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News & Blogs: 5 Questions

5 Questions with Jami McDermid

Wednesday, September 14, 2011  
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Vice President, Central Region


"Women in sales were not feeling as connected as other groups within MillerCoors."

Prior to becoming vice president, Central Region for MillerCoors a little more than three years ago, Jami McDermid served as vice president, commercial development for Coors Brewing. The consumer goods executive founded JEP2 Solutions Consulting in 2004, after serving in vice president positions at Diageo North America and Seagram Wine and Spirits Group. Earlier in her career, McDermid held leadership roles at Tropicana and Coca-Cola Foods.

MillerCoors is using social networking software to help saleswomen feel part of cohesive team. How does this address the needs of working women today?

Both male and female employees benefit from feeling connected to others in their workplace, but based on findings from our Employee Engagement Survey it was clear women in sales were not feeling as connected as other groups within MillerCoors--male salespersons, for instance. Group mentoring and the Triple Creek networking software created an avenue for these women to tap into the connection they were missing.

Social networking software provides a means for women working across geographies, time zones and work groups to connect on a personal level. It also provides the opportunity for building professional relationships and networks that might not otherwise exist. What is especially great about social networking software for this group is that they are able to log on and catch up with discussions, read posted documents or create posts of their own any time of day or night and anywhere with an internet connection. The realities of being a saleswoman at MillerCoors means you work unconventional hours, long hours, nights and weekends, across varying geographies. Flexibility is an important component of the networking program.

Also, work/life balance is a relevant issue for this group. Any program we introduced not only had to help address achieving positive work/life balance, but had to contribute to it as well! Once again, the flexibility of social networking had a very positive impact, but the groups also focused on work/life balance as discussion topic and were able to learn tips from their mentors as well as each other.

What other challenges do large consumer products and retail industry companies face in retaining women?

Women have more opportunities now than ever before. Organizations must create a positive working environment for women. Otherwise most women can, and will, find an organization that does. The options are out there. Furthermore, if companies want to retain women they need to step up and recognize the contributions of women by providing them with the flexibility, equal pay and opportunities for growth that they deserve.

What did MillerCoors learn from its six-month Women of Sales mentoring program, which has since been adopted by the company’s marketing and integrated supply chain groups?

The opportunity to exchange open and honest dialogue about the struggles and successes of other women has been extremely impactful to those involved in the group mentoring program. Not only is it somewhat comforting to discover that others have faced similar struggles, but it’s even more powerful to learn they overcame these struggles to find success. Interestingly, there has been one key theme that’s permeated each of the groups -- career development and career pathing. That seems to demonstrate the individuals involved in these mentoring groups are serious about growing their careers at MillerCoors.

Why are women as eager to engage in these programs?

Although the original group was [formed for] females, and there will continue to be women’s mentoring groups, other mixed-gender groups have begun to form as well. I think people are eager to be a part of these programs for multiple reasons. First, it’s part of our culture. At MillerCoors, "thirst for learning” and "connection with people” are "Critical Success Factors,” similar to core competencies. In fact, CSFs are so important to our culture that we not only hire for them, we assess the CSFs during performance reviews. We attract and retain people into our culture who have a desire to be a part of these kinds of experiences. Secondly, people love this company. It’s a fun place to work with great products and great people. People recognize this and want to have a long, successful career at MillerCoors; they seek out developmental opportunities such as the mentoring groups so that they can continue to be a part of this great company and grow with it.

Who have been your own professional and personal mentors?

I have had many critical people in my life, my "personal board of directors,” who have played a mentoring role for me. I can trust them and get their thoughts as I approach difficult or challenging situations. I wouldn’t have been as successful in my career without these relationships. One of my very first mentors recently passed away, allowing me to reflect on who he was as an individual and who I became because he was part of my life. Mentors and coaches must be a significant part of your life to fully explore and achieve your desired goals.

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