For my time spent in consulting, at the end I felt a bit burned out and disillusioned. I was not sure what I wanted to do yet, but knew it wasn’t in consulting. I then went to get my MBA at INSEAD, which was 5% retainable knowledge and really a year or so of exploring 240+ careers. I narrowed down my target from there – a glass of wine definitely helped.
You have had a great deal of international exposure in both your educational and professional experiences. How do you think this has had an impact, if any, on your career?
International exposure has had a huge impact on my career, and a good chunk of my experience has been outside of the U.S. I think that in order to work well internationally, you need to be both curious and humble, and assignments abroad are somewhat of a torture test for those two traits. You gain flexibility and an appreciation for diversity within a team, as most teams abroad have a broader spectrum of views, languages, etc., than U.S. teams have to offer.
In my own experience, I worked abroad in the earlier portion of my career, and I returned to the U.S. at a time when the domestic world was starting to develop the more matrixed and vague roles you see today. There was a need for people to influence organizations. My international roles were key in my ability to have that influence, because I had been working with people in Europe in these types of global roles that the U.S. was just developing. It was as though I had gotten to pilot test it.
You held considerable P&L responsibility just four years after leaving consulting, and have had many large, operational roles since then. As many consultants aim for P&L experience as they move to corporate, how would you suggest they best prepare themselves for a chance at one of these roles?
It’s hard to prepare for an operational role while you’re still in consulting. In corporate, you have an easier time, but usually consultants will come into planning roles where they’re still in a box and it’s hard to project into that P&L position. Once you have moved into corporate, your best option is to find a sponsor with a consulting background who can pull you through to those roles despite your lack of experience. In consulting, there’s not enough rigor around your realities, and you need to have the intellectual ability to dial in and make the impact.
You have held key marketing and management roles at several multi-billion dollar corporations, including Kimberly-Clark, Coca Cola, and P&G, throughout your career. What aspect of marketing do you like best? What aspect of leading and managing a team?
Lots of people like the creative side of marketing, but it has never really been the thing that fires me up. I like marketing because I’m intellectually curious, and always want to dig deep and find the root cause of things – why things work for the consumer. It’s also great for someone who is competitive because it’s pretty clear when the consumer votes who wins and who loses. I’ve really enjoyed the strong collaboration required in marketing as well – in consulting, you have teams and strategize, but you don’t talk about moving into execution where it takes a lot of different roles to make the final product.
For management, it’s different in corporate compared to consulting. In consulting there are lots of great training programs, but with the high turnover and consultants constantly switching from project to project, you’re not so much working on the development of your specific team and its capabilities. In a corporate setting, you have a real interest in building your team from within, complemented with recruiting from outside. As a manager you have to understand that you can’t simply send your team to a training program – you have to help them by mentoring, coaching, etc.
As a major influencer and leader in a multi-billion dollar CPG company today, what are your next goals for self development and professional growth?
At the highest level, I want to leave a legacy, a mark on the business after I’m gone. Looking now, I have a lot to do with our business trajectory, and I can see my influence in that. On another level I’d like to make my mark with the people I bring on, and want to fill a shallow bench with ready-now candidates. Beyond talent, I want to work on process and structure…there’s always room to improve.
Which of the skills that you gained in consulting has added the most value to your life outside of work?
My consulting experience was long ago, but I still appreciate the sense of self-awareness I developed from it. You know how to go into a room, read the situation, adapt to it, and make a difference. Another part which may sound more cynical, and it’s not meant to be, is knowing how to fake it. You may not know what you’re talking about the entire time, but you know how to frame things and get by so you can then go back and get the facts. Taking that idea very much outside of work – when your children ask you things that you don’t know, it helps!