2016 Visionaries: A Digital Leader for the New World
This year’s class of Visionaries does not disappoint. Whether focused on supply chain, analytics, sales and marketing, or innovation, the insights these leaders share on the pages to come are invaluable. CGT is proud to present these 11 movers and shakers who are making a major impression on the consumer goods (CG) industry.
This year, we are opening with a retail visionary. We could not pass up the chance to dig into the mind of an executive most recently from the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, to uncover how this digital leader operates in the new world:
Chief Information Officer
Suja Chandrasekaran was SVP and Global Chief Technology Officer & Chief Data Officer at Walmart at the time of press, and recently joined Kimberly-Clark as CIO. With a background nothing short of impressive, we had the opportunity to further understand her passion for technology:
Chandrasekaran was born and raised in India. Shortly after being married, she left for Melbourne, Australia where she worked for James McEwan Ltd. There she developed point of sale and inventory management applications for retail store systems. In 1995, Chandrasekaran ventured to the United States furthering her career in multiple roles culminating in, CIO Transformation Global Business Excellence for Nestl SA. Her next move was a 3-year role as VP and CTO of PepsiCo, and then on to The Timberland Company, where she would address the turn-around needs of people, process and technology.
Fast-forward to today, and Chandrasekaran continues to be an industry recognized leader and disruptor specializing in e-commerce, digital, retail and consumer packaged goods (CPG). With citizenship in Australia, India, and the United States, she can work across varying cultures, local regulatory, compliance needs, business models and understands localization of process management targeted to the needs of the global and local business. And, if you’re wondering if Chandrasekaran has time for a personal life, the answer is yes. She currently lives in Bentonville, Ark. with her husband and two children and will soon relocate to Dallas, Texas.
Technology Toolkit & Embracing Disruption
Throughout Chandrasekaran’s professional tenure, she has not been shy about leveraging technology to enable customers and the enterprise to the utmost potential. In looking at her background, it might be safe to say that Chandrasekaran has used just about every piece of technology you can think of in almost every business discipline.
“Technology needs no mention whatsoever on how dynamic it is — driving shifts, or fast followership of shifts, or skipping some shifts all together and leapfrogging technology — these are all valid techniques,” says Chandrasekaran. “In our businesses, we are mindful about where we apply each technique. Enjoying the dynamism is crucial to being in any industry.”
Her entire career has spanned different nodes of the supply chain — between product design, manufacturing retail and CPG, Chandrasekaran has always been in the business of creating, engineering, manufacturing, warehouse managing, transporting and wholesaling/retailing to consumers. Throughout the whole chain, end-to-end, she finds that customers are the kings and queens.
Chandrasekaran recalls, “I had an epiphany: It is becoming a tale of two attitudes. I was in a session with senior business and industry leaders, in a certain geography, and the question was asked, ‘Who here is a technologist?’ A couple of hands were timidly raised, and some even thought it beneath them to be called a ‘technologist.’ Fly across the country to the west coast and everyone is a techie — the taxi driver is taking evening courses in coding, the business exec calls herself a ‘half-techie,’ everything and everyone has something to do with technology — this is going to be the future and the sooner we come to the realization and adapt, the better!”
Mega trends and the massive shifts in supply chain manufacturing and re-shifts back, globalization, shifts from selling products to engaging through understanding needs, wants and desires, tech-based engagement interconnected with physical engagement, enormous efficiencies in manufacturing, and advancement in research and development – “these are all things that I find fun!” And, there’s never a dull moment.
There is no shortage of technology disruptions in this industry, and the pace of change is staggering. Some might find it a large undertaking, but Chandrasekaran looks at it as an opportunity.
She explains, “It is exciting to lead the disruptions, create the seed of an idea, incubate, scale and pave the way. All of the companies I have been a part of led disruptions in some way, shape or form and it has been exciting to lead in these prominent companies. I’m not sure there is anything that has not been, or will not be, disrupted at some point in time — embrace it and enjoy it!”
Building Brands in a Digital World
It’s no secret that a new digital world is emerging. Digitization is enabling a new economy, it is customer empowering and will continue to be customer centric. Chandrasekaran offers Sam Walton’s principle, ‘Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction.’ She believes that many digital firms swim upstream in enabling these economies. They challenge the rules; they challenge everything – which is the fundamental law of capital markets. So what seems like simple digitization, has led to holistic economy changes.
The marketing-related digital and technology focus has been gaining momentum and some CG companies are more advanced than others. However, digital has even more far-reaching impacts into business operations, sales and supply chain. A unified consumer and shopper experience cannot just be enabled by retailers — it extends all the way into the brands. Grocery categories are gathering momentum going online for conversion, and for path-to-purchase moments. CG companies enabling digital and physical platforms that enable new business models are not that far away as some are already headed in this direction.
Retail also has more than its fair share of the digital disruption as supported by a recent visit to China where Chandrasekaran lectured to a class of MBA students on digital disruption. They dialogued extensively around the idea of ‘no physical store front’ and how traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are competing with the pure play e-commerce retailers.
“For me the excitement was to dialog this with future business leaders, not just those studying technology to become technologists,” she says. “We need business leaders that are digital and technology centric — start with what the customer needs, define how far the business can go with technology, scenario play financials and then set business models around that.”
As with any new disruption, there will be winners and losers. New compliance laws will surface, security vulnerabilities, privacy concerns and cross-border economies. There will be a ton of work, dialog and negotiations to plow through this, but Chandrasekaran believes this is, “Fun stuff!”
Tech Disruptions Driving Talent Challenges
Digital disruption is just the tip of the iceberg. Tremendous changes disrupting technology now mean that the enterprise has to reimagine approaches to talent. Here is what Chandrasekaran says is essential from technology leaders in leading technology talent for this transformation:
• Engineering rules. Digital capabilities are being engineered, built and deployed in-house and therefore, this necessitates the need for superior engineering skills.
• User experience delights. Process and journey mapping, experiential and functional user experiences that delight and enable adoption, responsive and device agnostic capabilities are imperative.
• Infrastructure and operational agility enable business velocity. Highly automated, instrumented cloud-based infrastructure, with APIs and micro services engineered applications, enable rapid prototyping, and intentional scaling.
• Enterprise collaboration technologies amplify the ‘Enterprise Network Effect.’
• Data first, smart applications differentiate. Algorithmic applications embedded into business processes, that unlock the huge streams of internal, external and IoT data, enable intelligent/embedded apps, at scale.
• Security and compliance, by design, is table stakes. ‘Assume compromise’ and engineering for preventing, alerting, remediation, automation are, necessity.
In addition to the technology shifts, cultural changes are emerging where any employee regardless of level, actively contributes to business model enablement through technology.
“Leading through the speed – risk – quality – capability – outcome – value, manifesto in order to enable solutions that compete with the consumer internet industries has become an imperative,” says Chandrasekaran. “And this means, the trifecta of talent, structures and processes has to be orchestrated for the new norm.” Here are the necessary pillars of this trifecta:
1) Differentiated skills: Different careers and titles that the enterprise hasn’t had thus far are becoming widely prevalent.
2) Advanced approaches: Differentiated tactics for attracting and retaining talent (Kaggle recruiting, anyone!) are essential.
3) Structurally superior: There is a clear move from functional silos to outcome groups, smaller versus larger.
4) Amplified leadership: Digital is about ‘leading through change’ and change leadership needs strong leaders as well as early adopter followership. Leaders develop leaders.
As the saying goes ‘change’ is disruptive, ‘transformative change’ even more, disruptive. But, Chandrasekaran believes that this is a great time to be a technologist — a tremendous opportunity to learn, develop, impact and grow, while driving value for customers, end users and businesses.
Women in Technology
Especially with the push lately of STEM for women, it becomes obvious that technology is a tough world. And, women often stay away from embarking on a career in technology or drop off from the field early in their careers.
“We have both a pipeline issue and a retention issue,” Chandrasekaran says. Here she explains why — and more importantly, what needs to be done to address it:
a. As women, we need to develop other women. Having shared similar situations, we can be great teachers and developers to each other.
b. I find that women are quite methodical in their problem solving approaches. We have interesting sets of odds; thus we must double down on tenacity. I wish this could be progressed so women wouldn’t have to hustle all the time.
c. Stay ahead and stay current — this is crucial. When you land a role, invest adequate time and energy in tech currency.
d. Technology is as much a people business as it is bits and bytes. Leading tech-savvy experts takes leadership savvy.
e. In general, women are terrible in self-branding. This gets in the way of their exposure. One of the things I do is advocate for other women to help them build their brand.
f. I would like to see more movements like “#ilooklikeanengineer” by Isis Wenger who after appearing in a work ad, received negative feedback that she didn’t look like an engineer.
“In my career, it has become my mission to develop other women. I draw inspiration during moments of duress. For me it is my ability to help and develop others, including men and women, that keeps me going.”
Advice for Future Leaders
With a need for new talent in this ever-changing landscape, Chandrasekaran encourages the next generation of leaders to closely engage with their teams and associates. She uses the term, ‘professional intimacy’ to describe inclusion, interactivity and intentionality. The multi-dimensionality to be conscious about this during the frenzy of work output and delivery is crucial.
She adds, “Being a team leader puts a lot of expectations on oneself (finance, stakeholder management, product delivery, engineering, vendor management, operations and strategy readiness) and a ton of things come your way. The foundation though, is your people leadership and engagement. So much business is done on relationships in our culture. All we need to do is to stay true to our culture and unleash our people centricity.”
Venky Balakrishnan Iyer
Global Vice President, Digital Innovation
13 years with company; 2 years in current role
Vision in Action: Balakrishnan is tasked with spotting and seizing inflections in technology to unlock new growth. His remit includes Diageo Tech Ventures – Diageo’s vehicle for partnerships, investments and new ventures in emerging tech. “The accomplishment we are most proud of as Diageo’s Futures Team is: We’ve created a burning platform for digital across the entire value chain of our global enterprise — from manufacturing to sales and from marketing to corporate social responsibility,” says Balakrishnan, who notes that there isn’t a leader today in Diageo who isn’t preoccupied with getting the business ahead of the inevitable digital disruption of CPG.
On the Horizon: Since the ubiquity of mobile is irreversibly changing how people discover, shop for and experience Diageo brands and changing how people socialize, Balakrishnan and his team are now focused on re-orienting the business around mobile. He explains, “This isn’t about bolting mobile on to the way we currently do business. It’s reimagining how we go-to-market and reinventing our business model for a world where 80% of all adults will soon own a smartphone.”
Favorite App: Balakrishnan’s favorite app is Strava. “What’s really neat is the community of runners Strava brings together – I learn about new races, new routes and new running groups. I travel a fair deal and with Strava I can get plugged into the running scene in any city.”
Leadership Philosophy: Since mountaineering is one of his passions, Balakrishnan believes that teamwork in the mountains is a great metaphor for teamwork in the office. “A mountaineering team is literally and figuratively joined at the hip by a rope. Every single step of the expedition is a team effort — a rope team is only as strong as its weakest member. If one person falls down the mountain, it’s everybody else’s job to arrest their fall. Everyone’s life depends on this. You don’t just let anybody onto your rope team or your work team — you’re unreasonably selective about who you choose — but once you do, its ultimate trust,” he says.
Little Known Fact: Although Balakrishnan’s work is all digital, his hobbies are all digital-detox. “A couple of weeks in the mountains is a great way to go off the grid and willfully ignore the screens that take up so much of your life.”
Director Commercial Support (Sales Operations, Sales Systems & Commercial Enterprise Analytics)
Del Monte Foods, Inc.
11 years with company; 9 years in current role
Vision in Action: Brown has been credited with many key successes and core projects within Del Monte, including the March 2015 deployment of its SAP transformation. She was one of six corporate leads that replaced all systems with SAP capabilities, including SAP TPM. Brown has developed and deployed a best-in-class planning training curriculum and post-event ROI and predictive analytics tools to support sales planning. In 2013, she was appointed to Del Monte’s transformation and enterprise design team.
On the Horizon: Brown is currently working on the functional business requirements for new ad-hoc reporting capabilities. The dashboard and reporting capabilities will allow users to answer important business questions and understand key drivers to improve decision-making. She is also focused on stabilizing and optimizing the new TPM system and reporting.
Favorite App: “I probably should note a business app, but my favorite go-to is Pinterest. I love meal planning, gardening ideas and house design inspiration,” says Brown, adding that the ideas are a catalyst for her creative side.
Leadership Philosophy: Brown believes in leading by example through inspiration and being a servant leader. “Work to be authentic and transparent every day. Trust your intuition and allow your team to trust theirs,” advises Brown. “Mistakes will happen, but learn from them and course correct quickly. Be positive. Hire talented folks. Find delegation balance and trust your team.”
Finding Inspiration: Brown finds inspiration in two favorite quotes: “With every adversity there is a seed of opportunity.” “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”
Advice for the Next Gen: Brown gives the same advice she received from her Dad: “Show up early with your shoes shined, work hard with integrity and everything else will work itself out.”
Little Known Fact: Brown has three children ages 17, 12 and 2. “Yes, two! Our last little one, Lillyanna, is adopted and a beautiful addition to our family,” she adds. Brown is also part of a team that is establishing a new orphanage in Mexico. This new home will rescue 30 young children off the streets of Tecate.
Waddell L. Daniels
Vice President, North American Customer
Collaboration & Demand Planning
McCormick and Company, Inc.
3.5 years with company; 2.5 years in current role
Vision in Action: Daniels is credited with restoring the credibility and engagement in McCormick’s demand planning and VMI processes since joining the company in September 2012. “I’ve successfully enrolled my team in engaging in the development of a comprehensive strategic improvement plan,” says Daniels. The plan includes base lining existing operating processes and current supply chain KPIs. He also introduced communications and functional excellence principles for customer collaboration, forecasting and VMI teams. “Our principles are the foundation for how we execute daily, weekly and monthly functional activities,” he adds.
On the Horizon: Next on the list, Daniels is leading an effort to refine McCormick’s S&OP process in North America. “The goal is to fine-tune our well-defined process to ensure that our demand forecast drives the optimization of capacity, inventory and production plans. Additionally, our S&OP process allows us to align our commercial plans with our financial commitments,” says Daniels. The team is in the initial stages of activating a customer maturity assessment, which will allow McCormick to determine the level of engagement and maturity for its collaborative customers. The objective is to determine next step opportunities for expanding customer intimacy and improving customer satisfaction.?
Favorite App: Waze, a driving navigation application, which provides real-time traffic alerts from other drivers.
Leadership Philosophy: Daniels subscribes to the servant leadership philosophy. He explains, “Overall, in my 18 years in leadership roles, I found employees to be extremely respective to this approach. I believe that this leadership style has allowed my teams to consistently yield outstanding results.”
Advice for the Next Gen: “Supply chain management is a wonderful profession, which allows individuals the opportunity to understand many aspects of the enterprise,” says Daniels. “I suggest that young professionals attempt to master their functional knowledge, understand end-to-end business connectivity and be patient in waiting for their next opportunity.”
Little Known Fact: Daniels has been an active and financial member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. for 28 years. “I’m a Board member of the Zeta Sigma Foundation. I’ve served as Chair for the Zeta Sigma Foundation, Charity Golf Classic for 15 years,” shares Daniels.
Director, Enterprise Analytics
McCormick and Company, Inc.
18 years with the company; 2 years in current role
Vision in Action: Upon accepting this position, Garriott listened to executives and stakeholders across the company in an effort to understand McCormick’s strategic objectives and current level of analytics capabilities (people, process and technology). He worked internally and externally to craft a vision to transform IT analytical services to compete as data-driven business. Garriott explains, “This effort yielded a three Phase Analytical Transformation Program that will deliver a reliable, fast, secure and capable analytics platform. Additionally, and most importantly, we have alignment with our business partners, including emerging Communities of Practice and Centers of Excellence within our company, to walk this journey together.”
On the Horizon: Garriott and his team are currently delivering Phase One of a three-phase Transformation Program. After Phase One (summer 2016), they will have a scalable analytics platform and a robust set of analytical capabilities to offer business users. With Phase Two (end 2016), they will empower users with unprecedented access to data and self-service capabilities. “Our investments will enable a more responsive and agile business community,” says Garriott. “We will continue on our promise to support McCormick’s growth as an insights-driven organization. Our ongoing partnership with executives and key business stakeholders will continue to ensure alignment and guide appropriate talent acquisition and development.”
Favorite App: Since Garriott’s daughter is a sophomore in high school, and she needs to begin preparing for college, MYSCHOLLY seems to have hit the mark with scholarship research and tracking based on qualifications and based upon her interests, credentials and financial goals.
Leadership Philosophy: “Lead by example, commit to a cause and give the team credit for a job well done,” says Garriott. “Take responsibility for issues when they surface and deal with development opportunities in one to one discussions. Earn the trust of your team and business partners.”
Finding Inspiration: “I work to live. Love your family and friends … create memories, don’t wait for them,” asserts Garriott. “Professionally … crisis equals opportunity. Embrace challenging circumstances and rise above ‘politics’ and let your actions speak for you. Earn success and always raise the bar!”
Advice for the Next Gen: Garriott believes that you should always listen first. “Embrace the pace of change. Don’t be afraid of ‘white space.’ Win as a team. Own your career and manage your own brand. Be ethical. Deliver value and provide your leadership evidence of your capabilities.”
Little Known Fact: While IT Director of the Global Digital/Connected Consumer team, Garriott co-founded a start-up company, Vivanda. “Working closely with a few executives, we created a digital service called FlavorPrint,” he reveals.
Vice President Luxe Supply Chain
8 years with company; new to current role
Vision in Action: In Harrison’s last role as head of supply chain for Lancome U.S., a significant achievement came through a project launch called Total Program Availability (TPA). The goal of this project was to provide the best experience in store and to maximize retail sales. “There is a tendency within supply chain functions to gravitate toward process and system to improve results, but I’m a strong believer in starting with people and organization,” says Harrison. “In this case, to improve the results, we needed to modify our ways of working. We streamlined several functions — creating a new “Go-To-Market” team — and enhanced our process to reduce major directional changes in the timeline.”
On the Horizon: Harrison has two obsessions right now: Winning the talent battle and connecting the end-to-end supply chain. He explains, “I’m convinced that the biggest obstacle facing supply chain leaders is finding and keeping these very rare and very talented future leaders. The explosion of big data and digital, and the increasing complexity of omnichannel strategies are elevating the roles of supply chain — and also broadening the skill sets required to be an effective and influential leader.” Harrison believes that the successful leaders in 10 years will have very broad expertise ranging from many points within a supply chain, from retailing to manufacturing and functionally from demand planning to sourcing
Favorite App: “Anything that lets me take entertainment on the go. I’m a movie junkie.”
Leadership Philosophy: I’ve recently enjoyed reading Adam Grant’s, Give and Take, where I subscribe 100% to the ‘Give’ philosophy — not letting personal gain enter into your decision making and instead focusing on the greater good. I’m entrepreneurial, ambitious, and insist on a solution-focused approach at all times,” says Harrison.
Finding Inspiration: ’Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.’ — Martin Luther King Jr. Harrison loves this quote because it highlights that it’s a decision on how you will approach your life and leadership.
Advice For The Next Gen: “Surround yourself with the brightest people you can find, who share the same values, but have very different points of view, and you will spring out of bed every morning to get to work.”
Business Unit Director
12 years with company; 2 years in current role
Vision in Action: Over the last two years, Hiranaga’s team has transformed Totino’s from a mainstream frozen pizza business into a vibrant, rapidly growing lifestyle brand. “To accomplish this, we repositioned Totino’s to reach a large but brand-savvy consumer, the single millennial audience,” says Hiranaga. “Building a brand with this audience was new territory for our company, so our team leaned into new approaches and took bold risks to exceed their consumer needs.” By putting this consumer first, his team has driven growth by delivering more compelling innovation, expanding distribution channels, and creating culturally relevant brand experiences that consumers want to both engage in and share.
On the Horizon: One of the ways General Mills is evolving to leverage consumers’ changing preferences and digital advancements is by finding new methods for the company’s brands to work with more speed and agility. Hiranaga explains, “I’m utilizing my previous experience leading our brand innovation lab to create new team structures, new partnerships and new ways to work faster that will not only drive growth, but will also be used as experiments to help advance how we work at the speed of our consumers and offer them what they want, exactly when they want it.”
Favorite App: The best apps are the most useful, so I’d pick Uber,” he says. “It’s transformed the way I plan travel, removed many of the pain points from catching a cab, and is so good it’s used as a verb.”
Leadership Philosophy: “The best leaders in my life have led with empathy, and I strive to lead in that way,” says Hiranaga. “Understanding the feelings and perspectives of others builds a shared purpose, a stronger culture, and more ideas to drive stronger results.”
Finding Inspiration: ‘If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.’ — Dr. Seuss
Advice For The Next Gen: For one, Hiranaga advises to ask a lot of questions. “Curiosity is a marketer’s greatest gift,” he explains. Two: Think boldly. “The craziest ideas are usually the ones worth pursuing.” Three: Be courageous. “Your work will mean more to you and your team that way.”
Little Known Fact: Hiranaga gets a lot of energy from art and music. “I grew up drawing and playing the piano, and I still do those things today, especially when I need to think about a problem in a new way.”
Jeff B. Marthins
Director, Supply Chain Operations
Tasty Baking Co.
31 years with company; 7 years in current role
Vision in Action: In 2004, at the age of 90, Tasty Baking got its first Demand Planner — Jeff Marthins. From there, Marthins and his team built and established a mature and robust S&OP process. Of course, back then, S&OP was not as recognized for its importance as it is today. “Now, we’re at a point where we’ve adapted to a single set of numbers to drive organizational decisions,” he explains. “While I didn’t develop this revolutionary thinking, I’m proud to have helped drive the process. As a result, Tasty Baking is much more forward-thinking in its approach.”
On the Horizon: Tasty Baking is always focused on process improvements to prevent the company from getting stagnant. With a changing competitive landscape and continued technological improvements, adopting processes and applications are priorities. “In the consumer goods industry, we continually work to stay ahead of new manufacturing trends while maintaining the quality Tastykake has become known for over the past 100 years,” says Marthins.
Favorite App: LinkedIn allows Marthins to not only connect with peers, but to read many industry-relevant articles.
Leadership Philosophy: Marthins describes his leadership style as that of a coach. “I enjoy encouraging others to reach their full potential and to discover talents they never knew they had.”
Finding Inspiration: “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it,” emphasizes Marthins. “The hard is what makes it great.”
Advice For The Next Gen: There are some differences between academic knowledge and experiential knowledge,” says Marthins. “Take time and be patient in balancing them. Challenge decisions tactfully with data.”
Little Known Fact: Even though Marthins works long hours, he finds time to give back to the community. “I’ve been involved with the prison system where I help those incarcerated develop productive skills to use post-release and avoid re-arrest.”
Group Director Category Strategic Advisory
Coca-Cola North America
15 years with company; 3 years in current role
Vision in Action: Coming into his role in the midst of a big restructure with minimal experience leading a team (let alone a team of 15 really smart people), McKinney believes his biggest accomplishment has been building a world-class team. Over the next couple years, McKinney would grow this team to now 25 people, and would have the honor of building out a space strategy unit from the ground up.
On the Horizon: McKinney is always working to improve his team and how it works. “One of our past CEOs Robert Woodruff was quoted as saying ‘the world belongs to the discontented’ and this is something I’ve tried to embrace throughout my career with Coca-Cola,” explains McKinney, who is currently working to streamline the way they work with retailer data to make his team more efficient and shorten the time from analytics to insights. “We are at a point where we are sitting on an oil field of insights and are trying make sure we have the right rigs,” he says.
Favorite App: “Waze hands down,” says McKinney. “I fight Atlanta traffic 35 miles each way and it never fails to make the trips as short as possible. When I’m out of town, Lyft and Uber are my go to modes of transportation.”
Leadership Philosophy: “My philosophy is to hire really smart people who are highly capable and then remove any barriers they may have to being successful in their role,” affirms McKinney, who also reveals that it is best to hire as diverse a group as possible, and keep them inspired to create solutions to drive the business forward.
Finding Inspiration: “When I was early in my career I had a leader who came to me during a period of transition and told me that whatever I did, to not ever step over a ball laying on the ground, regardless if I had been the one to drop it or not.”
Advice For The Next Gen: McKinney advises, “Don’t undervalue yourself. Even if you have limited experience you still can bring a unique perspective to whatever group you’re joining and as fast as the world is changing, bringing in someone with a different vantage point is always valuable.”
Senior Director, IT
Johnson & Johnson Consumer
14 years with company; 7 years in current role
Vision in Action: Advocating and aligning resources to enhance J&J’s customer development capabilities is one of Puppe’s greatest accomplishments to date. He and his team have moved the needle in deploying advanced analytics and insights, trade promotion optimization, shopper/category and unified communication/collaboration capabilities. J&J is well known as a strong marketing organization, “but our last mile is through our work with customers,” says Puppe. “We have a talented and experienced sales organization and my goal is to make sure they have the best-in-class insights and capabilities.”
On the Horizon: Puppe is next focused on expanding J&J’s e-commerce channel to connect with consumers where they are shopping. It offers a tremendous opportunity to access an untapped revenue stream as well as gain insights directly from J&J consumers/shopper base.
Favorite App: “TeamSnap — with three boys playing hockey, soccer and lacrosse it keeps us organized and on track to our next game or practice.”
Leadership Philosophy: Puppe says, “Empower your team. A smart, experienced team needs to know that their leadership has confidence in them. When things go wrong, be accountable and when things go right, give them the spotlight.”
Finding Inspiration: “Within business technology sometimes people tend to focus on the ‘new shiny object,’ however, the key to success is defining People (Org.), Process and then Technology,” affirms Puppe
Advice For The Next Gen: As for the next generation of consumer goods executives, Puppe leaves this advice, “Gain experience in all aspects of the Value Chain early in your career to obtain a broad business acumen and focus on the connections and dependencies between functions. Pay particular attention to how Finance operates.”
Little Known Fact: “In college I rowed on a Lightweight Crew team, which won a National Championship. It was a memorable event because the team set the goal early in the year and in the end we achieved it.”
Executive Director, Global Sales Capability
The Estee Lauder Companies
2.5 years with company; 1 year in current role
Vision in Action: White is fairly new to her current role. However, in her short tenure, she has been experimenting with digital tools to create solutions that enhance employee experiences. “My biggest accomplishment over the course of my career is working with software engineers to build a custom, multi-branded platform that receives large datasets from numerous internal and external sources,” says White. “We built the system to perform an automatic validation process upon each data feed to ensure data quality. Since multiple brands were leveraging the reporting tool, we built the platform to natively populate the brand’s style guide and apply it to the charting mechanism based on a user’s log-on credentials.” This feature provided a customized branded output that increased analyst productivity and decreased reporting time between data cycles.
On the Horizon: White’s next big project is to collaborate with IT leaders to explore cutting-edge technology solutions that enable the company to digitize select areas of learning content. She explains, “I am interested in nano-learning, small learning moments, that deliver information and content based on how the brain retains information. This approach has the potential to maximize our educational investments.” Selecting a technology solution that enhances the employee experience while eliminating extra work will be important selection criteria for this project.
Favorite App: Skimm Ahead. “The geniuses at [news curator] theSkimm just released their app, which proactively anticipates upcoming interesting and relevant activities that allow you to stay ahead of your demanding schedule to increase life harmonization,” says White, adding that the app also easily integrates into your calendar.
Leadership Philosophy: “As a leader, you have a bigger impact on your team and your colleagues than you probably realize,” asserts White. “It is important to have a positive attitude and flex your leadership style to your team’s different needs. You set the tone and standard of your environment. How you treat people directly impacts how they potentially treat others. I learned that people often forget what you said or did, but they rarely forget how you made them feel.” White states her role as a people manager as the most important part of her job.
Finding Inspiration: “Never stop learning and experimenting. Dream big,” says White. ‘A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.’ — Albert Einstein
Advice for the Next Gen: White believes that the intersection of beauty and technology is exciting, fast-paced and constantly evolving. She notes that her current role didn’t exist last year, and her next position probably hasn’t been designed yet. “Innovative career paths aren’t always neatly packaged, so it is important to be open to new opportunities and experiences. Starting your career at one of our retail counters or stores is a great way to learn our brands and enter the prestige beauty business. It is a respected career choice at The Estee Lauder Companies and, in my opinion, some of our most innovative and successful leaders started their careers at a counter,” she says. “Remember to find your passion, constantly curate your career, and have fun.”