus stores across the country. I would input the order, then I had to check it two times before submitting it. From that role, I learned how to be incredibly detail-oriented and I learned how to hone my process management skills. Those skills have been essential throughout my career journey.

What’s your secret super power? 
RICHELLE: I am a great connector. I pride myself on being a good listener and through hearing people’s stories figuring out who they need to know. I love connecting people who can open doors for one another and support each other. 

Let's connect.

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