Karen May, Executive VP of Global HR, Kraft

In this evening’s Managerial Leadership class, we were able to welcome Karen, who is a bigwig at Kraft. (For anyone who doesn’t know anything about Kraft, it’s a $35bn company with 104,000 employees.) It turns out that she used to work for our professor at Baxter, so he was able to twist her arm into coming along and sharing with us some of her insights.

As might be expected, we asked a bunch about how best to handle our career development. Here’s what she came back with.

  • Create your own path. Don’t expect anyone to mark out a path to the top for you. Having unusual experiences is a bonus, as you can bring fresh perspectives to your role.
  • Bring yourself to work. You should feel like you’re being yourself, and you don’t have to hide anything about your personality, or that you have a family – that sort of thing. Both you and your workplace should fit each other.
  • Development is your job. Only a minimal part of your development happens during training – most of it happens on the job itself, and you need to form a plan for that development. It doesn’t require budget – just the time to reflect on what you need to work on and why.
  • Your job is about learning, not winning or getting promoted. The other things follow learning.
  • You have weaknesses. Lay them out and have people help you. You can help others with things you’re strong at, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  • Sometimes, setting big goals like “I need to become a better leader” means that nothing will get done. So set small goals instead, like “I need to go to the dentist this month” or “I need to build a relationship with this person”. These goals are more easily achievable, and add up the same thing.

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