You had a spectacular Publishing career in New York City, including a long run as Editor in Chief at InStyle and InStyle.com, as well as overseeing People StyleWatch. You left Publishing and decided to reinvent your future. Tell us a bit about the process that you went through in making that decision.
For me, the greatest allure of publishing had been the endemic feature of building: building a brand, building a physical magazine, building an audience. In the two or three years before I made the decision to leave publishing, it became increasingly clear that while we were certainly building issues month after month, the whole enterprise was shrinking. I spent more and more of every day, in more and more meetings working with colleagues and executives to unpack, to undo, to reduce. At a drinks date with an industry friend one night, I was sharing this feeling of the walls always coming in no matter how much we remodel. She said to me, “you know, Ariel, not every industry is like this. You, we don’t have to work in an environment that is always shrinking no matter how successful you and your team are.” It really resonated with me. I soon made the decision to exit gracefully, rather than cling to diminishing returns. I talked with the owners at the time, telling them I would like to leave but would agree to stay on through the next September issue which was such a pivotal piece of the annual business. I think they didn’t believe me at first, but eventually we came to an agreement and I left (though not before closing the October issue and interviewing First Lady Michelle Obama for our cover). I did not have a hard and fast plan about what would be next—folks told me, Oh you are going to regret this decision? You are going to miss having such a big platform and brand behind you. You are going to miss all the gifts and perks. You are going to miss all the social swirl. And the truth is I knew I wanted to start a family with my husband and I knew the gifts and premieres were not why I ever took the job in the first place. Ironically, the owners I spoke with are long gone and the print edition of InStyle closed last year.
Now you are the General Manager of the Boston Seaport, a development project that consists of 33 acres of residential, hotel, office, civic and cultural spots, and more. What has it been like to take on a completely different kind of role in a totally different industry? What tips would you give people who are mulling over the kind of move that you made.
It has been mind-blowing. It has been so exciting to be in a position where I am learning new things every day—about this new industry, about a new work culture, about so much. What makes it exciting and not terrifying is that I have also been able to bring my experience and expertise to the initiative. There is a lot of learning but there is also a lot of application. And I feel so grateful to be in a position like that. There are many overlaps with what I was tasked to do back at InStyle and what I am tasked to do in Seaport—at its core, my job is to inspire and inform people about new and exciting ways they can enliven their lives, experience new things, and broaden their own aspirations. That was true when we shipped a monthly issue to subscribers and it is true when my team and I plan a calendar of best-in-class activations in the neighborhood. I feel fortunate, as well, to have connected with WS Development, a company with real vision and heart, that appreciates the science as much as the art, and that can see the value in an unconventional candidate for a position.
Many people are hesitant to make big changes at midlife. You picked up your family and moved from NYC to Boston for a new career pivot. What’s the best advice you would give someone about becoming a Re-Imagineer?
We actually picked up and moved from NYC to Boston for my husband’s career. We decided we were up for a change and that nothing was permanent. COVID and remote work had really opened our eyes to the flexibility in life matters, and we thought it’s Boston not Bali. It’s close enough to NYC and familiar enough. It was worth exploring rather than wondering what if. I think the best advice I can give about becoming a Re-Imagineer is to be brutal about not comparing what’s next with what came before. If you decide to move on, the past is foundational but no longer relevant. Be willing to give into the new completely and you will soon be wondering how this new so quickly became your norm.