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Jennifer Moss, Chief Research and Development Officer at pladis, talks about her career trajectory and how taking small and regular pauses has enabled her to cope with the different pressures of family and career.
Jennifer Moss always loved science and understanding how things work so she did a PhD in chemical engineering before realising that her heart lay more in personal care than in working at a chemical factory.
She joined Proctor & Gamble and has since worked at a number of major corporates all over the world. Now Chief Research and Development Officer at pladis, the UK confectionery and snack foods company encompassing United Biscuits, Ülker, Godiva Chocolatier and DeMet’s Candy Company, she spoke to Joy Burnford of My Confidence Matters on her well being podcast recently about her career trajectory and how she looks after herself. For Moss, work life balance is not something that you can achieve in any one 24-hour period. It is about making sure you have enough regular pauses in your working year to ensure you have the energy necessary to motivate your team.
Jennifer’s first role out of university was working in Japan for Proctor & Gamble. It was a chance to understand how different consumers think about the products the company was offering. She says uniting science and what the consumer wants is the key to creating coveted new products. From Proctor & Gamble she moved into the food market at Unilever in Australia, where she was Director of the Regional Design Centre & Technical Management and looked after products ranging from Wall’s ice cream to Knorr stock cubes.
She was headhunted to work for Campbell Soup Company as Vice President R&D, Asia Pacific, heading an international team whose members spanned the globe, from Mexico to Australia. She subsequently moved over to Campbell Arnott’s, which specialises in chocolate and biscuits. In 2019 she moved to the US when she was appointed Vice President Research and Development Meals & Beverages at Campbell Soup Company. And in November 2020 she took up her current role, this time based in England, which includes being accountable for the taste of the company’s many biscuits – something she describes as her dream job.
Jennifer says her experience with consumers across the globe taught her that, though every consumer is different, there are many factors that unite them.
Asked what has helped her in her career trajectory, she says allies are important in a male-dominated field such as STEM.These have included some of her professors while she was doing her PhD, and male and female allies at the different companies she has worked at who made sure she got exposure to different experiences. Now she helps to pay this back as an active mentor, speaker and advocate with a particular involvement in supporting emerging female leaders.
She says that, as such, it is critical to talk openly about the challenges facing women so they can be normalised and women don’t feel on their own. She found that early in her career in Asia where she spoke to women to encourage them to stay in work. She says the CEO of Campbell Soup, Denise Morrison, has been a great role model, talking openly about her children. Jennifer herself was part of a women’s fellowship programme with around 30 other women and they still keep in touch on Whatsapp, sharing mainly their different life challenges. “It’s critical to have these discussions,” she says, “so you can balance the madness”.
She has learnt a lot about work life balance over the course of her career. She says, for instance, that she rushed back to work after the birth of her first son, but took a year off for her second. It didn’t affect her career progress much, she says. She also took small periods off regularly to be around for her children. “Pausing is hard, but important,” she says, citing Morrison’s advice that work life balance should not be seen as a daily thing or even a weekly thing, but that it is vital to be able to pause regularly to renew your energy and to be able to connect with family, friends and your community. She admits that sometimes she still has to remind herself to pause because, being very passionate about her job, she can overdo it. Those pauses can be fairly short – regular walks or five to 10 minute spells focusing on something else. “Disconnecting is so important,” she says.
Jennifer also mentions spiritual connection and having a sense of a higher purpose as being part of her own well being narrative – “something that lifts you from day to day”, something beyond the day to day.
Looking after herself also helps her to feel more confident. Jennifer talks about how she deals with the voice in her head that says she is not good enough. Her experience around the world has taught her that women moving up the career ladder in different regions are more alike than they might think, depending on their life stage and what their priorities are. Sleep is a big uniting factor when it comes to well being, for instance.
Asked what her tips would be for her younger self, Jennifer says be kind to yourself, put your family first after yourself, be self aware, follow your passion and realise that work life balance “does not happen in a day”.