Hannah Smith

MME_Smith_Hannah_1.jpgHannah is a Sales and Marketing leader with extensive experience in Category Management across many categories and multiple channels. She also has extensive experience in education and training and is an excellent presenter.
She is practical and pragmatic, and her strengths include research, data, analysis and strategy development, communication and negotiation, training and development, and management. She has a deep understanding of commercial, consumer and shopper issues in FMCG, QSR and Food Service.
Hannah is also passionate about the growth of the profession and sits on the Board of Shop! (POPAI) where she chairs the Membership Committee and the Education Committee.

What boards do you sit on?

I sit on the board of Shop! Association ANZ, formerly known as POPAI ANZ. This is a professional association for the retail marketing and customer experience industries. We are dedicated to enhancing retail environments and experiences; both physical and virtual.

When and why did you decide to become a director?

I’ve seen people in very senior roles that made me think that if they could do it, then I could do it and I had been toying with the idea for a while.
The trigger point for me came while I was on the train travelling to work during my first week in a new role. I ended up sitting beside a woman who was preparing to do some work on the train and as she pulled all these papers out of her bag I noticed the Women on Boards logo. It turns out that I was sitting beside Ruth Medd. We started chatting and Ruth simply told me to go and do it. Admittedly I did not just go and do it right away, but a few weeks later I did reach out to the then POPAI, expecting to join a committee and I ended up joining the board.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

In the short-term, I’d like to serve another term on the board of SHOP! and see through some of the initiates that are still in the planning stages. I intend to complete the company directors course next year and I’m hoping to take on the position of chair when the current chair steps down. I do want to continue to sit on boards and eventually move to a portfolio career.

Outline your career background.

I don’t have a typical linear career. I never knew what I wanted to do, so I took the advice of doing what you’re most interested in and good at, which resulted in me having a BA in Art History and Mathematics. With this, I became a high school teacher, teaching mainly mathematics and computing, including programming. The maths and programming took me in the direction of data and research and from there, insights, strategy, marketing, new product development and innovation. Data is all about decision making and I’m very interested in how companies make decisions and manage change. In the midst of my career change, I qualified as a certified professional strategic advisor with the Category Management Association. I am currently working in Category Management, which is a strategic function that utilises retail sales and other data. It sits between Sales and Marketing and is most common in FMCG.

Touch on the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?

Ruth was right. It wasn’t really that difficult to get onto my first board, all it took was for me to have the confidence to make an approach. I’m realistic about this being my first board and a volunteer position but it is a great place to learn and apply my experience in strategic planning. As a professional association it is also wonderful from a networking point of view.
I have the logistical challenges of a full-time job and the demands of a family, but these are the types of challenges that most parents are familiar with and I’m fortunate to have a very supportive husband. I have recently committed to saying yes to things that are important and then working out how I do it later.

Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?

I think Colette Garnsey is just amazing. She has this incredibly impressive career where she has had senior positions in David Jones, Pacific Brand and Sheridan and she worked her way up literally from the shop floor. Colette is now sitting on several boards including Flight Centre and Australian Wool Innovation. She has done all of this and been laser focused on both the needs of her customers and on the people that she leads. She is such an inspiration.

Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?

I haven’t had the benefit of formal mentoring programs but I had a very supportive boss who helped to guide my thinking and encouraged me to get back into reading good quality business books. I have also been very lucky to have worked with Dr AndrĂ© de Barros Teixeira who is an innovation expert, an academic and a teacher. I really enjoy conversations that challenge your thinking and AndrĂ© has made me very aware of the dangers of fixedness and relying of ways of thinking that we find comfortable and familiar.

What’s the diversity (gender & other) like on your boards?

Shop! Association ANZ’s gender diversity is quite good. The board is currently made up of eight people and three of them are women. Our chair is a man, but the other two executive positions are held by myself and another woman. Retail is an industry that still has issues with gender balance, but marketing and market research tend to be more balanced. The makeup of the board reflects the industry.

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?

I have been participating in the WOB Next Generation of Female Leaders program this year I also did the Getting Started: Realising your Board Potential before I really believed that I could do this. I have met some wonderful and inspiring women by participating in WOB events. I find the support and encouragement from these women helps me to maintain my energy and my confidence. If Ruth hadn’t told me to get on with it, I might not have.

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

I’ve just completed the WOB Next Generation of Female Leaders program. It has been wonderful, and I definitely recommend it. I’m doing my best to develop and maintain networks and to have a plan for the next ten years. We all need to take Ruth’s advice and stop waiting until we feel that we are ready; we need to just go and do it.