Former Duolingo CMO Shares Her Secret to Creating Good Work

Hannah Echols-Grieser

Cammie Dunaway will be the featured executive interview at October’s Women, Work, & Calling event.

As Christians, we want to create good work that serves our organizations and communities. However, every worker faces real obstacles to that goal: stress, difficult coworkers, disliking your job, and Zoom malfunctions are all common culprits. In today’s hustle culture, the push to get more done can get in the way of creating good work.

Throughout decades of executive leadership in the marketing departments of major companies like Frito Lay and Yahoo, Cammie Dunaway has created plenty of good work. She’s also experienced the hustle. Cammie has juggled MBA classes with a baby on her hip, traveled around the world several times, and has known the loneliness that comes with being the only woman in the boardroom. 

After a four-year stint as the CMO of Duolingo, the leading free language learning app, Cammie is taking her 300-something-day streak of learning French and embarking on a new season. Instead of calling it retirement, she calls this phase of her life ‘inspirement’ and envisions it as one marked by hurrying less and pouring into the next generation of Christian women. So, we thought it was the perfect time to glean from her wisdom about how to create good work for the glory of God.


Hannah: You wrote a book called Fit Matters: How to Love Your Job. How important is loving your job when it comes to creating good work?

Cammie: Well, we spend several hours at work, so it’s pretty important to find something that enables us to make a contribution, stretch ourselves, and grow. So, to that extent, I think it’s pretty important to have a personal interest in the work you do. But you know, it’s not just about the content. For example, it’s not just about what you love, it’s about the people you work with and the culture where you find yourself. And, increasingly, it’s about the mission of the company. Even though I love marketing, every marketing job is not the right fit for me.

H: What do you mean it’s increasingly about the mission of the company?

C: There’s a pull for people to feel like their work matters and contributes to the world. In the research we did for Fit Matters, we saw a bunch of data showing people wanted to do work that added some value to the world.

H: Let’s say you don’t like your job. How would you know whether it’s your job or your perspective that needs to change?

C: Here’s a test that’s worked for me: if it is hard to get out of bed, you have a pit in your stomach on Sunday nights, or it’s really hard to get excited about your work. Not every day will be a great day, and not every week will be a great week. However, if you have those feelings month after month, it’s usually a pretty good signal that it’s time for a change.

That change doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a different company. For example, when my son was born, I was the chief consumer officer for Frito Lay. My work involved traveling to customer sites all over the country, and I loved the work. But when Davis was born, I became really unhappy on Sunday nights. I didn’t want to travel that much anymore. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the company or that I didn’t love the work; it was that it didn’t fit me at that stage of life. So, I asked my boss if we could consider another role that didn’t require as much travel. I think we have more agency to change our situation without picking up and quitting. Think deeply about what makes the work hard. Is it boring? Are there challenges with co-workers? Diagnose the root of the problem.

 H: In an article you posted on LinkedIn, you wrote that you will focus on hurrying less in your next season of life. Hurrying is a significant struggle for Christian women in the workplace. We often feel like we have to work exceedingly hard to be enough. How do you know when you have transcended from working hard into a posture of striving?

C: One thing I think is so important to recognize is that your career may have several stages. That’s okay. Your goals can change from year to year and from season to season. It also helps to think about your identity at work as just one piece of who you are as a person. Sometimes, that piece is going to be pretty huge. When I first graduated, my goal was to be the youngest president of my company. I made work the centerpiece. Over time, with family and other things in my life, work became just a piece of my identity rather than the center.

To the point of hurrying less, it’s hard to do, but really useful. One way I do this is to carve out my own personal ‘offsite’ like I do with my teams. For me, it’s as simple as going to a coffee shop with a set of colored pencils and a big notebook. I reflect on where I am now and what is important to me. That is a way to hurry less and prioritize what’s important to you. Often, we just check things off our to-do list rather than intentionally choosing to do things we find important, and that gives us joy.

H: Have you ever felt like you have to work hard in order to be enough?

C: I have certainly struggled with voices in my head that say, “Oh, you’re not the smartest person in the room. You have to work hard to keep your place.” So, that’s been a struggle for me. That’s why I feel like having faith in our Christian identity is so important. It keeps us mindful of what we’re working for. Our identity is who we are as a daughter of God, not what it says on our business cards. I’ve found a lot of freedom in that. If God has me here, he must think I’m enough for this situation. So let me just do the best I can.

H: How do you pursue your own dreams and goals while simultaneously trusting God’s plan for your life?

C: First, I believe that whatever gifts we have—gifts of leadership, communication, administration, etc.—are gifts from God. He wants us to use those in our work environments and relationships to be the best stewards we can be. Personally, I don’t struggle with the question of “is it okay to be ambitious?” I just have to keep in mind why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Particularly as Christians at work, it’s important to be really good at what we do. We want to be people who make strong contributions to their companies. As the verse says, “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

H: That’s really good. In the past, I’ve felt guilty about being ambitious. God keeps teaching me and introducing me to people who affirm that ambition is not a bad thing. We can get after it!

C: Yes! That is why events like Women, Work, and Calling are so important. I think most professional women do struggle with that question. It can get kind of lonely. So, it’s important to foster community, share each other’s stories, be encouragers, and keep each other accountable to stay focused on why we do what we do.

Editor's Note: Cammie Dunaway will join us as a speaker at Women, Work, & Calling, Saturday, October 8th! You can learn more and register to attend the event in person or online, here. We hope to see you there!


Hannah Echols-Grieser

Hannah is a Georgia girl who loves writing and hearing people’s stories. She currently serves as the developmental intern for Denver Institute for Faith and Work and works as the lead copywriter at WealthBuilders. She is interested in the intersection of faith, work, and business, which makes working with the DIFW team a huge blessing. In her free time, Hannah enjoys spending time with her husband, Mason, and puppy, Gabe, cooking, being in the sun, and writing for her blog,