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In March 2017, another great woman joined the top leadership club as Michele G. Buck became the first female CEO of company’s 123-year history. Self-motivated, determined and confident, she has built an excellent resume with a diverse set of experiences with over 30 years in consumer packaged goods. A perfect combination of industry, retail and consumer knowledge, she has a consistent record of building brands consumers love and developing high performing teams. At each stage and at every assignment that came her way - as plant manager to being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company - she actively strived to build and polish her skill set. She accepted the tough assignments, often feeling unprepared for them, but found something new inside her, whom she knew didn't exist. She defines success as being able to do what one loves.

Early jobs...

Born to hardworking electrician and teacher parents, Michelle Buck started working at the age of 10. She continued to work through college and graduate school and earned whatever little she could. During her school days, she took up paper route. At her first job, she learned the value of hard work and responsibility and enjoyed the independence that came with earning for herself. At 12, she did babysitting. Then she worked as a waitress, sold Avon products door-to-door and worked in a bank. She took up the job of a Fiscal analyst, after her undergrad and became a motor fuel tax expert.

Starting the career...

Graduating from B-school was an important milestone in her life. It helped her prepare for a career that combined her analytic abilities, creativity, and strong interpersonal skills - a career in marketing and brand management. As a young business grad, she never aspired to be a CEO; her only ambition was to become a brand manager. She had to see herself accomplish one thing to know she could do another. She later realized that instead of sitting in the office sending memos all day, she wanted to inspire others with creativity and passion After earning the MBA, she began her career in packaged goods with Frito-Lay as assistant brand manager.

A Kraft veteran...

Michelle Buck moved to Kraft in 1988 and spent 17 years before joining Hershey. She started off as Associate Brand Manager for Breyers Yogurt and rose through the company’s ranks managing diverse categories such as yogurt, desserts and snacks, and various brands including Altoids, LifeSavers, Planters and Snackwell’s. In 1992, she was named Senior Brand Manager for the Cool Whip brand. She moved to Nabisco, a subsidiary of Kraft as its Business Director, Field Marketing, responsible for Snackwell's Yogurt in 1994 and held various positions till 2000. In 1996, she was named as the Managing Director and then as the VP Marketing. In 2000, she moved back to Kraft as it's Marketing VP and became the Executive Vice President, Kraft Foods North America, and General Manager, Confections Division in 2001. At her last job, she oversaw LifeSavers, Altoids Crèmesavers and Toblerone.

With the chocolate king...

Michele Buck joined the global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery, Hershey in March 2005 as Senior Vice President Marketing and Senior VP Global Chief Marketing Officer reporting to the then CEO, who was also a Kraft alumnus. She advanced through various roles with increasing responsibility including Senior Vice President, Global Chief Growth Officer, President - North America, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and now the President and Chief Executive Officer. As she donned many senior management and leadership hats, she took the responsibility for Hershey’s strategy and vision, innovation, research, development, The Hershey Experience, consumer insights and public affairs.

In 2013, Michele was appointed as the President of North American business with responsibility for accelerating Hershey’s growth in the North American Region accounting for nearly 90% of the Company's annual revenues. A proven leader, she has steered the company's expansion into broader snacking categories outside its traditional confectionary product and has been instrumental in the strategic acquisitions of Krave beef jerky in 2015 and healthy chocolate brand barkThins in 2016.

By mid-2016, her role was escalated to become the EVP and Chief Operating Officer of The Hershey Co leading the commercial operations of the company.

Taking the helm...

Voting unanimously by the Board, Hershey promoted the seasoned and trusted executive to the Chief Executive Officer in March 2017. The year has been a great one for Hershey. It grew its share in all core chocolate brands in 2017 and expanded its portfolio by acquiring SkinnyPop parent Amplify Snack Brands for about $1.6 billion as it continues to move beyond its chocolate heritage through acquisitions and in-house development.

After assuming the mantle, she regularly takes “listening tours” to the facilities that create Hershey’s chocolate products around the country to go down and listen to the thoughts and perspectives of the diverse workforce of the company. Michele is an advocate of diversity in the workforce. According to her, 'the more that a team is representative of the actual population, the more you get that diverse thinking'. She loves to talk to the employees about the opportunities that they see in the business, their concerns, the untapped areas etc. It is a testament to her interest and commitment to create trust, transparency and teamwork across the entire organization.

Personal life...

A native of central Pennsylvania, Michele Buck grew up in the neighborhood of Hershey, not knowing that she is going to head the company one day. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina. An unabashed optimist, she starts each day with gratitude. She resides in Hershey, Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

Leadership style...

A person to whom relationships are the priority, valuing people is at the core of her leadership style. She believes that a large part of being a leader is understanding and motivating people and unleashing their talent. The higher you go in an organisation, the more your success is dependent upon the people in your organisation, she says.

Rising through various ranks, this smart and intelligent executive learned more about managing people than managing a business. An active listener, she always placed herself close to the employees. As a General Manager at Kraft, she devoted a week every month to visit the site and listen to them. She also worked alongside the line workers at the site. When she left her job of General Manager, the plant employees gifted her a plaque embroidered by the wife of a union employee in a frame made by the shop mechanics, reading: “Our Loss is Their Gain.” She considers this as the greatest award of her career.

An innovator, she is always vocal about bringing women to the mainstream and urges women to make an impact in every single assignment by taking it to the next level. She believes in the Help-the-Other-Fellow principle of the Hershey founder and is always available for her team. Her message for the women is to learn to control and ultimately “retune” the inner voices to echo confidence, stop talking ourselves out of trying and go for it.

Her two cents for the future executives...

Fit is everything. Work for a company that shares your values and values your strengths, and you will be a star.
Take personal ownership of managing your career by seeking out the experiences you need to build yourself into a great business person.
Know yourself well. Recognize your strengths; hire people who complement your skill set.
Start each assignment thinking “how will I make my mark?”
Do what you love—your passion will be contagious.

Associations and memberships...

Member of Board of Directors at New York Life
Benefit Co-Chair for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation.

Awards and accolades...

Named as #45 of 50 Fortune’s Most powerful women 2017
Received the Corporate Citizenship Award
Received Women Worth Watching award in Food & Beverages category in 2005


The times I learned the most and developed the most are when I took those opportunities that were outside my wheelhouse.
Be open to opportunities. You might be surprised what you find on an unexpected path.
Always view the glass as half full. This leads to uncovering endless possibilities and finding solutions you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Growing up, it was ingrained in me to treat others how you would want to be treated. Valuing people is at the core of my leadership style.
Make your life work for you—you can have a fulfilling career and be an amazing mother.

Hope readers caught up the spark...