Special Interview Series

Diane Levin

Sam Simister

May 2016

LEAD Advisory Board member
Supply Chain Director at Innocent

Building the talent pool

During her 25-year career in the food industry, LEAD advisory board member Sam Simister has become firmly committed to developing female talent.

“Few companies take a step back and look at whether the individuals in their company have the right skills and the learning and development to deliver results,” she says.

“They don’t think about attracting and building the right talent pool, or implementing the processes to deliver a legacy for the future.”

Attracting and retaining women
Sam began her career travelling the globe to source fresh produce for Marks & Spencer. She then led the technology and product department for the supermarket chain Kings in the US before joining Innocent Drinks, where she is now global supply chain director.

Women already represent around 50% of Innocent’s 400-strong workforce and regardless of gender, the board of directors has always focussed on the best ways to develop and retain top talent.

While networking and sponsorship used to be the preferred tools to promote career advancement, the company’s leadership have decided that investment in a transparent learning and development program to enhance career progression has to come from the top.

A more flexible culture
Flexible working hours have always been a part of innocent’s culture and the business will explore more such as job sharing to give working parents more flexibility.

Culture plays an important role. “If you can create an innovative and energising working environment, with a culture that the team enjoys, then they generally tend to perform better and deliver better results,” says Sam.

The right support is crucial
Sam prefers not to talk work: life balance but lifestyle choices. Work and is a part of our lifestyle and to get the balance she advocates a pragmatic approach.

“Compromise is very important, and with some great planning and prioritisation, you can achieve a lot,” she says. “But you also need to be very honest with yourself about your personal objectives.”

Sam’s tips for career development


Invest in time for yourself to think about where you’d like to take your career. Identify what you enjoy and what skills you’d like to develop. Celebrate your successes. Making a mistake is part of growing.

Find a sponsor or mentor to help refine your plan and offer coaching. Ask if they can arrange for you to shadow different roles to deepen your experience.

 Ensure you have full support at home, so you can focus on your professional plan.