Vitamin Shoppe names customer, digital experience officer

The Vitamin Shoppe Inc. has hired an executive for the new role of executive vice president, chief customer and digital experience officer, it announced this week.

Stacey Renfro joins the Secaucus-based specialty retailer of nutritional products from Pier 1 Imports Inc.

“The Vitamin Shoppe is undergoing a period of significant change, with a substantial focus on an improved customer experience, a key strategic driver of the organization’s future,” CEO Sharon Leite said in a prepared statement. “As chief customer and digital experience officer, Stacey will be responsible for aligning and leveraging The Vitamin Shoppe’s capabilities across multiple channels and functions to ensure we are meeting the evolving needs of today’s customer.”

Renfro, who has more than two decades of experience in omnichannel retail, has also worked for JCPenney, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Home Shopping Network and others.

“I am impressed with the passion of all The Vitamin Shoppe ‘Health Enthusiasts’ and the history of providing knowledgeable and great customer service,” she said in a statement. “I am very excited to be joining The Vitamin Shoppe to help drive the digital agenda as it relates to enhancing the customer shopping experience and driving sales.”

LinkNWK network debuts in Newark with Wi-Fi kiosks

The LinkNWK network formally launched in Newark this week with the activation of special Link kiosks that will deliver Wi-Fi and other services to city residents and other users.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the Newark Community Economic Development Corp., New Jersey Institute of Technology and Intersection, the technology and media company behind the initiative, officially debuted the kiosks Tuesday, making Newark the second city in the U.S. with the service, after New York.

“Newark is once again defining itself to the state, nation and world as a cutting-edge, high-tech city,” Baraka said in a prepared statement. “These kiosks will enable residents and visitors alike to gain immediate information about Newark, ranging from upcoming cultural events to emergency service response.

“We are the only city in the entire state and the second in the nation to provide these services, and every person who uses one of these kiosks will not only gain the services they need, but learn something more important: Newark is a world-class urban leader.”

With the aid of the Newark Fiber program, Link kiosks offer Wi-Fi, charging, phone calls and access to municipal services and content.

“We’re excited to continue to build upon Newark’s reputation as a tech hub,” Aisha Glover, CEO and president of Newark CEDC, said in a statement. “With major anchors and corporations like NJIT, Audible, Panasonic and Newark Venture Partners, as well as robust data infrastructure, we continue to bring Newark and its residents to the forefront of innovation. We are equally excited that LinkNWK is another feather in our tech cap.”

Intersection will install 45 kiosks throughout the city, both in areas around Newark Penn Station and the Prudential Center and in heavily trafficked neighborhood corridors like Broad Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Clinton Avenue.

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Murphy signs MOU with German chamber to increase workforce training (think apprenticeships) for manufacturers

A memorandum of understanding to increase access between New Jersey and German companies and help foster greater collaboration on workforce development and training was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday in Berlin at The Association of German Chambers of Commerce & Industry.

The memorandum calls for a broadening of a workforce training program — which already exists between companies in New Jersey and the German American Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, based in New York, has been facilitating similar economic programs with German and American companies, some of which are based in New Jersey, according to CEO and President Dietmar Rieg.

The nonprofit, which has been around since 1947 — prior to the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany — is increasingly focused on the workforce of the future, and manufacturing jobs that remain unfilled.

Germany currently has what Rieg called a dual education program, because half of the student’s education is in the school, and the other half is in the company — similar to apprenticeships.

At the end of the training, there is a certification, which employers recognize as a certain standard of training.

The program through GACC has trained 500,000 people every year in almost 460 professions.

New Jersey is especially prime for such programs, something New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program CEO John Kennedy knows a little something about from his time with Siemens.

Kennedy said the idea of creating workforce training programs to help individuals grow within the company has been a successful model in Germany that he intends to pursue for New Jersey as well.

In December 2017, Kennedy authored a white paper for NJMEP to focus on exactly this issue, specifically focusing on its own program.

“Presently, the NJMEP Pro-Action Education Network model operates opportunistically by addressing emerging or unfilled gaps that address the immediate needs of the manufacturers,” Kennedy wrote.

“An opportunity exists to allocate a portion of (state) bond funds to enhance and expand (the program) and to create a workforce roundabout that benefits all constituencies.”

Until then, GACC has an opportunity to lay the groundwork in New Jersey.

Rieg said New Jersey is home to at least 90 German companies, including many large ones, such as BMW, BASF or Siemens.

The larger ones tend to have their own internships and training programs, but the program helps smaller companies have access to a similarly trained workforce.

“What it does at the end of the day is, throughout the country, there’s a certification (the students) get at end of their education (after 2-5 years), and it’s a certain standard so everyone knows the standard to which you’ve been trained,” Rieg said.

But it doesn’t just apply to students, he said.

Military service members who leave the armed forces and are looking for a job, or individuals who have completed college or done some college and want a different career also tend to use this route.

The sectors currently benefitting from this training program include, typically, manufacturing and medical electronics as well as the chemical pharmaceutical industry — basically, any industry that relies on a shop floor for production, Rieg said.

“What we’ve seen in Jersey and other areas, in other states, if it’s done well … there are great results,” he said.

Read all of ROI-NJ’s coverage of Gov. Murphy’s trip:

Agreement will strengthen partnership between innovation groups in Newark, Berlin

New Jersey will have a chance to learn from one of the thriving ecosystems in the world, and figure out how to use its best practices to boost the state’s efforts.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed a memorandum of understanding Friday morning in Berlin to exchange best practices for a tech and startup ecosystem between the state of New Jersey and the city-state of Berlin at Berlin’s city hall.

The relationship extends specifically to Choose New Jersey, Berlin Partners for Business & Technology, Audible and Newark Venture Partners.

“I think we are taking a big step in a historic setting,” Murphy said.

“This agreement is an important one … to deepen the cooperation, particularly in the innovation economy. This is a big economy for you in Berlin, it’s big opportunity and big economy for us in New Jersey. We think the closer we work together, the more we can lean from each other, the better, ultimately, we will both be.”

The memorandum outlines a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, in accordance with German and American laws, with resulting shared economic gains, as well as job growth, prosperity and progress.

In line with Audible’s efforts to focus on job growth and training in Newark, the company has laid a similar foundation in Berlin.

From 10 years ago, when Audible first opened its office with 12 employees, the company has grown to 200 in what used to be an industrial neighborhood in Berlin.

That’s the fastest growth and makes Audible’s Berlin office the second-largest outside Newark, according to officials.

Audible CEO Don Katz said the city-state and Newark have a lot in common, and companies in Newark can learn from the success Berlin has had in establishing a strong technology ecosystem.

That includes Newark Venture Partners, for which Berlin Partners is an equivalent.

Most of the startups in the United States are started by immigrants or children of immigrants, and Newark was just ranked the friendliest city for immigrants in the U.S., Katz said Friday in Berlin at the signing.

Michael Muller, the governing mayor of Berlin, praised Audible for its growth and work in the city-state, and said there is still more to be done.

Officials believe the MOU sets in motion a better way to pitch Newark, which suffers from the stigma and preconceived notions about its economy in the Northeast. But companies in other countries can be more easily convinced to commit to growth in Newark, as an extension of New York City and way to enter the NYC market — which many companies often do, company officials said.

Currently, 68 percent of German venture capital is in Berlin, alone, and the city has the highest percentage of immigrant startup founders in the world. There are 60 accelerators, which means a robust growth network for companies.

Murphy said Audible’s growth in Germany is a signal for the rest of the state.

“Audible is our North Star if we think about where our innovation economy is headed,” he said.

Read all of ROI-NJ’s coverage of Gov. Murphy’s trip:

Program Alert: ROI-NJ’s Anjalee Khemlani tackles N.J. issues on ‘State of Affairs’

ROI-NJ Managing Editor Anjalee Khemlani discussed a variety of issues that are driving business in the Garden State with Emmy-winning broadcaster Steve Adubato on “State of Affairs with Steve Adubato.”

Khemlani shares her insights and analysis on everything from New Jersey’s “innovation economy” to the evolution of different sectors that are growing regionally as well as the potential for the evolving business scene in Camden.

This episode will first air at 6 a.m. Saturday on NJTV and FiOS1; if you miss that airing, you can check your local listings to find “State of Affairs” throughout the week on local stations.

Women investors offer up dollars-and-sense lessons at conference

Karen Cahn told the hundreds of people attending Montclair State University’s fifth annual Women Entrepreneurship Week conference Wednesday to listen up and learn.

Why? Because she and two of her fellow panelists were talking money — and how to get it — at the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship.

“If you have an idea, or if you are a new entrepreneur about a year or two into your business, that is when you come to iFundWomen,” Cahn, founder and CEO of iFundWomen in New York City, said. “We help you perfect your pitch, get your branding game on point and prepare you to successfully raise funding from a crowd made up of your friends and family, your personal and professional networks, and the social world.”

Cahn, who previously worked for Google, AOL Original Video and YouTube, created iFundWomen as a flexible crowdfunding platform that also would provide coaching and services for women-led startups, side hustles, passion projects and more, she said.

Cahn, a self-proclaimed “dual citizen” who sits on both sides of the table as an early-stage female entrepreneur and the creator of a fundraising platform for early-stage entrepreneurs, also said she created iFundWomen as a way to “pay it forward.”

“We always are looking for ways to fund female founders, so, we created an algorithm to help us figure out which campaigns on iFundWomen would benefit the most by us taking 20 percent off the top of our revenues each month and putting the cash into their accounts,” Cahn said. “We have to help each other — and, what is even more amazing is, half of the backers on iFundWomen are men.

“There are simply a lot of amazing people out there who want to be part of the movement in funding female entrepreneurs.”

Including Ita Ekpoudom, partner at GingerBread Capital, a venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California.

“Our focus is in backing female-founded, high-growth, venture-backed companies raising $5 million and up with check sizes between $500,000 and $2 million,” Ekpoudom said.

The mother of Linnea Roberts, founder of GingerBread Capital, was named Ginger, Ekpoudom said.

“Ginger, a single mother to four kids, was fired in the 1980s, received $10,000 severance, and used it to start Minority Business Entrepreneur magazine, which she ran for 25 years until she retired,” she said. “So, if there is not a woman involved in your company, we are not interested.”

That is not exclusively the case at Edison Partners, Kelly Ford, a partner at the nearly 32-year-old venture capital firm in Princeton, said — but she also said it doesn’t hurt.

“If we are getting some sort of inbound interest, such as a pitch, a business plan or a deck through any channel, and it’s women-led, it goes to the top of the list,” Ford said.

Edison Partners, she added, started as an early-stage venture capital firm.

“However, we’ve recently evolved into later-stage funding, investing in technology companies with $5 to $20 million in revenue that also have managed to grow, say, 30 percent or greater each year, with the typical average growth rate hovering around 80 percent at the time of investment,” Ford said. “Unfortunately, we have mostly male CEOs running our companies right now and would love to get to know and invest in more women-led companies.”

To receive money from any of these companies, however, the pitch must first be perfected.

“For example, I recently was speaking with an investor who asked a question of both a male and female entrepreneur,” Ekpoudom said. “The man sent her a response the next day written in poor English that answered her question.

“The woman, however, took over a week to send her a beautiful, detailed 25-page deck — and the man received the investment.”

An initial deck, Ekpoudom said, should not include more than 15 slides.

“You simply are talking about the problem to be solved, why you are uniquely qualified and passionate about doing so, the size of the market and how big a share you think you can get,” she said. “You just need to tempt me enough so that I want to take a meeting — and you also need to have material for a deeper conversation when you get into that room.”

Ford said she is confounded when entrepreneurs sometimes fail to even mention how they make money in their pitch.

“While the notion of how you make money sounds so basic, if you are 45 minutes into your presentation and we don’t know that yet, that is a mistake,” she said. “Additionally, every team member should have a lane in which to focus on while the CEO and founder shows off the different capabilities that she has hired for in being self-aware of her own gaps in strength.”

An investment is a two-way street, after all, Ford said.

“You must build a relationship with an investor and with any relationship you want to get to know someone and your shared values,” she said. “Trouble is, who are most of the venture capitalists in this country? White dudes. And who are the majority of entrepreneurs in this country? Women of color and women at large.

“We are outnumbered in terms of access to these relationships, but hopefully we are beginning to start to change that.”

The biggest obstacle to funding for women, though, is still the confidence gap, Cahn said.

“Picture two 5-year olds, one boy, one girl, at swimming lessons,” she said. “The swim instructor calls them into the pool. The little boy jumps in the pool; the little girl thinks it through, questions how deep it is and looks for her floaties.

“Our brains are functionally built differently, so that, when we decide to go into entrepreneurship, we often are more successful than our male counterparts having thought through all of the different strategies, risks and rewards, but still all too often we are too reticent to make the jump.

“However, that, too, is understandable, because women, in many cases, are breadwinners who put food on the table and entrepreneurship is not an easy way to do that.”

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Ferrero celebrates Franklin groundbreaking, eyes further growth at Parsippany HQ

Moments after telling a small crowd assembled at his company’s facility in Franklin about how thrilled he was by its $9 million expansion, Ferrero USA CEO Paul Chibe hinted at what he hopes will be in the company’s future plans.

Expanding the corporate headquarters in Parsippany.

Chibe told ROI-NJ that Ferrero wants to expand its operations not only in Franklin, but in Parsippany, too.

Ferrero USA CEO Paul Chibe speaks at the ceremony.

Thursday, however, the emphasis was on the Franklin facility.

Ferrero USA, the U.S. branch of Ferrero SpA — the third-largest confectionery company in the world — broke ground on a facility that will add 67,000 square feet of functional space to be used for repackaging and warehouse purposes.

Chibe said Ferrero is expecting to support over 400 full-time employees and offer hundreds of more seasonal jobs by the end of 2018 at the facility. If Ferrero is to stay on track with its scheduling, Chibe believes by next summer it will be opening the fully completed expansion and will have officially added the over 100 new positions.

Chibe explained during his address that Ferrero’s confidence in New Jersey has grown tenfold and is only continuing to grow. Ferrero, he said, wants nothing more than to increase its presence and industrial footprint in the state.

He credits New Jersey, Somerset County and Franklin Township with bringing assistance to Ferraro USA’s expansion and, ultimately, its increased success.

“This newest renovation demonstrates Ferrero’s ongoing commitment to Franklin Township and our Somerset County community,” Chibe said.

Chibe told ROI-NJ that Ferrero is receiving no financial support from the government and that this investment is all allocated company funds.

Franklin Township Mayor Phillip Kramer praised Ferrero’s commitment to the area, calling its leaders heroes for how hard they fought to meet their deadline. Kramer believes expansions such as this one will attract other businesses to the area.

“Franklin is open for business,” he said.

Kramer acknowledged the town has not been known for being business-friendly in the past. Kramer attributes this to lengthy permitting processes.

“Time is money for these companies,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman speaks at the event.

Kramer said his office went above and beyond to keep the major business in the town. This, combined with Ferrero’s persistence to do business in the state, made for a mutually beneficial relationship, he said.

This expansion will evidently have an effect on the local economy.

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12th Dist.) said the expansion is an example of what can happen when businesses and local governments effectively collaborate.

“In choosing to expand your operations, you’re helping to grow the economy at the local and the state level, you’re strengthening your surrounding community and you’re bringing job opportunities to this area’s residents,” she said.

Watson Coleman emphasized how, if more people are employed and making money, then more people are spending that money at local businesses.

Ferrero is known for big brand products such as Nutella, Tic-Tacs and Ferrero Rocher. Chibe said it is doing the expansion to keep up with the success and high demand of Kinder Joy in the U.S.

Murphy pushing collaboration as a way to mend relations with Europe

German-American relations are at the lowest point they have been since World War II.

That was the underlying theme of a business luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce on Thursday in Germany.

And one Gov. Phil Murphy, on the third day of a nine-day economic trip through Germany and Israel, said is apparent when he reads clippings from German news services.

“You get a sense of despair about the TransAtlantic relationship,” he said. “Germans really, intently, study and care about the United States.”

Murphy started Thursday in Frankfurt, touring an incubator, Tech Quartier, and spoke to a room of German business leaders.

The recurring theme was the faltering relations at the federal level for both countries, followed by optimism that there will be a way to work around the political issues.

Johannes Schafer, project director of digital infrastructure for the U.K. and U.S. at Frankfurt Economic Development GMBH, said borders increasingly mean less in the business world.

The real topic of business in today’s world is not “where do you get what business,” he said.

Schafer said London’s deputy mayor, Rajesh Agrawal, recently said in a meeting that the 19th century was the century of empires, the 20th century was the century of nation states.

“The 21st century will be the century of cities and metropolitan areas. There’s no sense to stop it,” Schafer said. “Even if we have some miles between us, starting a tough fight between European capitals, that’s like starting a knife fight in a telephone booth, it’s completely senseless. Don’t do it. We will all interact and we will all profit from each other. And all these processes are not one way, they are bidirectional.”

New Jersey has started to embrace a similar mentality, breaking down innovation sector hubs among the various regions of the state — rather than fighting for one innovation capital in the state.

An emerging power player in that space is the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which has spread from its hub in Newark to other parts of the state, including recently to lead the aviation tech park in Atlantic County.

NJIT also is making moves globally.

On Thursday, CEO Joel Bloom was in China, pitching a new venture, Murphy told the crowd at Tech Quartier.

Later Thursday, a five-year memorandum of understanding to start a collaborative relationship between Fraunhofer-Institut fur Sichere Informationstechologie and NJIT was signed.

The collaboration agreement was crafted to “intensify mutual cooperation in Innovation” through joint research and information sharing, exchanging scholarly publications and research, providing exchanges and fellowships for personnel of both entities, and potentially bringing in more partners for greater collaboration as appropriate.

Murphy said he hopes the MOU eventually expands to include Rutgers University.

SIT already has research partnerships, focused on cybersecurity and digital business, with three academic centers around the world.

They include: Technische Universitat Darmstadt, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.

When asked by reporters about the significance of this relationship, Murphy said it boosts the state’s potential for cultivating a strong innovation economy.

Of the sectors that are included in that, Murphy said life sciences, cybersecurity and wind energy hold the best potential for the state to be a leader.

“For the cyber piece, you’re either in Washington (D.C.) or you’re near, you’re in the corridor,” he said.

With all the intelligence agencies based in or around the U.S. capital, New Jersey’s strategic location presents an opportunity, Murphy said.

“Someone in that corridor is going to dominate,” he said. “We underplay ours.”

For life sciences, a sector in which New Jersey has lost some ground in recent years, the governor believes there is still a chance to regain the state’s clout.

“We’ve ignored it,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll bring back what went (to Massachusetts), but we stopped birthing companies.”

Creating networks within sectors through public-private partnerships will be key to that, he said.

Read all of ROI-NJ’s coverage of Gov. Murphy’s trip:

3 things we learned Thursday in Frankfurt

Three takeaways from Day Three of Gov. Phil Murphy’s nine-day trade mission trip to Germany and Israel. Thursday, the governor was in Frankfurt.

  1. Murphy talks tax incentives

Murphy has said he backed the enormous Amazon tax incentive package, which, between the state and Newark, totals $7 billion. Simultaneously, he has spent the last few days in Germany spreading word about the startup fund and rent assistance programs that were recently introduced as programs under the Economic Development Authority. When asked about taxes and tax incentives at a business luncheon, Murphy said Amazon was a different situation.

The HQ2 opportunity represents, at minimum, a $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs.

“That is of a scale that has never been seen before in economic commercial history. So, what you’re willing is to do for that singular opportunity is probably disconnected — and it is, in my case, in fact — with any other policy as it relates to the weapon of tax incentives,” Murphy said. “Putting Amazon (HQ2) aside for a moment … as a general matter of tax incentives, we have been playing the old game … chasing the old economy. We are good with the old economy, we want the old economy to be with us.”

  1. Balancing the state and the nation

Murphy has spent a lot of time discussing national politics while in Germany. He often answers questions about the elections or President Donald Trump’s policies, and has on some occasions broached the topic on his own. If he’s on a trip to promote New Jersey, why is he talking about Trump?

“This is as sharp a non-U.S. audience as you’d find outside of a Canada or Mexico,” he said. “They know me, they know I was the finance chair for the party, that I raised a lot of the money that got Barack Obama elected, that I worked for him, that I’m a Democrat, that I’m a governor. I was expecting it. I was pleasantly surprised … the balance of Jersey/non-Jersey is actually better than I thought it would be.”

  1. What makes up the innovation economy?

What is the innovation economy Murphy keeps talking about? It’s a question many ask us at ROI-NJ. Is it STEM fields? Yes, but it’s more — it includes some traditional sectors. In Frankfurt, Joe Kelly, deputy chief of staff for economic growth in Murphy’s office, finally provided a list of sectors that fall under the governor’s focus of the innovation economy.

Drum roll, please.

  • Life sciences and pharmaceutical startups;
  • “High-tech,” which includes tech startups and traditional software companies, as well as cybersecurity;
  • Advanced logistics;
  • Advanced manufacturing;
  • Clean energy;
  • Financial services, which can include fintech and crossover industries, such as insurance tech; and
  • Film, television and digital media.

There’s also one more. Sort of. The much-debated cannabis industry.

Cannabis, “though it doesn’t need much ‘gardening,'” represents an innovation opportunity in the context of its medical use and how that relates to the pharma and life sciences sector, Kelly said.

Read all of ROI-NJ’s coverage of Gov. Murphy’s trip:

Women execs explain how entrepreneurial spirit thrives within Corporate America

Montclair State University created the Presidential Scholars Program this year to give accomplished students not only the challenge of unique academic and career preparation opportunities, but the added support of a $5,000 annual scholarship, Susan Cole said.

“We want to keep the most talented people in New Jersey,” Cole, president of the college, said. “And I am excited to say that, out of 343 Presidential Scholars in our entering freshman class this year, almost 80 percent of them are women.”

Cole spoke at MSU’s fifth annual Women Entrepreneurship Week conference, originally created by the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship at MSU and now celebrated at more than 160 universities and colleges in 32 countries and 46 states.

The conference kicked off rather unusually, however, with a panel of successful women leaders working instead in Corporate America.

It was moderated by Kelley Holland, a former business journalist and financial analyst turned entrepreneur as founder of Own Your Destiny, a financial consultancy designed specifically for women. Panelists described how they have used their entrepreneurial and creative spirits to help cultivate innovation within larger companies.

Collectively, they came to the decision that diversity of culture, thought and experience is truly what drives great ideas forward.

“I come from Finland and have lived in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Spain, Austria and Germany,” Emma Aer said.

Aer, former CEO of Finlandia Cheese, has lived and worked in six countries while holding profit and loss responsibility of business units, country units and multicountry regions.

“And I think entrepreneurship is much more valued in the U.S. than in the European countries in which I have lived,” she said. “The dream of the self-made woman or man is much more alive here, in my experience, and it helps that the U.S. is a melting pot of people from all over the world.”

Participants included, from left, Emma Aer, Kim Hanemann, Pearl Pugh and Carley Graham Garcia.

Pearl Pugh, vice president and global commercial leader for rheumatology and dermatology at Johnson & Johnson, said she also has traveled the world to set strategies and collaborate with different regions on the treatment of immunological diseases.

“I’ve been to 11 countries so far this year,” she said.

Sweden and Singapore stood out for her in particular, she added.

“There was actual government sponsorship around innovation in those countries, in which government agencies would dole out grants to entrepreneurs that would ultimately benefit the gross domestic product of those countries later on,” Pugh said.

Pugh added how, within various companies in multiple countries, she was consistently struck by the eclectic diversity of talent.

“You always will have a base of workers from your home country, but, increasingly, workers are taking international assignments, too, to help facilitate and foster innovation,” she said.

Carley Graham Garcia, the head of external affairs at Google responsible for public policy, government relations and community engagement for the New York City region, said her company also pays particular focus to the diversity of thought amongst its nearly 8,000 regional employees.

“Some of you may have heard about our ’20 percent time,’ which is that 20 percent of each employee’s time is meant to explore projects outside of their core job functions,” she said. “Every job I have had at Google in the nearly 12 years I have worked for the company has come through my ’20 percent time.’”

Kim Hanemann, senior vice president of electric transmission and distribution at Public Service Electric & Gas, said she herself implemented an engineer rotation program within her organization to produce similar results.

“I think it is important that people, especially early on in their career, move around, learn different elements of the business and be open to more lateral assignments that will help them to grow and make them more valuable to the business overall,” she said.

Hanemann speaks from personal experience.

“I spent my first eight years becoming a technical expert in gas operations before I had the opportunity to move over to electric,” she said. “I struggled with electrical engineering in college, but I grew the most as a manager and a leader outside of my comfort zone because I could no longer rely on myself to answer the most technical questions.

“I not only had to learn how to build a team in which I could rely on for support, but also how to ask the right questions.”

For example, she was given the task of reducing the number of days it took to put a contract in place from 180 to 60 to improve project scheduling.

“How do you do that?” Hanemann said. “Well, you hire a diverse team, put them up to the challenge, help them to create a vision on their own and let them execute it well before you communicate and build off those successes.”

And build she did, Hanemann said, as she recalled volunteering to execute a large infrastructure program of transmission projects nearly 10 years ago.

“I got the opportunity to build a startup company within a regulated utility,” she said. “We started with about 40 people and are now at about 1,000. We started with $100 million per year in capital infrastructure projects and are now managing between $1.5 and $1.8 billion worth per year.

“All it took was a little resilience, persistence and the know-how to set goals.”