After finishing her business degree at Wilfrid Laurier University in 1985, Shelley Martin knew she wanted a job in marketing and wasn’t too particular about the industry. She landed at General Mills and soon realized she’d found a home in the food industry. “I quickly learned it was the place to be,” she says.
Martin loved the dynamic nature of the business, a fast-paced combination of consumer trends and food science and the continual driving of new product launches and innovations. “It’s a fun business to be in,” she says. “I get to work with great people and learn every day.”
After nearly five years with General Mills, Martin joined the marketing department at Nestlé in 1990 and embarked on an upward career path. She was named vice-president of coffee and beverages in 2002, president of Nestlé ice cream in 2008, president of the frozen division in 2012 and finally president and CEO in 2013.
Under Martin’s leadership, the company has become more efficient and focused on innovation. “We’ve been continuously improving how we do things by using a lean approach as the operating system for the company,” she says. “[We’re] working to take waste out of the organization—the processes and the way we do things—to make sure we become more efficient.”
And one of the ways you become more efficient is through innovation, she says. Innovation not just in product, but throughout the organization; embracing technology and working in cross-functioning teams to identify new solutions to old problems.
Away from Nestlé, Martin is chair of the board of directors for Food and Consumer Products of Canada, serves on the board of The Grocery Foundation and was twice named a Top 100 Award Winner for Canada’s Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network.
But on top of all that, Martin still describes raising her daughters as a single mom for 17 years as her “No. 1” job. She did daycare pick-up and drop-off, and made doctor’s appointments, school events and soccer practices a priority. It sent an important message to the organization about work-life balance but also helps explain her emphasis on efficiency. “I work to be as efficient in my time at the office so I can get out to join my daughters and other parts of life.”