Monday, May 26, 2014

A change will do you good

Now that it's been a full four weeks, I figure it's time to officially blog about my new job. My NEW JOB. After ten and a half years with Procter & Gamble, I have moved on to a company called Shopper Events as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for their Sam's Club team.

Fancy, no?

A fancy new title deserves its own story. This is my story about knowing what you want and never knowing when people are watching.

I have long known what I wanted at P&G: to lead a team within our sales organization. West Point trained me to lead - to lead myself and my troops; to lead in thoughts, in words and in actions. Whether a platoon of soldiers, a corporate organization or a group of aspiring runners, I have always gotten the most satisfaction out of being the one who provides a vision, sets the direction, and leads the organization to its goal. I have known for a long time that I am at my best and my most professionally fulfilled when given the opportunity to be out front.

I have also known for a while that though P&G has opportunities to lead, it would be at minimum another ten to fifteen years before I could reasonably expect to be a sales team leader, and only then after another two, maybe three, relocations. I kept having the right conversations every year with my leadership, did my best to achieve and exceed goals, and networked where I needed to in an attempt to put my name and face out there with the decision makers. In a big machine with lots of cogs, though, there are only so many opportunities to get the attention of the right person at the the right time to accelerate a career.

And now the part of the story regarding never knowing when people are watching.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to attend the Network of Executive Women's national conference in California, and it was an exciting few days of speakers, classes and networking. In the large sessions, I frequently got up and spoke during the Q&A, as any well-trained West Point graduate could do. A life lesson I learned in uniform: never attend a speech with a senior leader without being prepared to ask a question, as it is uncomfortable and even disrespectful to leave the General on stage in silence during the Q&A. So a few times during the NEW conference, I approached the microphone, gave my name and company, and asked the speaker to elaborate on his or her topic for the group in some way.

Of course I knew the whole group was watching - but you never know who, specifically and individually, is watching.

It is a common occurrence here in Northwest Arkansas, where every Consumer Packaged Goods company in the world of any size has an office to serve the Walmart and Sam's Club businesses, to receive frequent phone calls from headhunters. I always took the calls, but usually ended them by declining interest in the proposed lateral move to a similar job at another company. I figured, if I was going to sell CPG widgets, then I should sell the best CPG widgets in the world at one of the best CPG companies in the world. I always told the recruiters that the exception would be a job that took me home to Texas, or if they had a team lead job, to please call me.

In January, I received a call from a recruiter who opened the conversation by telling me she had a job opportunity to share with me. In an unusual opening bit, she stated that technically and on paper, I might not be qualified for the job (always a humbling thing to hear) but while she was at the NEW Conference in the fall, she had seen and heard me ask questions of the speakers. She had been so impressed that, when this job came across her desk, she knew I was the right person for the job. You never know who's watching.

So there I was - I knew what I wanted and hadn't known she was watching, but the opportunity to accelerate my career by 10-15 years without leaving the area we've grown to love or the friends and schools my children know was right in front of me. The interview process was long and drawn out, as these things tend to be, but it was worth every moment, every deliberation, every pro and con that had to be weighed to determine my staying at P&G or moving on to Shopper Events.

I accepted the job and gave my notice to P&G in April, and officially assumed the title and responsibility of the Shopper Events Sam's Club Team VP on April 28th. It's been a life on fast-forward for four weeks now, exhilarating in its newness and challenge of setting direction for a group of talented people who have literally been without leadership for almost a year. I have moved from a traditional CPG sales role to leading an agency that manages the retail force that you may know as "Tastes & Tips" at Sam's Club. Free samples!! We deliver fun!! There is, of course, more to it than that, but for now, that's the easiest way to explain what I do - we develop, sell, and schedule programs for CPG Suppliers to bring their products to life inside of Sam's Club.

In seventeen years post-graduation, this is now my fourth employer. We got out of the Army all those years ago in part so we wouldn't have to keep moving around. Ironically, in just 10.5 years with P&G, we moved three times: Maryland to Massachusetts, to Ohio, and to Arkansas. In fact, we moved more with P&G than we did with the Army. As the kids got older, I could look ahead and see that the next move would be much more difficult, as they would be at an age where they would feel the pain of leaving friends, understand the uncertainty of moving to a new place, and deal with the low-level anxiety of trying to fit in.

This new job means no imminent move looming over us, and unexpectedly, it has given me a sense of being in control of my professional path instead of being at the mercy of the needs of the corporation. There may not be visits from ESPN personalities to our 75 person office; there may not be as many opportunities to visit big cities for meetings or enjoy free samples of amazing brands like Tide, Cover Girl and Bounty. But last Thursday, as I stood at the kitchen counter looking out the window into the backyard and stirring my coffee in my travel mug so I could head to work, I paused and thought, this could be my life for the next 15 years. And that was a really good feeling.


  1. I did a paper my senior year of college about the relevance of military-trained leadership skills in the civilian world. It makes me smile to think of the examples like you I've met since then that make me want to write it all over again. You deserve this, friend. I'm so happy you're happy.

    1. Miss you - we need to get together soon!!!!