When Esmee Williams first started at Seattle-based Allrecipes 17 years ago, she often needed to explain to people what the World Wide Web was and how you could access this thing called the internet using a dial-up modem.
“Texting was not yet invented, and online video meant making sure your VCR was plugged into the wall,” Williams said of those early days as a web pioneer. “Fast forward 17 years, today we are having grocery items delivered to our office in an hour by simply asking Alexa on our Amazon Echo.”
A self-professed technology buff and passionate foodie, our Geek of the Week clearly found a good landing spot at the 19-year-old company, where she now serves as vice president of consumer and brand strategy. It’s a career that lured Williams to Seattle from New England.
“I traded in the snow and lobster for the Pacific Northwest’s rain and crab and haven’t looked back since,” Williams said.
When she’s not monitoring the success of the Allrecipes family (1 billion yearly visitors to 19 sites serving 23 countries in 12 languages), Williams is likely outdoors with her own family.
“Anything that gets me out on the water, onto a field or into the woods makes me happy,” Williams said. “Being outside is important for the soul — it clears my mind, inspires me to reach higher, allows me to connect with whoever I’m with and is an important break from the weekday chaos.”
Learn more about Williams, what she does and how she does it, in this week’s Geek of the Week questionnaire:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “I’m the vice president of consumer and brand strategy at Allrecipes. My job is to understand constantly evolving wants, needs and challenges of home cooks, and then work with our internal teams and partners to create technologies and brand experiences that make their food activities infinitely more rewarding. Helping home cooks — whether it’s about getting dinner on the table on a busy Tuesday night, experimenting with new cuisines, or taking their baking skills to the next level — is my passion. I love connecting over food and enjoy helping others do the same.
“Digging into consumer trend data to learn more about our global audience of more than 80 million people to understanding what makes them inspired to cook lights me up and keeps me coming back to work each day.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “At first glance it would be easy to view the digital food space as being somewhat simple, but in truth it’s highly complex and ever evolving. There are more than 2,000 sites in the food category, each one vying for market share. To achieve success, you need to have a site experience that makes it impossibly easy for a “running late, forgot her in-laws were coming for dinner, have to be at her son’s school by 7 p.m.” to find just the perfect dinner solution at 5:45 p.m. while cruising through a grocery store aisle. Delivering this type of solution requires highly sophisticated technologies and content classifications systems.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “I consider myself very fortunate to be at a company where I each day I get to work with super talented teams developing experiences that further my own food and technology passions, and address my daily cooking challenges. For me inspiration comes from everywhere — when I’m on the bus, in the grocery store, gathered with family and friends, traveling to new places — and can see how people are using new technologies to meet their everyday needs and to connect with one another.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “I honestly could not live without Amazon Prime. There’s absolutely no way I could get everything done without things falling apart without Amazon Prime. Whether it be last-minute birthday gifts, food for my daughter’s voracious guinea pig, books for an upcoming vacation or a container of laundry detergent (yes, I have a Dash button), Amazon always has me covered.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “My office always has a lot going on. Much to the chagrin of my co-workers, I admittedly still like to print things out, especially reports. You’ll find a credenza overflowing with the latest reports on digital advertising trends, consumer food behaviors, and emerging technologies. You’ll also find shelves stocked with memorabilia from past campaigns, brand promotions and product launches at Allrecipes, Sierra Online, McCann Erickson and Nestle.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life? (Help us out, we need it.) “Form strong partnerships with smart, fun, highly collaborative people who share your values and passions. From my husband Ken to my Allrecipes colleagues to my network of friends from past jobs, I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the best-of-the-best. This network inspires me each and every day by the work they do.”
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Windows.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Admittedly, I am not a ‘Star Trek’ watcher. Can I pick Tina Fey, Kristin Wiig or Robin Wright instead?”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Transporter, I’m always in a rush. If I could be anywhere and everywhere in seconds it would be amazing.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Launch a business centered on tapping into the power of the Internet of Things to reimagine home cooking. Or I would create some sort of technology that makes parking at Trader Joe’s and Costco way less crazy.”
I once waited in line for … “I’m always in a rush (and I like to buy everything online) so I am not much of a line waiter. I think the longest line I ever waited in was recently at the airport when I waiting 2 hours so I could catch a 30-minute flight. This is an example of where a transporter would have been super handy.”
Your role models: “I’ve been incredibly lucky to work for some amazing leaders during my career, but the two people that stand out most as role models are Barbara Schwabe (currently at Microsoft) and Julie Michael (currently President at Team One Advertising). Both of these top marketers are extremely smart, talented, strategic, creative, curious, fun, generous, supportive people who are outstanding at getting their teams to think bigger, take risks and push the envelope to imagine what’s next.”
Greatest game in history: “The 1995 ALDS with the Seattle Mariners. Watching the likes of Edgar, Griffey, Jay, the Big Unit, and the Sheriff Norm Charlton come together to make the impossible possible was pure magic. You know it was special if it made a place like the Kingdome feel special.”
Best gadget ever: “The campfire. It’s not fancy but it has amazing powers of bringing together the people you care about most to kick back and tell great stories into the early morning hours. It’s the original Facebook. And who doesn’t love S’mores?”
First computer: “Apple Quadra 800 — it was pretty powerful at the time!”
Current phone: “iPhone 6 Plus.”
Favorite app: “Waze. Like I said, I’m always in a hurry.”
Favorite cause: “There is no better gift than the gift of education for a child.”
Most important technology of 2016: “Voice recognition.”
Most important technology of 2018: “Driverless cars.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “Always be curious.”
LinkedIn: Esmee Williams