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60-second interview: Valentina Schiavoni, Supply Chain Manager, Brown-Forman

As part of Women’s History Month, Logistics Magazine caught up with Valentina Schiavoni, Supply Chain Manager at Brown-Forman, one of the world’s largest spirits and wine businesses and home to Jack Daniel’s and other well-known drinks brands.

How did you get your start in supply chain management?

My background is in engineering. I have an analytical and process-driven mindset but at the same time I am people oriented. I feel energised when I talk to people. I love the thrill of the fast pace and quick-fire trouble shooting – it energises me!
I think relationships are key to being a successful supply chain professional, but at the same time you need to have technical and problem-solving abilities. So, supply chain was a natural choice for me. 

It’s currently Women’s History Month, which women in history inspire you?

I’m inspired by Frida Kahlo [the renowned Mexican painter] – she was able to achieve so much, and nothing stopped her from pursuing her passions and beliefs.

As a woman, what barriers have you had to overcome in your career?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is finding the right work/ life balance, for me and my family. Both my husband and I have demanding careers and it is tough with young kids when there is no family network around you! I want to be a present mother and I’m incredibly career focussed. I believe we should be able to do both. If anything, being a mother has increased my productivity – us parents do not have the luxury of wasting time, we always have to multi-task, think quickly on our feet and make every moment count.

Brown-Forman creates a cultural environment where women feel they can progress. They don’t need to make the choice between family or work. Hybrid working is part of the culture – everyone lives and breathes it. It’s opened up new doors for so many women like me, who are passionate about their career and family.

Have you had any strong female role models during your career?

Early in my career I worked for PepsiCo, and had the opportunity to attend a talk, and meet Indra Nooyi, then CEO of PepsiCo, and possibly the most accomplished female executive at that time. Besides her incredible accomplishments, what really struck me about Indra was her commitment to being authentic. She recalled an early career story where she had struggled to impress at interviews. Indra was trying to fit in by wearing a business suit, so instead she decided to wear a saree to the next interview and she was successful. I liked this story because it gave me the confidence to bring my authentic self to work without worrying too much about what people think and I really believe that being myself has helped me to progress in my career.

What is your favourite inspirational quote from a female leader?

“An important attribute of success is to be yourself. Never hide what makes you, you.” Indra Nooyi.

How has your company’s culture helped you progress your career?

I joined Brown-Forman in 2020 for the launch of the UK distribution network. I was the first supply chain professional hired in the UK for Brown-Forman and two months into the role, the world changed. My first challenge was to build up the supply chain team and culture in the middle of a lockdown, followed by ensuring continuity of supply to our customers while at the same time dealing with unprecedented global supply chain disruptions. 

During these two years, I have grown enormously as a professional and as a person and I could only do that because of Brown-Forman’s amazing culture. I was empowered to make decisions and translate problem-solving ideas into actions which is something that really motivates me! Brown-Forman's strong collaborative culture meant that the entire organisation was working together towards the same goal to overcome the supply chain challenges, it was great feeling supported!

Logistics and supply chain management is often characterised as a traditionally male-dominated sector. Has this presented any additional challenges for you?

I’ve been lucky at Brown-Forman UK as the leadership team is 50% female and 50% male. It is true the industry is still male dominated, especially in the executive roles. It is challenging but this has never held me back and if anything, it makes me more focused. I love my job and it is part of my identity. I feel valued at Brown-Forman and I am positive about the future as I have seen a lot of progress since I started this career.

How do you see the role of women evolving in the commercial drinks industry over the coming years?

I feel that a lot of progress has been made. Behaviours are shifting and there is more space for women in the industry as a whole. Brown-Forman UK is leading the agenda on this, with a 50% female leadership team – something we are all very proud of. I believe that if we continue to tackle the unconscious bias and stereotypes head on – we will continue to see progress within the workplace and beyond!


Published On: 31/03/2022 16:00:11


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