Visionaries 2020: Honoring Today's Most Remarkable Leaders During the Most Extraordinary Times

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Visionaries 2020: Honoring Today's Most Remarkable Leaders During the Most Extraordinary Times

By Alarice Rajagopal & Lisa Johnston - 07/31/2020

This year has included a whirlwind of global and life-altering events from both a personal and professional level. Case in point, working from home has taken on a whole new level of importance! What’s more, consumers historically didn’t look below the surface at the processes and technologies it took to get their favorite products on store shelves. Fast-forward to today and so many are now familiar with the role of e-commerce, the importance of the supply chain and, consequently, the essential workers who help get those products where they need to go.  

Here, we pause to honor some of the executives behind those much-needed consumer staples in our homes. Whether for nourishment, nostalgia or just plain comfort, the leadership behind these brands have been hard at work making sure the people, processes and technologies are in place to keep driving the industry forward. In taking a look at this list of influencers, it’s no surprise that many are leading the charge in omnichannel and fulfillment innovations, focusing on making more meaningful consumer connections, and keeping up with the sharp fluctuations in demand. (In fact, there are two executives from Georgia-Pacific on this list, no surprise given the newfound importance of toilet paper.) 

So if you’re looking for new insight or inspiration, grab your notebook and dive right in to hear about their greatest accomplishments, next big projects, advice and quotes to live by, and, of course ... what they stocked up on during quarantine. 


 

Josh Blacksmith
Senior Director - Global Consumer Relationships and Engagement
Kimberly-Clark
1 year at company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: As the leader for Kimberly-Clark’s global initiative of using tech to drive more meaningful engagements across brands and regions, Blacksmith is accustomed to wearing quite a few hats in many rooms with different people. But it’s his work in shaping K-C’s principled approach to collecting and utilizing first-party data that he considers one of his biggest accomplishments. “With the bold ambition to capture 100 million global first-party records, we will be able to build a deeper understanding of our consumers and own the end-to-end relationship,” he says.   

ON THE HORIZON: Blacksmith is currently leading a number of initiatives across the organization, but there are two in particular that he says will drive significant growth: Creating incremental value through cross-channel orchestration – building solutions that help optimize marketing spend; and helping Kimberly-Clark become more consumer-centric through transactional understanding and cross-sector marketing planning.

FINDING INSPIRATION: Citing Simon Sinek in The Infinite Game, Blacksmith notes: “Great leaders are the ones who think beyond ‘short term’ versus ‘long term.’ They are the ones who know that it is not about the next quarter or the next election; it is about the next generation.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: Beyond clearly connecting prior experience into the job requirements, demonstrating the following characteristics can help young professionals stand out:

  1. Curiosity – desire to proactively learn/understand
  2. Resilience – ability to build/test hypotheses and fail forward
  3. Empathy – putting oneself in another’s shoes to guide behaviors and decisions

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “I used to do a Sunday doughnut drive with my two kids (ages 6 and 11) until COVID hit, so we stocked up on homemade doughnut ingredients to ensure our Sunday tradition wouldn’t be disrupted.”

With the bold ambition to capture 100 million global first-party records, we will be able to build a deeper understanding of our consumers and own the end-to-end relationship.

Sharon Brown
Founder & President
Bonafide Provisions
8 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Brown’s work in founding Bonafide Provisions has made the company a category leader in the frozen aisle, and she considers making real bone broth widely available as one of her greatest accomplishments given its complexity. “We freeze our products to maintain their integrity, despite much advice to change the format to make them easier to ship and increase margins,” she notes. “It wasn’t easy but, in doing this, we have met a consumer need and brought incremental sales to the frozen category, helping to transform a once-dead section of the grocery store. People are returning to the frozen section and category sales growth has outpaced fresh departments in recent years.”

ON THE HORIZON: Brown and her team are heads-down on new innovation, including developing more functional foods that support wellness and immunity.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: A fierce subscriber in giving everyone a voice, Brown doesn’t advise trying to be the smartest person in the room. “Listen first, speak second,” she says.

FINDING INSPIRATION: Budding entrepreneurs shouldn’t focus on achieving work/life balance as much as they should on setting their expectations, Brown says, especially in the early stages. “Getting a business off the ground requires everything you’ve got,” she notes. “The trick is to set your own expectations. Work and rest come in waves. If you understand this reality and ride the waves, you won’t grow frustrated or be disappointed.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Brown is a product of the ‘70s and a total rock n’ roller: “In high school, my friend pierced my nose in her bedroom with a needle, a lighter, and ice.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “Our new Be Well heat-and-go broth cups — a blend of our organic bone broth and functional mushrooms to support immunity and digestion.” 

Work and rest come in waves. If you understand this reality and ride the waves, you won’t grow frustrated or be disappointed.

Ekta Chopra
VP of Digital Transformation
E.l.f. Cosmetics
4.5 years with company, 2.5 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: As a leader in digital engagement, Chopra is proud of the team she’s built, as it contains disciplines ranging from marketing to development with a focus on delighting consumers at every touchpoint. “Our transformation started by adopting digital as a strategic imperative. My executive team made an intentional decision to make digital double-down a priority for our future growth,” she explains. This pivot meant e.l.f. needed to develop a culture that understood the importance of this shift as it invested in technologies to create a digital ecosystem.

FINDING INSPIRATION: Chopra adheres to Albert Einstein’s wisdom of finding opportunity in every difficulty. “Often when the world around is chaotic, we lose hope. That’s when you need to be more positive and take everything as an opportunity to learn and grow,” she says. 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “Empathetic leadership connects divergent views. More than ever before, we need to lead with empathy,” says Chopra. “It’s the only way to get through tough and good times. As leaders, we need to be the change we want to see in our team, in our company, and in the world around us.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Be curious. Be fearless. Stretch yourself and embrace the unknown — things that scare you help you grow and introduce a new you. Take a chance on you.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Chopra loves writing poetry and is working on a book, often using writing as an outlet to manage tough times. “It helps me fight negativity and focus on being grateful for breathing and living every moment.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Popcorn: “It reminded me of being in the office. My office is next to the kitchen, which I love as it lets me interact with everyone. The smell of popcorn made me feel like I was there.”

Empathetic leadership connects divergent views. More than ever before, we need to lead with empathy.

Greg Dahlstrom
VP Operations and Supply Chain
Bodybuilding.com
5 years with company, 2 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: An experienced supply chain and logistics pro, Dahlstrom is responsible for all things demand planning, inventory management and logistics — as well as distribution network design and optimization — at Bodybuilding.com. Under his leadership, the digitally native brand has cut its inventory by more than 50% in less than a year. “The biggest challenge when it comes to these types of initiatives is really internal alignment,” he notes. “If everyone is not on board from all levels of the organization, this kind of progress is not attainable.”

ON THE HORIZON: After deploying autonomous robotics at its fulfillment centers, Dahlstrom is now ensuring the company is achieving long-term efficiency gains at its fulfillment centers. 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Dahlstrom pushes himself to both support and challenge the members of his team. “Companies cannot make progress unless all levels of the organization feel empowered to be involved, make suggestions and take chances,” he says. “I want my team members to know that I will support their ideas and support them when they make mistakes.

FINDING INSPIRATION: In both his personal and professional life, Dahlstrom lives by the code of having time for things you make time for. “Everything is a tradeoff and balancing life is difficult; however, if you consider something important, make sure you plan and make time for it, or it won’t happen.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Be a problem solver and be proficient at obtaining and analyzing large amounts of data. In the field of operations and supply chain, data drives decisions.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “Mountain Dew Baja Blast Zero! This soda is sold for limited time only and happened to hit the shelves during the onset of the pandemic, and so I definitely stocked up on this one.”

Companies cannot make progress unless all levels of the organization feel empowered to be involved, make suggestions and take chances.

Steven Daigh
E-commerce Strategy and Operations Lead
Spectrum Brands
3 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: While Daigh is well-versed in guiding a team through challenges — having helped Spectrum Brands develop a single source of truth for Amazon advertising effectiveness — leading through COVID-19 has been his greatest success. “I’ve had the honor to lead this team through a rapidly changing environment, guiding the collaboration with internal resources, retailers and one another,” he says. “The success the team realized is amazing and has been one of the top accomplishments of my career. We all wore many hats, and I could not have been more pleased.”

ON THE HORIZON: Next up, Daigh has omnichannel integration on the brain, as there’s still a lot that can be learned from the brick-and-mortar business — not to mention from the brand leaders, supply chain, operations and customer service. “Through taking an omnichannel approach, we’ll transform from an e-commerce-focused team into an omnichannel-focused team, driving increased value to Spectrum Brands.”

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Daigh strives to be a servant leader, thereby following in the footsteps of those he’s reported into throughout his career. “By putting my team members and colleagues first, we have the opportunity to continue to grow at an accelerated pace through selfless collaboration,” he notes.  

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Invest in yourself through continuing education — equal parts books and mentors.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Daigh aims to allocate 10% of his time to philanthropic activities. His current passion is Well Aware, which is focused on water security in East Africa.

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Kombucha and cashews: “The two just made sense together somehow.” 

Invest in yourself through continuing education — equal parts books and mentors.

Jeff George
Senior VP, Research & Development
Hain Celestial Group
1 year with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: George has been instrumental in Hain Celestial’s strategic shift to simplify its portfolio and strengthen its innovation capabilities as it transitions from a holding to an operating company. As part of this, he’s helping develop an innovation culture that’s consumer centric, financially disciplined and cross-functionally engaged, with weekly reviews by a Shark Tank-inspired senior innovation council. “Beginning with the end in mind has driven focus on fewer, bigger, better ideas,” he says. “In addition, it has created an environment within Hain that allows innovation teams to operate more like entrepreneurial startups.”

ON THE HORIZON: Reshaping Hain’s innovation portfolio to ensure delivery against consumer trends like health and safety, value, cooking at home, and e-commerce are evolving into new priorities.

FINDING INSPIRATION: George subscribes to two leadership themes: taking ownership to make a positive difference, and taking risks and using failure as learning. He quotes Gandhi for the first — “Be the change you want to see in the world” — and Wayne Gretzky for the second: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “As soon as possible, figure out your career destination. Honestly assess your strengths to leverage and gaps to close. Build relationships and critical experiences to close your gaps. The path to your destination is never a straight path. When you see an opportunity to build your foundation, close your gaps, leverage your strengths and when you get closer to your destination, grab it!”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “During the pandemic, we are doing our product tastings remotely. As a result, my pantry and office are stuffed with new test prototype varieties of Sensible Portions Veggie Snacks, Terra Real Vegetable Chips and Garden of Eatin’ Tortilla Chips!”

The path to your destination is never a straight path.

Jordan Greenberg
Executive VP & Chief Commercial Officer          
B&G Foods
21 years with the company, 1 year in current role

VISION IN ACTION: B&G Foods acquired the Green Giant business in 2015 after years of declines and a lack of strategy, investment and meaningful innovation. “As the general manager of the brand at the time, I am so proud of the work our team did to develop, commercialize and launch our Veggie Swap-Ins line within a year of purchasing the brand, turning Green Giant into one of the hottest brands in all of frozen foods,” says Greenberg.

ON THE HORIZON: B&G’s next big initiative is to apply the learnings gained from the Green Giant turnaround to its Back to Nature brand, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Greenberg and team have made some significant changes to the brand to shift the products to plant-based. “We’re excited to continue to build this brand with this new strategy and game-changing innovation to reach more consumers as they are seeking plant-based snacking options for their families.”  

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Empower your team to make decisions and take pride in their contributions, and don’t forget the fun. “I lead by example and encourage out of the box thinking — there’s no idea that’s too big or too small for our brands.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Take on as much as possible. Look for opportunities to experience different areas of business. You might be surprised by what you become most interested in pursuing! Above all else, enjoy your work and learn as much from the challenges as you do the successes.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: “One would think that I would have my fill of thinking about food after the work day is over, but my favorite way to unwind is actually cooking!”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “Back to Nature Cheddalicious Crackers. Can’t get enough of them! You’d never know they don’t contain any dairy!”

I lead by example and encourage out of the box thinking — there’s no idea that’s too big or too small for our brands.

Neil Greenstein
Director of Customer Development - Amazon   
Johnson & Johnson U.S. Consumer Health
18 years with company, 3 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Greenstein leads the Amazon customer development team and is a member of Johnson & Johnson’s U.S. Consumer Health e-commerce leadership team with responsibility for strategic planning, channel management and enterprise cross-functional project planning. In addition, he oversees the development and governance of the U.S. Consumer Health business' Amazon Marketplace commercialization strategy, drives revenue growth optimization with Amazon Retail, and partners with colleagues globally to leverage scale and capture opportunities. Greenstein is currently focused on “shaping an industry-leading team of people, capabilities and enterprise processes to enable e-commerce acceleration with iconic healthcare and skincare brand equities from Tylenol to Neutrogena in a channel that significantly challenges traditional models of brand-building.” 

ON THE HORIZON: Next on the list for Greenstein is leveraging artificial intelligence and data science for decision support to bring insights upstream from “claims to product commercialization.”

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Greenstein strives to be a leader who listens to his team and to all stakeholders (both internal and external), and then focuses on putting them in a position to be most effective.

FINDING INSPIRATION:Knowledge is key … always prioritize seeking it, leveraging it and sharing it continuously!” 

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: Greenstein encourages others to have a tenacity for being “intellectually curious” in all that you do.  “From examining the metrics in a report and asking ‘why,’ to seeking out industry thought leadership … being at the pulse of change is key in e-commerce in order to effectively compete,” he explains.

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: “Sharing a home office during COVID-19 and work-from-home with a spouse has a shelf life of about three months … as my wife relegated me to the basement in June!”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL:Coconut/almond KIND-bars!”

Being at the pulse of change is key in e-commerce in order to effectively compete.

Justin Honaman
VP, Strategic Sourcing & Procurement (Data, Analytics, Business Transformation)
Georgia-Pacific
2 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Many of the Visionaries on our list credit their employees and colleagues as the sources of their success, but Honaman’s pride for his team is next-level. His work in creating a culture of innovation with a transformation mindset is evolving Georgia-Pacific into a company where decisions are insight-driven and information is a competitive advantage.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Honaman is both people- and team-centric. Not only does he strive to foster an environment where ideas and opinions can be heard, he subscribes to the belief that one’s values must never be up for sale or on the block for negotiation. “If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers. Putting your people first creates your most important competitive advantage.”

FINDING INSPIRATION: With energy as one of his superpowers, it’s no surprise that his inspirational quotes align in that space:  “Be Optimistic.” “Expect Great Things Every Day.” “Positive Attitude Changes Everything.” “Shine Bright.” “The Answer is Always ‘No’ Unless You Ask.” And, of course: “Every Winner Started as a Contender!”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Answer for yourself the question, ‘What do you want to be known for?’ Make a list. Share it with friends who are for you. Ask for feedback on how you are doing against the list. And, know what you are for — at work, at home, in the community.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Publix Ranch Rice Crisps, Costco cauliflower pizza, Chipotle carry-out, Coke Zero, wine and Avocados From Mexico. “And, of course, AngelSoft and Quilted Northern toilet paper!”

If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your customers. Putting your people first creates your most important competitive advantage.

Carlos Linares
Executive VP/Global Research & Development
Church & Dwight
3 years at company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Linares is transforming Church & Dwight R&D from being a fast follower into one leading transformational change and delivering a robust pipeline of innovative solutions across diverse categories. He’s focused on building a novel combination of capabilities in the organization that uniquely leverage design thinking, connectivity and open innovation to deliver winning experiences to consumers. He’s also empowered a connected culture of diverse individuals and science disciplines to create competitive advantage.

ON THE HORIZON: Linares is focusing on two major organizational change phases this year; delivering the novel innovations created by the past three-year transformation, and looking to the future to create its next strategic plans.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: In addition to empowering teams and creating a common culture and purpose, Linares seeks to build a vision and strategies that are both aspirational and informed. He also understands the value of developing a strong team. “Build a great team, new capabilities and the desired culture. The right people will do the rest. They will co-create with you and will elevate your vision even further.” What’s more, he focuses strongly on the bottom line: “The best strategies, teams and ideas then need to deliver the results."

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Get to know yourself as an individual leader — your purpose, your passion, your strengths. Once you do, find that place that matches values as a leader.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “The quarantine has certainly expanded our use of home deliveries. I would not say that I’m stocked up, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn you can get apple cider doughnuts, even ‘off season.’”

The best strategies, teams and ideas then need to deliver the results.

Kumar Mishra
VP, Information Technology  
Reynolds Consumer Products
3 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Mishra is a passionate technology leader with more than two decades of global IT leadership experience. He not only has a track record of driving both results and customer satisfaction, but he also carries a reputation as a change agent. Through all of his work, there’s one underlying theme: simplification. Focusing on this core tenant ensures the company helps businesses, consumers and customers enjoy what matters most.

ON THE HORIZON: Mishra’s calendar is currently filled with work on three critical initiatives: simplifying Reynolds’ applications portfolio and modernizing legacy systems; accelerating its RPA journey to drive automation and free up time to devote on analytics; and expanding its analytics foundation to connect supply-chain data with consumer data and retail inventory.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: As a tech leader, this Visionary is an avid explorer of new methods of solving business problems and providing data-driven insights for decision making. “I focus on nourishing relationships, building high-performing teams, and creating a collaborative, innovative and inspiring workspace.”

FINDING INSPIRATION: “First comes thought; then organization of that thought into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” Mishra says this quote from Napoleon Hill encourages him to find ways to simplify complexity. “Even in a mundane situation of a like-to-like system transfer, there are opportunities to simplify the landscape to increase adoption and enhance user experience,” he says.

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Learn the business. It is critical to develop a deep appreciation of the business one is in. Get to know the business where you are trying to make a difference. Successful technology professionals operate from the intersection of business and technology.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Doritos: “My daughter introduced us to this crunchy delight, and during this stay-at-home period, Doritos has almost become a default lunch staple.”

Successful technology professionals operate from the intersection of business and technology.

Pravin Rangachari
Senior Vice President, Planning & Analytics
Haggar Clothing Co.
5 years with company, 1 year in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Meeting the omnichannel needs of the end consumer effectively and profitably was one of his key goals as Rangachari embarked on his journey with Haggar five years ago. “Motivating the team to be high achievers, implementing new processes and leveraging technology where possible, led to the transformation of our company’s supply chain to be more agile and responsive to our customers’ needs.”

ON THE HORIZON: While Rangachari knows that COVID-19 has impacted everyone in different ways, “these impacts rippled through the supply chain. It became clear that there was a need now, more than ever, for vendors and retailers to adapt quickly to this pace of change or they would cease to exist.” Haggar has taken all the actions necessary to come out much stronger on the other side of the pandemic. “Self-serve analytics and automation will be key enablers as we strive to make quicker and more data-driven decisions as we get deeper insights into our business. 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Lead by example and work with the team to be part of the solution rather than having a hands-off approach to problem solving. 

FINDING INSPIRATION: “I would rather take up a challenging problem, and become wiser from failure rather than take the easy path and achieve mediocre results. Great strides are made only when one is impatient with the status quo and boundaries are pushed.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: Rangachari says there has been no better time than now to be in the field of planning and analytics.

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Rangachari used to be a short distance sprinter and participated in inter-collegiate events, “something that even I find hard to believe now!”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “I tried to keep healthy by stocking up on fig bars, but every once in a while indulged in potato chips!”

Self-serve analytics and automation will be key enablers as we strive to make quicker and more data-driven decisions as we get deeper insights into our business.

Keith Schroeder
CEO & Founder
High Road Craft Ice Cream
10 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: High Road Craft Ice Cream has over 90 employees that all get a fair share of voice at the company, which is likely why it has been on the Inc. 5000 five years in a row. Schroeder believes “this is an indicator of the staying power and tenacity of our team.” High Road has chosen to be a true craft manufacturer. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to achieve this level of growth, while staying dedicated to the way we’ve made ice cream from day one.”

ON THE HORIZON: High Road has diversified and grown into other categories, which Schroeder notes is due largely to learning during the development of its products. For example, it was important to make the cookie dough for its ice cream in-house and from that, “we thought, why not get into the ready-to-bake category? 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Schroeder reflects every morning on his employees’ truth: “People woke up, got dressed, and decided to invest their time and talent in something you started — when you look at your business from that standpoint, there is no greater honor.”

FINDING INSPIRATION:Anything Mr. Miyagi said. Ever. Or Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version).”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Recognize that you’re in the food business to delight others, and to nourish them. If this thrills you, go all-in.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Schroeder identifies as a “hardcore kid, raised on the raucous and unifying music of New York City in the late '80s and early '90s. Given the chance to dive off a stage, I’d do it right now.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Cheez-It crackers: “All of the flavors. I am enamored with the quality and flavor of that product, and find them to be infinitely crave-able. It’s possible they saved my soul.”

People woke up, got dressed, and decided to invest their time and talent in something you started — when you look at your business from that standpoint there is no greater honor.

Janine Somers
VP of Marketing and DTC Sales
Stonewall Kitchen
9 years with company, 1 year in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Stonewall Kitchen is a specialty food producer that makes and sells jam, chutney, jellies, grill sauce, cooking oil, mustard and more in more than 50 countries. However, Somers says that “working as a team to double revenue for the DTC channel in four years, while still producing world class marketing and creative for a multi-sales channel brand,” is perhaps her greatest accomplishment.

ON THE HORIZON: For years, Stonewall Kitchen has sent out a Monday email to wholesale customers featuring seasonal and new products or offering promotions. With COVID-19, the content quickly became irrelevant compared to the crisis at hand. Under Somers’ leadership, they pivoted cadence to only critical emails when they had an update or content to delivery status, operations (manufacturing and distribution center) notes, and alerts on highly sought products (like pasta) or conversely out-of-stock inventory and alternative options. Next priority for Somers is the building of their new website. 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Somers describes herself as an inclusive leader who values two-way communication. She prefers to share information and solicit feedback to ensure input from all aspects of the business, and encourage buy-in at all levels. 

FINDING INSPIRATION: “Know your audience,” cites Somers. “As a marketer, e-commerce professional and leader I think this might be the most critical advice I give my team. Writing an email to a colleague and writing an email to the CEO of your company should not look the same.” 

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Work for an agency. Work on many brands. Get your hands dirty learning about UX, strategy and every aspect of the business that you can.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “My pantry was overflowing with Montebello pasta, peanut butter, apple cinnamon jelly (my husband’s favorite), strawberry jelly and our sesame ginger teriyaki sauce.” Non-Stonewall kitchen essentials included light kettle corn, Boom Chicka Pop and Zone bars. 

Work on many brands. Get your hands dirty learning about UX, strategy and every aspect of the business that you can.

Pamela Stewart
Senior Vice President, National Retail Sales
The Coca-Cola Company
20 years with company, 2 years in current role        

VISION IN ACTION: Stewart didn’t know how or in what capacity, but she always knew that she would some day work for The Coca-Cola Company, describing it as “a values-driven company” in a recent interview. Fast-forward to today, and her proudest achievement is using her voice and influence to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

ON THE HORIZON: Next task for Stewart is in response to the COVID-19 impact to the world and country like so many: “Driving sales in a way that mitigates food insecurity faced by so many is a primary concern,” she says.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Stewart has two personal missions: 1. To create safe spaces for people to feel more comfortable in their own skin and, 2. To stretch people beyond their own perceived potential. “I strive to be an authentic, inspirational and transformational leader,” says Stewart, who also serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD, Board member of Coca-Cola’s Global Women’s Leadership Council and Co-Chair of Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms’ LGBTQ Advisory Council.

FINDING INSPIRATION: “I live by a walk of authenticity and empathy.” Stewart explains, “to understand and to be understood.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN:Be fearless, take chances and trust that you always have a choice to make another move, if needed,” affirms Stewart.

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Many might not know that Stewart describes herself as “an introverted extrovert … and can be shy in certain settings.”

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “I cannot narrow things to one snack … I have anything and everything sweet and salty, and the pounds gained since COVID-19 started to show it.”

Be fearless, take chances and trust that you always have a choice to make another move, if needed.

Dwan Vine White
Vice President of Global Marketing & Product Development
House of Cheatham
11 years with company, 5 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: White led the charge toward developing innovative products and building new brands that solve consumers’ pain points, resulting in the creation and launch of Aunt Jackie’s Curls & Coils, the fastest-growing brand in its category. “The creation of Aunt Jackie’s led to more direct end-user engagement, making this the company’s first brand where we could more meaningfully craft the consumer journey,” she says.

ON THE HORIZON: Next to-do for White is leveling up on consumer centricity and exploring what’s possible with technology through e-commerce. “Selling in high-volume direct-to-retail or wholesale partners has been our company’s primary sales model,” she says. “But this year we started selling to consumers from our websites,” a shift accelerated by the pandemic. White says they’re in a pilot, assessing whether the company should modify its internal structure for e-commerce management and fulfillment, or contract a third party. 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “I believe the best leaders lead by inspiring, listening, empowering, relating, and as cliché as it may sound, by example. My style is that of a servant leader.” 

FINDING INSPIRATION: “I love the quote from the movie, Vanilla Sky, ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.’” White adds that 2 Corinthians 5:17 sums it up: “It’s never too late to change for the better.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: Enhance your data analysis skills, White encourages. “As access to big data becomes more available, the folks who will get ahead faster will be able to understand and interpret it. And while data is all-important, don’t overlook the human factor.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: For a few years White took up fencing. “I was the only adult woman in my club, so I never got to know my true skill level because I always fenced against older men and teenage boys.” 

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “Kroger brand Sea-salted Caramel & Truffles ice cream is solely responsible for my shelter-in-place weight gain!”

As access to big data becomes more available, the folks who will get ahead faster will be able to understand and interpret it.

Christy Wilhelmi
Vice President, E-Commerce
Georgia-Pacific
8 years with company, 2 years in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Wilhelmi is the first of three daughters and although their CPA father always encouraged them to pursue their passions, her heart led her to a degree in journalism and finance. While Wilhelmi says she can’t claim to be a knowledge expert in either, it has played a pivotal role in shaping her today. “My biggest accomplishment has been building an advantaged e-commerce capability to help Georgia-Pacific deliver against its business outcomes,” she notes. “I am proud to have helped drive the change required for our organization to develop new ways of working,” adding that this has empowered Georgia-Pacific’s sales teams to embrace change and operate as omnichannel leaders. 

ON THE HORIZON: “The delineation between e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar no longer rings true  the shopping experience is seamless, integrated, and changing faster than ever before,” Wilhelmi explains. This requires nearly every functional area within the business to adapt. “My current project involves designing and executing the transformation of our company to meet the changing demands of our customers, today and in the future.” 

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “Foster; don’t hinder. Invest in the development, growth and continued learning for the people that surround you.” 

FINDING INSPIRATION: Wilhelmi quotes Jeff Bezos, "Good intentions don't work, but mechanisms do." Operate excellently. Create and execute frequent processes that inform/teach/create value for stakeholders, she adds.

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN:Push yourself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and show resilience to change.” 

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Wilhelmi spent a summer exploring the East Coast of Australia during her last year of college, surfing in Surfers Paradise in the Gold Coast, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and watching a performance at the Sydney Opera House.   

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “I wish my answer was something healthy, but who can say no to Double Stuf Oreos, milk and a good puzzle?” 

Push yourself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and show resilience to change.

Ethelbert Williams
Head of E-Commerce
The Boston Beer Company
2 years with company and in current role

VISION IN ACTION: The e-commerce leader is tasked with steering the company’s beverage brand portfolio — which includes Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea and TRULY Hard Seltzer — into newer and bigger places. Chief among this is implementing the needed sales and marketing digital commerce technologies to support how the company goes to market. Williams leads Boston Beer’s sales strategy across online grocery retailers and fulfillment partners including Amazon, GoPuff, Instacart, DoorDash, Uber and Drizly.

ON THE HORIZON: Williams’ next big project is navigating and supporting how digital sales tools support the company’s wholesalers and retailers, including how its supplier business is set up for future success. “A major objective with the team is around accelerating wholesale e-commerce capabilities and resources to transform how we go to market together.”

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: Williams is intensely focused on the development of his team, as well as what replicating success looks like for them. “I’m always aiming for what winning together as one team means for all of us.”

FINDING INSPIRATION: “I can never pause, listen and be still enough. I’m always balancing this with a bias for action.”

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Remain curious and be the best you can be at the job you have at your fingertips.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Williams hopes to publish a book to support how executives navigate the people and capability shifts needed to support digital sales transformation.

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: “Pistachios and ice cream.”

I’m always aiming for what winning together as one team means for all of us.

John Winer
Global Head of E-Commerce & Media
Living Proof
3 years with company, 1 year in current role

VISION IN ACTION: Not only has Winer built an e-commerce site that can maintain its hold even during periods of high usage — including those COVID-19-prompted spikes — he can also be credited with developing engaging experiences for consumers that double as insight collectors for the Unilever-owned brand. While his nominator describes him as innovative and resilient, it’s his team and the growth they’ve created together that Winer finds most rewarding. “When we started three years ago, we had a branding website that could transact, and now we have a site that maximizes user experience and brand storytelling that optimizes towards revenue.”

ON THE HORIZON: Winer is building out what he expects to serve as a future of hair care website. It will act as a one-stop shop for users to understand their hair, the science behind it and how Living Proof’s products can solve their everyday hair problems.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: There are no one-man-bands on Winer’s team, and he works with each member to develop versatility. “No one on my team does one thing; they each can do all things.

LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY: “The Team. The Team. The Team.” Credit: Bo Schembechler

ADVICE FOR THE NEXT GEN: “Don’t focus on one area of the digital experience. Where your customer consumes your content, that is their relationship with your brand.”

UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE: Winer has caught four foul balls at three different MLB stadiums.

QUARANTINE PANTRY ESSENTIAL: Extra Toasty Cheez-Its: “The Pinnacle of the Cheez-It experience!”

No one on my team does one thing; they each can do all things.