Aug 27, 2019
Deb is the Vice President of Innovation at Lamb Weston. A fun fact about Deb is that she parodies songs with whatever is going on at the time!
Deb grew up in a family full of scientists. She went to college to be a chemistry teacher. While at college she saw that there was a food science major and at that moment she was hooked! What could be better than food and science? She started her career working at Coca-Cola working on the product Sprite. She learned consistently where she brought a lot of value to her current position before pushing for more. She loves learning, asking questions and figuring things out; so as a scientist, that is very valuable to a company. She made some major career changes along the way to move her quickly up in the industry. Through another company she was working for, she was introduced to Lamb Weston. She has been with the company for 12 years.
Her mother and father were her first mentors and she feels very blessed to be born to the parents she has. Part of growing up in her family was having high aspirations. When she graduated and was in the working world, she had a few bosses that were older who mentored her, and they really spent time with her developing her as a scientist. Her current boss is a great mentor even though he is younger than her.
The best team Deb has ever been on is her current team. She has been leading this team for the last eighteen months and they are talented functional leaders. She loves this current role for several reasons. She is focusing on developing them as leaders, which can be a challenge because she isn’t a doer who can check off boxes on a list; her day is constantly changing to accommodate how she is needed for within the team.
She believes leadership is a lot harder than it looks. Leadership requires deep contemplation and planning. It is much more intellectually draining than she had anticipated; however it is an honor to be a part of the company’s development and success. Leadership is like chess not checkers.
Being the Vice President of Innovation seeing around corners is what her department does, so that is not difficult. There is data that is constantly coming in and having to discern the data and if it applies to them or not. She translates the vison and direction to her team by asking them to go through the same process or to critique yours so that they can buy into it. If you just give them your conclusion to the end result, they don’t understand where you are coming from. There has not been one time where a person on the team hasn’t added value to the project.
Her ideal day is to wake up early, have some quality time with her coffee, exercise, relaxing morning with breakfast and then heading into work. Rushing off to work isn’t her ideal. Once she gets to work, let the interaction begin. She doesn’t go to lunch; she uses that time for herself to rejuvenate. Then in the afternoon she likes to have group interaction.
She rejuvenates herself by spending time with family and plans things ahead of time to be sure it is a priority.
Deb is the leader of change with her company. It’s about spending time listening, encouraging, facilitating. She asks her leadership often for their feedback. Being a therapist tends to come with the leadership position, and fortunately it comes naturally for her even as a scientist.
When dealing with disappointment she turns to exercise or time walking with her husband. She holds onto a saying she heard which is “Don’t quit, just rest!”
The legacy that she wants to leave behind is to set Lamb Weston up for success for decades to come: to leave a long pipeline of leadership and they will have the opportunity to rise and be impactful.
Deb’s advice for upcoming leaders is listen more, talk less. Be pleasant to be around; don’t be so ambitious that you forget about the people who got you there. Spend more time with your people than your projects.
You can connect with Deb at: Deb.Dihel@lambweston.com