HE WAS NEVER THE COOL KID AT SCHOOL. INSTEAD OF TRYING HARD TO FIT IN, TILL JAGLA CHOSE TO PUT ALL OF HIS ENERGY INTO PLAYING SOCCER. THIS DECISION WAS TO SET THE COURSE FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
Till Jagla is not just an extremely hard worker, but he is a striking example that it is possible to move from the sales sector into the creative field – and be tremendously successful in it. While studying economics in Hamburg, Till started his first job with New Balance as a sales representative. The company was looking for students to help their points of sale at trade shows. Till decided to give it a shot.
A bit later, he went on to work with ADIDAS where he quickly climbed up the corporate ladder and – after leading the global product marketing team – soon stamped an entirely new department out of the ground as the company’s first “Global Head of Energy.”
The JOURNAL spoke with the exceptional talent about his key takeaways from his first job, his superpowers, about how to best trigger your creativity, and why it is important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. After reading Till’s answers, we are sure you will fall in love with him – just like we did.
— Till Jagla sporting the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition SFTI Ref. IW389104 (Image by Bruno Kubitz)
BE HONEST, BE RESPECTFUL, HAVE A VISION
What did you learn from your early days as a sales representative?
Thanks for asking! I love this question and I haven’t talked much about this chapter of my career. When I used to work as a Sales Rep for New Balance, I was young and not very experienced. The role of a Sales Rep is quite clear, sell more than the previous season. Nobody really cares how and when you do it. Hence you have to learn how to become more organized and disciplined.
As I’m quite a competitive character, I really enjoyed the new challenge and spent days and weeks in my car visiting existing accounts and acquiring new sneaker stores. Back in the day, no account really needed New Balance as the brand image wasn’t the best and it wasn’t very known. Hence you had to learn how to sell products. I loved it!
The key takeaways from that time were, be honest, be respectful, but also make it clear that you have a vision, a plan and your own opinion, because this is what buyers want to hear. As a Sales Rep, you have to be an information source. Talking pre-Instagram, not many people knew much about the market, brands, products, and latest trends. In hindsight, it’s crazy that NB gave me so much responsibility. I appreciated the trust I received from my managers and returned the favor with my performance.
I wouldn’t even say that I’m a creative mind – I just know what questions I have to ask myself or my team to trigger an interesting outcome
MANAGING THE UNCOMFORTABLE
Can you acquire or practice creative thinking?
Yes, for sure! Somehow this answer feels wrong, or many people would say that there are creative people and non-creative people. I would disagree. It’s like with everything, the more you try it, the more often you leave your comfort zone and the bigger the zone gets. Creativity is not finding something very new that didn’t exist before, creativity can be more than this. I wouldn’t even say that I’m a creative mind – I just know what questions I have to ask myself or my team to trigger an interesting outcome.
Time is one of the most important things you have to consider to get more creative! You can’t force creative thinking, but it happens when you give yourself a bit of time. Another problem many people have is mental stress. In order to trigger creativity, you need to have that easiness. Take a step back and try to tell your brain that not everything you do is important. I always tell myself, “dude it’s just shoes – nothing more, nothing less – not important”. If you are able to downplay the importance, the creative juices will flow smoother.
Your best advice to people who are afraid of change?
Another lovely question, thank you for asking! Anxiety and all other negative feelings happen in your head. I never let negative feelings take control over my brain. Obviously, everyone experiences situations that make them feel uncomfortable, but what’s the worst that could potentially happen? Exactly, even the worst is not really a big deal… Embrace change and welcome challenges with open arms. Hug them, kiss them and you’ll realize that it will become easier to manage certain situations. Personally, I try to manage myself by asking myself questions – I know it sounds weird, but it definitely works, at least for me. Everyone has a comfort zone, try to spend as much time as possible outside of yours and you will see that the zone gets bigger and bigger. In the end it’s a mindset, give it a try. Start right away, identify a potential situation that makes you feel uncomfortable and try to manage it.
Personally, I believe my superpower is the trust in myself and the humans who surround me. As a father, which is way more important to me, I always try to be approachable and empathetic
THE IMPORTANCE OF TOGETHERNESS
How important has failure been in your professional and private life?
Failure is important for personal growth. My failures taught me way more than my successes. It’s also quite interesting how different cultures interpret failure. In the US, failure is something good, because they assume that people learn from failures to avoid mistakes in the future. In Germany it’s different, failure is seen as something negative. I guess in the end it’s just important that everyone understands that it’s ok to fail – but a wise man once said “if you fail, fail fast and cheap”. Joking aside, if you aren’t open to making mistakes, the good things won’t happen either.
What are your best qualities as a creator? And as a father?
Well, I would like others to judge me on my qualities. What I have heard the most throughout my career are attributes such as resilient, energetic and motivated. Personally, I believe my superpower is the trust in myself and the humans who surround me. As a father, which is way more important to me, I always try to be approachable and empathetic. My family helps me to step back, slow down and focus on the things that matter the most. I want to be more than just a father; my hope is that my daughters see me as a best friend and someone who stands for the right values.
Which three pieces of advice would you give your daughters at their high school graduation?
Be a team player and contribute to an empathetic mindset. Togetherness has been significantly important to me in my life and career. Hence, I would always try to teach my daughters my key learnings, but I also believe individual experiences are crucial to become your own person with your own point of view.
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