Inspirational Woman: Emma Vass | CEO, Wessanen UK

Emma VassI am happily married with two children and have an extensive background working for FMCG companies.

I started my career at Mars Confectionary followed by a long time at Danone and McCormick, before finding my way to Wessanen UK where I became UK CEO. I have been at Wessanen UK for just over two and a half years and I oversee healthy and sustainable food brands such as Clipper Teas, Whole Earth, Kallo and Mrs Crimble’s.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

I never sat down and mapped out where my career was heading, but I have always been ambitious. For me, my future would always be in a company with a great work culture and values that align with my own – Wessanen UK is a great fit for me in these respects.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? 

I think my biggest struggle was discovering and believing in my own confidence – particularly trusting my ability to be a leader. In the early stages of my career, I always looked up to senior management in awe, wondering if I would ever be able to do that. Believing in myself was what I needed to do to step out of my comfort zone and make the right decisions. I knew I had all the attributes to be a leader apart from the confidence, so one day I just decided to stop standing in my own way.

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

The most rewarding part of my job is bringing in great talent, nurturing them and watching people develop and progress their careers. I have a lot of previous colleagues who have come to work with me again at Wessanen. I think if talented people want to come to work for you, it’s the best kind of confirmation that you are an effective leader.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?    

For me there has been two factors in achieving success. One is making sure you have a supportive and reliable team that lives and breathes the values of the business. And the second is always remaining two steps ahead. If you become too complacent and reliant on things ticking by, you can’t maximise the business and your own potential. Strangely, I probably worry more when the business is going well because I think it’s important to pre-empt any possible issues. Never take your eye off the ball.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?  

I do think mentoring can be useful, but only if the mentor and mentee are well suited and happy to invest their time into the relationship. Mentorships should be structured, and you need each party to want to better each other. Authentic learning experiences are the best kind.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be? 

You cannot have true equality without inclusion. I think all levels of equality are important, not only gender. Having a progressive and diverse team is vital. There are lots of effective training techniques such as unconscious bias training and team building, but ultimately it comes down to having the desire and openness to learn and understand effective inclusion.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be? 

Be yourself, trust your instincts and be confident– my instincts have delivered more results than endless hours of number crunching ever could.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?  

At Wessanen UK, we have ambitious plans to double the business over the next three years and I’m immersed in this challenge now. The minute we hit that goal; we will be on to the next challenge – no time to lose!

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