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A Conversation With MBA Alumna Doreen IdaVice President, Marketing for the Confections and Snacks Division at NestléApril 5, 2013 • by News at Marshall
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Doreen Ida, vice president of marketing for the Confections and Snacks Division at Nestlé USA, oversees the marketing of the company’s confections businesses, which include the Butterfinger, Crunch, Skinny Cow, Sweetarts, Laffy Taffy and Nerds brands, among others. She started her career at Nestlé as a brand assistant after earning her MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business in 1985. She serves as vice chair of USC Marshall’s Corporate Advisory Board.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love about working at Nestlé is that the company has such a dynamic environment. Even after 27 years, I am still learning about marketing because I am constantly facing new and exciting challenges. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work on marketing strategies for a range of different businesses. I have also acquired and divested businesses.
One of the perks must be free candy, right?
I guess it could be considered a perk — or a hazard!
What is unique about the culture of your organization?
Nestlé is truly a multinational company. When you come to our building in Glendale, you will find people from different cultures around the world. It is a remarkably collaborative environment, where we highly value teamwork. This is true no matter where I’ve been at Nestlé, which operates in over 130 countries.
Have you done much traveling as part of your job?
I lived in Switzerland with my family for about two years where Nestlé’s global headquarters are located. I worked in the Global Nutrition Group. It was a phenomenal experience because I love traveling and learning about different cultures. I had the chance to see places that were not originally on my bucket list, like Dubai, Johannesburg, Singapore, Sao Paulo and Melbourne. I learned firsthand how business is done in different countries and about the unique situations my colleagues around the world face. I visited so many countries that I ran out of pages in my passport.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned during your career at Nestlé?
The number one lesson I’ve learned is: Surround yourself with great people, and great things will happen.
What has been your biggest professional accomplishment?
I have had the opportunity to turn around several businesses. It is very rewarding to help devise a strategy to turn a business around and then see positive growth in sales, market share and profit.
Tell us about your involvement in the partnership Nestlé started with Girl Scouts.
One of the new products we launched last year was Nestlé Crunch Girl Scout candy bars. We took the top flavors of Girl Scout cookies, created three new candy bars, and sales exceeded everyone’s expectations. Since then, we expanded our partnership and are also supporting the Girl Scout organization in a program they call To Get Her There (www.togetherthere.org), which is about empowering girls to become leaders. It also encourages girls’ participation in sports.
Why did you have a strong interest in this project?
I am absolutely passionate about sports. I played basketball competitively for a long time, and my kids play sports. There are many great life lessons to be gained by playing competitive sports, like working as a team. Sports also taught me how to lose, and then pick myself up and play just as hard the next time. I believe these lessons build character.
What is one lesson that sticks with you from your time at Marshall?
I remember that the curriculum had a strong emphasis on group projects — they were part of every class. I have to admit that when I first started Marshall, I was not accustomed to working in groups. I remember feeling that I could do it much better and much faster by myself. But I learned that if you have a diverse group and you tap into people’s different areas of expertise, you always end up with a better product. That was the biggest lesson I learned, and I have seen it translate into my life at work and outside of work. I am very thankful for that experience at Marshall.
Is that one of your favorite memories of being a Marshall student?
Yes, because of the great friends that I made working in those groups during those two years. When you work through problems or contentious moments together, that experience often brings you closer together. As a result, I met two of my best friends at Marshall.
When you first became a boss, what are some of the lessons you learned?
Looking back now on the first time I became a manager, I can honestly say that I was not a strong leader. I had very high expectations and a narrow window for seeing how things should be done. But during that first leadership experience, I learned about letting go and allowing people to do their job their way; it will always end up a lot better that way. That is the same lesson I learned working on group projects at Marshall.
So how would you describe your leadership style now?
My leadership style has evolved from control-oriented to highly collaborative. It is very similar to my approach to parenting. I prefer not to figure things out for the people who work with me. I will help frame the issue and set expectations, but I want them to own their responsibilities and projects. Of course, I am also willing to support and coach my team. If there is anything that I can pass on to them so they can avoid the hard knocks I went through, I like to share that knowledge.
I also want the people who work with me to know that it is safe to communicate their emotions. I believe in transparency and allowing individuals to come to the table and express themselves, and I try to do the same. It is only when we have that level of connection that we get the absolute best from each other and for the business.
What else has influenced your leadership style?
Having a great husband and kids has actually helped me become a stronger professional because it has taught me patience and conflict resolution. I have also discovered that when people are happy outside of work, it makes them more effective in the job.
What do you look for when you hire an employee?
Passion, initiative and what I call "grit."
Who do you admire or look up to as a role model?
I have had so many great mentors at Nestlé over the years who helped me cultivate my leadership style. I also look up to my father as a role model because he has demonstrated a lot of grit — incredible courage and strength of character — throughout his life.
What advice would you give current MBA students?
Treat your career like a marathon, not a sprint. Stay focused on your long-term goals throughout the years. You may be tempted by a company offering more money, or feel discouraged by a difficult boss, but those things are just small blips on your career path. I like the fact that I have been at Nestlé all these years, and long-term thinking was extremely valuable in my own career successes.
About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.