This month’s Member Spotlight

Deanna Thornton

Deanna Thornton

March 2017

Senior Director of Product Supply – Europe, Middle East and Africa at Kimberly-Clark Professional

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role?
I am a US expat living in the UK, and I am responsible for the end to end supply chain for the Kimberly-Clark B2B sector in EMEA. It is a dynamic role that allows me to work with a wide range of cultures and people with diverse backgrounds across both developed and emerging markets. I originally started in HR, and through a series of acquisitions I was provided with various opportunities to work on both the acquisitions and to take on new roles outside of HR. I have worked across multiple functions including Finance, Operations/Supply Chain, Sales, Marketing, Corporate Strategy, Mergers/Acquisitions and General Management. These experiences give me a broad perspective of the business landscape which allows me to bring a different point of view to my current role where I try to drive strong connections to the business, our customers and our brands from within operations and supply chain.

Why are you passionate about the LEAD mission?
I have spent the majority of my career in either businesses or functions that were predominantly driven and led by men.  I had to work really hard to get into senior leadership positions and was on more than one occasion the first women to be promoted with the organisation to a senior role.  Having had that experience which can be very difficult and isolating, I have a passion for working on diversity issues and with organisations that focus on advancing diversity in the workforce.  While LEAD’s mission is to advance women, the organisation focuses on leveraging the full talent pool within its member organisations in order to advance both women and men to contribute to their full potential.  This mission is especially important to me as I believe that in order for organisations to be successful long term, they need to develop all of their talent and in CPG companies, we need to have talent in our organisations that represent all of the end-users who use our products to ensure we have a strong offering that appeals across those various end-use customers.

What would you say is one of the most adventurous or riskiest moves you’ve made professionally?
The riskiest move I ever made professionally was to move into Finance and take on a Controller position. My background was obviously not in Finance but due to my work on a recent acquisition, the new company felt that I could take on the Controller role.  It was a very difficult period in my career as it was overwhelming to be with a new company and taking on a role outside of my comfort zone.  I could have easily failed to succeed in this role as there was not one person on the site where I was located who could help me.  It taught me a lot about myself and business which I have leveraged in my career ever since.  I learned that I had to be vulnerable in asking for help in order to learn quickly.  I found the people who could help me, and I built trust with them in order to succeed.  In executing this role, I also learned about the financial side of the business which set me up to be promoted to the first female GM in the company.  It also enabled my success in each of my subsequent roles which all have had either P&L accountability or another strong financial component to them – understanding the connections between the functions and their impact on the P&L and Balance Statement has enabled me to succeed in ways that others have not because I can always tie my teams’ actions directly to business results and that resonates with all business leaders.  It also taught me something that I share with my mentees who are aspiring to bigger roles and dynamic career paths which is that our careers do not always follow the most obvious path, and if you are willing to take some risk, it can have a big payoff in the long term.

What have you triumphed over?
I feel as if I have triumphed over a lack of diversity in some of the companies and industries that I have worked in early in my career. Working for a company that had no female or diverse leaders, was difficult in order to achieve recognition or promotion. I worked hard, took on challenging assignments, and delivered strong results, but ultimately, it took a change in leadership at the very top to make this change possible. Having been promoted to the first female GM position and later the first female VP position within that company was a significant triumph, but the challenge did not stop there. I was then the only diverse voice in the room, and I had to continue to work harder than others to ensure my voice was heard. It did teach me resilience and an appreciation for what others who are in a minority position go through. That has fuelled my desire to help others progress their careers and to ensure that we have a diverse talent throughout our organisation.