Krannert Experiences Lead to Fulfilling Career Path
The MBA program at Purdue allowed Heather (Owens) Williams the flexibility to split her focus among marketing, strategy and supply chain coursework and obtain a certificate in Global Supply Chain Management through DCMME. “Pursuing my MBA was the best career decision I could have made,” said Williams, who graduated in 2012. “I not only was able to transition my career from risk management to marketing, but I also elevated my skills from those of a tactical planner to those of a strategic thinker.” After graduation, she spent two years as a category manager at Whirlpool Corporation, before joining Radio Systems Corporation (RSC) in Knoxville, Tennessee, as the PetSafe category manager for water and feed solutions. RSC is a leading pet product manufacturer whose brands include PetSafe, SportDOG, and Invisible Fence. After two years in water and feed, working on a booming growth business, Williams moved to PetSafe training and bark solutions. RSC’s training and bark category, the second largest in the company, has faced competitive challenges recently from direct import products.
“My experience in case competitions during the MBA program enabled me to jump into the category without hesitation and to take quick strategic action,” Williams said. “I was able to assess all parts of the business and not only find short-term opportunities, but also create a well-rounded plan for the future.” She believes that the highpressure and cross-functional business plans needed for case competition success gave her many of the tools she needed to succeed in her current role. “I equate category management to being an entrepreneur with someone else’s funding,” she said. She manages everything related to her category: research, product road mapping, development and launches, as well as marketing products, sustaining projects and sales and retailer support. Additionally, she is responsible for the P&L with the support of other teams throughout the company, such as engineering and graphic design. “My understanding of supply chain and manufacturing is critical,” she said. “I work with our supply chain, program management, logistics and forecasting teams to support inventory of our products for retail partners.” As she is launching a new portfolio of static trainers and discontinuing the current portfolio (which equates to half the revenue of her category), it is crucial that the company has the right inventory to support both load-ins and replenishment of key retailers such as PetSmart, Petco and Amazon. Having an understanding of not only component lead times, but also manufacturing processes, is key to the success of these product launches. Williams owns two Australian Terriers, Jack and Lily, with whom she competes in both obedience and agility trials. RSC is a dog-friendly workplace, so Jack accompanies Williams to the office every day while Lily goes to the on-site doggie daycare. “I am so fortunate that I am able to combine my personal passion, dogs, with my professional passion of product development and strategy,” she said. “They love coming to work too!” Another bonus is working with two other Boilermakers, an engineering colleague and the chief marketing officer, which makes for a fun atmosphere during basketball season. “I love going to work every day, and I know I would not be on this career path without having attended the Krannert MBA Program,” she said.
“Krannert and DCMME was a very positive time and an important step in my life. I still remember those study nights at RAWLS..”