CHICAGO — Three recognized women in the produce industry talked about their career paths, skill sets, mentorship, and advice for others climbing the corporate ladder during a panel June 15 at the United FreshMKT Learning Center.
Frieda’s CEO Karen Caplan, California Avocado Commission vice president of marketing Jan DeLyser, and The Fresh Market senior category manager Teri Miller all listed willingness to learn as a key to success.
“I’m happy to bring people to the table who know more than me and can help me,” Miller said, adding that a person cannot be afraid to fail if he or she is going to learn.
Caplan mentioned she has studied finance to gain knowledge in that field and complement her strengths of sales and marketing.
Developing leadership skills was something the women noted as necessary as they advanced in their careers. Both DeLyser and Miller mentioned they used to be nervous about speaking in public, something hard to imagine given their apparent ease in that area now.
DeLyser talked about her experience with building consensus, including making sure people understand their roles because they are likely to step up and contribute when that is the case. Her work in that area is something she cherishes.
“I hope it’s on my plaque when I die that I was a collaborator,” DeLyser said.
The women also discussed how younger people in the industry should approach finding a mentor. Caplan said that simply asking, “Will you mentor me?” is not what she would recommend.
“You should know exactly what you’re looking for when you ask for someone to mentor you,” Caplan said.
She encouraged people to communicate specific areas in which they are seeking guidance — which classes would be most beneficial, how to approach a certain customer, how to look more professional.
Miller suggested having a collection of mentors to get a well-rounded view of the industry.
The women also discussed how they balance work life and family life.
“Listen to your gut,” Caplan said. “Many of us feel pressure from the outside ... Ask yourself what is it that’s calling you.”