Group Head of New Categories R&D
What tempted to you leave your last company after 25 years?
I worked on all sorts of innovation categories at P&G, from razors to detergents, drugs to cosmetics, holding roles across every aspect of the product innovation and R&D lifecycle. I loved my job and was not looking to change any time soon.
A friend encouraged me to visit BAT and I was intrigued by how significant the business, consumer and technical challenges were in this sector. I saw a lot of room to make an impact through innovation and new-to-world products and this is something I love to do. I joined in 2013 to form an R&D organisation and a product pipeline solely aimed to create viable alternatives to smoking and the harm reduction mission associated to these products strongly resonated with me. Severn years later and we now have a rather comprehensive product portfolio, a rapidly growing business in the new categories and, last but not least, a thriving R&D team with super bright and capable technical leaders how time has flown!
What challenges did you face?
BAT had great expertise and depth within tobacco-based products but the new categories often required different technical and business capabilities. So, for the most part, it was like starting with a blank notebook.
It was clear to me that we needed new thinking and new skills combined with our existing expertise. We needed to strengthen our understanding of what consumers wanted and we also needed access to new technologies.
We looked externally and also within the company, for experts who could help us create the required consumer experiences at much lower temperatures, hence controlling the chemistry and minimising the production of toxic substances. We brought into our teams technical leaders who could help us to create easy to use, affordable and scalable devices and this required a deep knowledge of electronics, mechanical engineering, power management, batteries, software systems. This was all new.
Is diversity important?
Absolutely. I have been very fortunate to help shape my organisation and drive the right level of diversity. I was able to bring in and develop great talent across genders, nationalities and experiences. In very technical functions, women are sometime under-represented. However, in my R&D team, we have some rather phenomenal women who show terrific leadership and drive their complex programs forward with clarity and passion. Driving a strong diversity culture is much easier today, as there is now enough diversity and we can push together.
So many aspects of my work life have changed, and in fact totally transformed in a positive way, in less than seven years.