The Salinas Valley’s vast agriculture industry is only a short drive from the Monterey Peninsula, where Diana McClean grew up, but it took her a while to realize how much it could offer her.
McClean, now director of marketing for Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, Calif., pursued a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
She went there because it had a strong business program, not because of Cal Poly’s reputation as a leading agribusiness university.
“I wasn’t planning to come back to the Monterey area,” she said. “I wanted to get out and to somewhere else.”
At first, “somewhere else” was the San Francisco Bay Area, where she worked as a marketing intern. When that company asked her to move to Michigan, she decided instead to return to the Peninsula.
She worked in retail management, then in sales and marketing for Pebble Beach Ventures.
During that time, she learned through networking that the agriculture industry offered good career opportunities.
She worked in the floral industry until about five years ago, when she joined Tanimura & Antle as marketing project manager.
She was promoted to director of marketing about three years ago. She likes that her position encompasses many aspects of the business, including packaging design, online media, community relations and new product development.
She enjoys being creative and appreciates the freedom Tanimura & Antle gives her to try new things or to get feedback on ideas.
“Diana has a very creative mind,” said Rick Antle, chief executive officer. “Much of what we do and adopt is a result of her ideation.”
Antle credits McClean with being instrumental in building the Tanimura & Antle Artisan family of fresh produce.
“We’re in the commodity business, but we have some unique items,” Antle said. “She does an effective job of positioning them as unique items.”
Antle said he relies on McClean’s expertise and her understanding of trends, social media and a changing marketplace.
McClean said she considers it a great accomplishment to be relied on to oversee the marketing directive for a leading produce company.
“Being trusted by this family to come in and run their marketing department and not being a member of the family, but feeling like one — I will be the best I can be,” she said.
McClean said she likes the collaborative nature of her work, but she knows it’s also important to be a leader who makes decisions and moves things forward.
When asked what advice she would give her 20-year-old self, she said it would be to keep an open mind. Goals are important, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook nearby opportunities.
“I went to Cal Poly for a business degree and to work for a large company,” she said.
“Here I am (back then) on my way to Cal Poly, driving past my future employer. It’s ironic that I didn’t see the opportunity that was right in front of me.”
Luckily, she finally did see it. And maybe it was at just the right time.