Can you briefly describe your career in Unilever up to now?
I joined Unilever as a mid-career recruit in September of 2007 as the SVP (Senior Vice President) of HR Transformation based in London, after having 16.5 years with another company/industry – Whirlpool Corporation. The change to Unilever was the right move at the right time. I had held varying roles of increasing responsibility across HR (Expertise/Business Partnering/Services) as well as several Supply Chain roles (Business Team Trainer/Process Consultant/Operations Manager) at Whirlpool and it was now time to see if I could be successful with another larger company and in a different industry. With this decision, my husband, Paul, daughter Emma and I packed up our household belongings and moved from St. Joseph, Michigan to Esher, UK. We were on a great adventure. I had lived abroad before with Whirlpool, multiple times in multiple countries, as a single woman, but had never had the personal opportunity to live abroad after being married to Paul and as a family unit.
After almost a year in the role with Unilever, as of July 2008, I became accountable for the additional responsibility to include HR strategy, becoming the SVP of HR Transformation & Strategy. Then in August of 2009 I was asked to assume the HR leadership role for Western Europe based out of the Netherlands and became the SVP of HR – Western Europe. As of September 2011, our Unilever global structure evolved to 8 Market Clusters and 4 Category organisations, with this, our CEE (Central Eastern Europe) business was added into the Western Europe scope of my responsibilities and I evolved into the SVP of HR Europe. Thus not only have I been challenged with several different opportunities in my first five years with Unilever, but on the personal side my family has had the chance to grow and experience new adventures by already living in two different countries during this time. As a mid-career recruit, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity or a better development experience. As I like to say… ‘Once you join Unilever, there’s no turning back and before you know it, you are bleeding blue!’
Can you describe your typical work day?
Typical work day…what’s that? There’s no typical work day. Every day comes with new opportunities and new challenges to drive talent development, optimise the organisation and ideally drive higher performance at an individual and work unit level. I love the variety and the need to be adaptable, but also the pace of change and opportunity for continuous improvement. Every day I strive to make a difference by living Unilever’s ambitions and our HR ambition as one HR team. Because as one team, this is where we can collectively and individually have real HR with Impact.
What has been so far your proudest moment at Unilever?
There’s actually been two….March 21st – 23rd of 2012 and July 5th -7th of 2011.
On March 21st -23rd of 2012 I had the opportunity to be with 140 HR colleagues from across Europe at our European ‘HR with Impact’ conference where I experienced first-hand the power of ONE TEAM and that if you have a simple/clear vision, an aligned plan – with clear priorities and measures, are focused on results and have created a community with a real passion to win…leadership isn’t a responsibility it becomes a distinct privilege. Then on July 5th-7th of 2011 I was with another group of 100 European leaders, this time from across work units and functions at our European ‘It’s Our Time’ conference and here I experienced the power of having an ambition, creating the will to win and enabling new ways of thinking/working. Our European 2015 Strategy was revealed and there was clear recognition that we now had a plan for Europe.
What’s the best advice you would pass on to new trainees?
Always be ‘Full On’ – professionally and personally. Have the passion and drive to always make a difference. Look at every opportunity as just that…an opportunity for growth and an opportunity to have real impact. If you don’t, it’s a missed opportunity.
What exciting opportunities do you see in the near future for the HR business area in Unilever?
HR will lead the organization to be the best in People, Place and Performance and will do so as one team. By delivering on this exciting and audacious ambition, we will be clearly contributing to the delivery of our Unilever ambition and, by the way, having a lot of fun along the way.
Finally (for a bit of fun), what is your favourite Unilever brand?
Okay…don’t tell anyone…but it’s Axe – Dark Temptation. I know I’m not the target group, but I can’t resist. I borrowed my husband’s once (yes I know he’s not the target group either because he’s 44 like me) and from that day on it was my personal deo preference as well. It gives me the protection I want and makes me feel fresh for the day.