Pam joined DAH! as CEO in April 2020 following a successful career at Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods.) Pam is a strong general management and marketing executive with a focused global growth mindset and proven track record of company, brand and people development.
During her time at Mondelez, Pam held various leadership roles across the organization. She led the launch of belVita Breakfast Biscuits in the US that helped to transform the convenience breakfast segment. In addition to roles within the US, Pam spent 5 years in Asia including 1.5 years in Shanghai, China where she was responsible for long-term category growth and development of equity and innovation strategies for the Biscuit (cookie & cracker) category. Pam also led the launch of the Biscuit category into the Japan market. Most recently while based in Singapore, Pam managed the multi-billion dollar Biscuit category for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Pam is a passionate and creative leader who will leverage her CPG and brand marketing experience to lead DAH! to new heights. Pam is a native Bostonian who in her spare time enjoys staying active through boxing and yoga and traveling to all corners of the world exploring new countries, cultures and cuisines (Bhutan is her favorite.)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Thanks for inviting me to participate! I come from a 4th generation food manufacturing family, so you could say this career path is in my blood and I was destined to work in the food industry. Coming out of college, I started working in media & advertising, where I developed my love for consumer behavior and brand strategy. From there, I decided to pursue my MBA at Duke University and begin a career in Brand Management at Kraft Foods (now Mondelez International.)
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began as CEO of the company?
I started as CEO at DAH! in April, right in the middle of the pandemic — as you can imagine, that was quite interesting! I had to learn about our company, our people, and our operations in a fully remote environment. Luckily, after having spent the last five years in Asia- based in Singapore but having over 25 countries in my scope, I knew how to effectively work in a remote environment. It was inspiring to see the DAH! leadership team come together to both on-board me and lead our team through such a challenging operational environment.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During early conversations regarding our manufacturing equipment, I was unsure of the name of a piece of machinery and kept calling it by the incorrect name. I didn’t realize until someone kindly corrected me, and I felt a little silly. But the lesson which I continue to remind myself is to ask all the questions! Nothing is too dumb or silly. There is so much to learn when you join a new company, whether as a line worker or a CEO, and no one will fault you for asking the question; they’ll be happier that you did!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO or executive that most attracted you to it?
I value being able to make positive impacts on businesses and people, and being a CEO allows me to do that every day. I appreciate the opportunity to lead a team that is creating a brand that makes consumers happy and helps them live DAHliciously.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The CEO is all at once the vision creator, strategic leader, business owner, decision-maker, organizer, mediator, therapist, and they must be comfortable putting themselves in the shoes of each functional leader/team and assume the responsibility for each.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
I love that I never know what each day will bring. It is always an adventure, and it allows me to flex my capabilities and skills to make an impact in different ways every day.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
Sometimes it can feel isolating in the CEO role. I greatly recommend and rely on a strong personal and professional network. I also recommend an executive coach, to be able to share challenges, ideate solutions, and simply be able to lean on.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
Being a CEO might sound glamorous, but in reality, it is not! It’s not all about fancy board meetings or dinners. Most days include everything from searching for a shipment in the warehouse to meeting with the plumber, to eating ten different yogurt prototypes, to managing tech issues. I believe a CEO has to be an elevator- and ready to complete tasks up and down the organization.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenge could be in the mind and self-talk of the female executive. Imposter syndrome is more prominent in women, and the risk is that we are held back by this fear, but know that you do deserve it, you can do it, and you will rock it.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I knew I was taking a job leading a great company and brand, but I didn’t realize how amazing the people would be. I feel very fortunate to work with such a passionate and committed group of people who love DAH! and believe in our brand and mission.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
First and foremost, you’ve got to have a robust nervous system as you’ll always have to be on your toes, managing challenges whether in the macro-environment (just as we are now with COVID-19) or within your organization.
To be successful, you also need to be a strong communicator, a difficult decision-maker, and able to build relationships and create a sense of belonging in the organization.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I would tell them to always have an “open-door policy”- even if it’s virtual, as being accessible as a leader allows relationships to build quicker and more genuinely. I would also tell them to focus time and energy on building and aligning their team on one common purpose. It’s crucial to have clear company values carried throughout the organization.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had a phenomenal female manager at Mondelez during a pivotal point in my career when I was becoming a Brand Manager. She offered me timely and direct feedback and took the time to mentor and coach me. Although some of the feedback seemed minor at the time (email etiquette!), incorporating what she taught me helped me to accelerate my career and become the executive I am today.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I lead a wonderful organization that believes in sharing and giving back to the world. For example, we focused on supporting COVID-19 frontline workers through a Heart Chakra-inspired give-back campaign, which brought extra immune support to those that needed it most.
On top of that and various other local community initiatives, I believe in giving back through sharing my experiences with others as a mentor for professional men and women in multiple countries.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The first months are critical to gaining the trust of your team- make sure you’re authentic and honest and don’t over-promise.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself- some parts of the work, and some relationships, might take longer than others to build, but be patient.
Create access for anyone to provide feedback to you anonymously so you ensure your eyes and ears are always open
Build a strong professional tribe- for you to lean on, and to learn from- and for them to do the same with you
When you work in an office above a plant, you need a blanket for your office in the winter and a fan for the summer!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Sitting here today, my simple ask to all is to vote. Get registered and make your voice heard.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I always loved the idea of “Be comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s ok to feel outside your comfort zone, to question yourself, to feel stretched and challenged. It’s how we can continuously grow and learn. Embrace that feeling!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
I would love to have lunch with Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has managed her role as Prime Minister with such grace and determination in the face of multiple national and international crises, all while having a baby (the first world leader in over 30 years to have a baby while in office.) I love what she said about compassion and strength: “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” Plus, I love her country and treasure the memories of my holiday there. Jacinda, once I can get on a plane and come to NZ post-COVID, name the date and I’m there!
To learn more about DAH!, America’s #1 India-style USDA organic yogurt brand and a leader in the probiotic food market, visit www.dahlicious.com
— Published onOctober 10, 2020