Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, JM Swank, LLC
Member, Kilts Center Steering Committee
At Cargill, Hillen is responsible for the global growth portfolio, innovation system deployment and execution, and marketing capability for Cargill’s $35 billion food ingredient and systems team. In the past year, Cargill has increased its recruiting efforts at Booth, introducing as part of that initiative a fellowship program developed through the Kilts Center, which sponsors promising Booth marketing talent and gives them the opportunity to be mentored by Hillen himself.
A Symbiotic Relationship
At Cargill, we’ve had a significant focus on integrating marketing within our innovation process, specifically the critical steps of understanding the market and uncovering insights.
To do this we have put more emphasis on the analytical side of marketing, and the need for savvy quantitative marketers has grown exponentially. So, building our relationship with Booth and specifically the Kilts Center’s fellowship program was an obvious natural step for us.
Mentoring Marketing Leaders
Probably some of most important advice I like to share in mentorships is about soft skills. If someone had told me 20 years ago what I know now, I would have done a lot more with less time.
As a mentor, I try to give students a playbook on how to network and how to persuade and influence people, especially without using authority, which is always a necessity early in a career. It boils down to emotional intelligence, which goes a long way. So I try to give students a head start.
I always get something out of mentorships as well. Simply associating with students helps me learn how the next generation of consumers is getting information and how this factors into buying practices. So, there’s a very practical give and take in a mentoring relationship.
Reinventing Marketing Practice
With the internet there’s a lot of information that travels fast, and the ability to sort through all of that information and determine key findings and conclusions is something that resonates with Cargill. And Booth is a preeminent marketing school that produces students with the ability to analyze big data and to uncover insights that are not so obvious to others.
There is a commitment at Booth to continually reinvent marketing as a technical mastery. And it’s this reinvention process that Cargill finds most attractive because we’re in a lot of interesting places and changing markets, so the ability to constantly adapt and deal with ambiguity is key.
When you hire a Booth graduate, you hire someone with that rare ability to take all of this information—in a global environment that is unbelievably interconnected—and make sense of it. All of our Booth hires understand the variables, the interdependencies, and can figure out the key findings that lead to sound business decisions. And because of this, they can easily transition into leadership roles at Cargill.