Guitar Center’s Jeannine D’Addario on taking the next big career leap

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It’s never too late to learn something new, to start over or follow your passion for pursuing that new career you’ve always dreamed of having.  Sometimes fear might set in that the ship has sailed and you’ll try to convince yourself that you have to stay put right where you are.  Know that it takes guts to leave your comfort zone, and there will always be risks that come with change.  If you’re thinking about taking the next big career leap, it’s not unusual to have doubts and to ask yourself if you are making the right decision.

“I tend to look at two key components when making a major career decision – can I add value to the organization and can I continually learn something new,” says marketing executive Jeannine D’Addario.

After years of working in marketing and leadership roles at Applebee’s, Whole Foods, and The Walt Disney Company, D’Addario landed an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.  She recently took on the position of Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Guitar Center, where she oversees the strategic marketing, brand vision and customer brand experience at the world’s largest retailer for musical instruments.

“I truly believe that a leader’s role in marketing and customer experience today is to rise to the changing environment, meet challenges head-on and solve complex problems,” she says.

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A fan of new challenges, D’Addario looks for positions where she can add value to the role based on her experience, past successes, failures, and leadership capability.

“I’ve taken on opportunities that felt right for me, my family and allowed me to learn and grow. Sometimes that means a steeper learning curve, but I like being challenged. I think that I have stayed true to who I am and fit becomes important,” she says.

Before she was approached by Guitar Center to join the team, D’Addario was responsible for rebuilding Applebee’s strategic marketing strategy and served as the interim Chief Marketing and Culinary Officer.  Before that, she launched Whole Foods’ first national advertising campaigns.  As the Senior Vice President – Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Whole Foods Market, she was responsible for brand positioning, digital marketing, and retail marketing.

“I like to think of my career as a crazy quilt of experiences. Some good, some not, but all unique and part of who I am. I’ve never taken on new roles to accelerate my career or to move up the ladder,” she says.

An eternal optimist, D’Addario recalls moments in her career when it took more time to recognize if something wasn’t working or wasn’t a perfect fit.  She saw those setbacks as an opportunity to try to improve the situation and make an impact.

“I remember early on in my career I was working in the beer business and at a company meeting of about 500 people, I was one of only two or three women in the room,” she tells HER magazine.  “At that moment, I remember thinking I can make a difference here and use my voice versus shrinking into the woodwork. I figure in that room full of people I might as well make sure they remember me.”

For D’Addario, being a female leader in the music industry means bringing some new thinking and ways of doing things that excite, surprise and delight customers and employees.  She believes diversity in leadership teams adds unique perspectives, experiences, and understanding to a growing marketplace.

“To be part of an organization that exists to put more music into the world is truly special, and I think personally, that’s something the world needs right now… a little more music to soothe the soul,” she says.


If you are feeling stuck or unproductive at work, pay attention to the signs to know if it’s time to move on.

•    Are you still learning or growing?
•    Are you challenged and excited about what you’re doing and who you’re working with now?
•    If not, what can you do to adjust or change that to get things back on track?
•    Do you feel like it’s time to move on?

“I don’t think you are ever truly, ‘starting over,’ you may be doing something new, but all of the experiences that have informed your career, successes, and life to date are what you bring to any opportunity,” D’Addario says.