Elizabeth Adefioye is the senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Ingredion. She is responsible for all global human resources functions, including talent acquisition, leadership development, compensation and benefits, as well as diversity and inclusion. In 2016, she joined Ingredion as vice president of human resources for North America. Prior to Ingredion, she served in HR leadership roles at Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a Johnson and Johnson Company), Novartis Consumer Health, Medtronic, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Throughout her career, she has been focused on attracting and developing people to create high-performing organizations. Having lived and worked all over the world, she has the ability to build and lead teams especially within companies experiencing significant transformations.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Without a doubt, my family has shaped me into the person I have become today. My father led by example and when I was growing up, he emphasized the importance of being helpful to others by giving back and leading a life of service. The values that my father instilled in me early on are what I live by today. I’ve also had the opportunity to live and work in countries across different cultures, which helped hone a global mindset by broadening my perspectives. As an HR professional, this was a beneficial part of my career development. Differences need to be embraced in the workplace, as diversity of thought leads to the very best outcomes. I have experienced firsthand how this can be a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked in many Fortune 500 organizations that have global and diverse workforces. I have always enjoyed a challenge as I want to make an impact and am comfortable stepping outside my comfort zone. Opportunities to lead HR in different parts of the world have provided me with firsthand appreciation of the power of differences and how this can be harnessed for business outcomes as well as growth on a personal level.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
I feel fortunate to be leading HR for a company at this moment in time. . Given the pace of change in the marketplace, the need for speed and agility is critically important as Ingredion continues to transform its business. I have always had an intellectual curiosity and often want to stay one step ahead at all times. Coming into this position created a unique challenge as well as an opportunity to help shape the next chapter in our growth story. Leading transformational change such as the development of an overarching purpose for the company and contemporizing our 20 year old values is truly an honor while evolving our culture to one that acts with speed and agility so that we can innovate boldly to co-create value for our customers. It’s an exciting time for our company and we have an opportunity to lead tremendous change that delivers growth. Ingredion’s CEO Jim Zallie shares my passion for talent, as a strategic competitive advantage and that our culture, in particular a diverse and inclusive culture, where everyone belongs, will most definitely differentiate us from our competitors.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Rapid and substantial shifts in consumer preferences are causing seismic shifts in the food industry as well as among our customers. This is prompting an even greater emphasis on growth in specialty ingredients that serve on-trend formulation needs, such as reducing sugar. The need for diversity of experience and perspectives is greater now than ever for us to be able to get to that novel idea or innovation that address our customers and consumers’ needs. While this is not exclusive to our industry, female leaders who are bold in thinking and not afraid to demonstrate courage of their conviction will do well in a very dynamic and rapidly changing work environment. Beyond academic excellence, my advice is that women who are looking to advance their careers into an industry like ours should build a solid network that they can tap into for ongoing learning and development. Cultivating a growth mindset is critical in this fast paced environment – one that pushes you to continuously learn. It was John F. Kennedy that once said “Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other.” I could not agree more. I believe in the power of learning and constantly pushing myself. I am proud to work for a company that plays a big part in the future of women in manufacturing by supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, all of which are extremely important in developing future leaders.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
First and foremost, is to find your purpose in life. When you know what your true north is, then ensure you are able to align your passion with your purpose, which in my mind helps you to realize your potential. I call it the 3Ps! It is critically important for you to enjoy what you do and the contribution you are making. In my early career, I have found myself in situations, where I did not have my own voice or was too afraid to speak up for fear of not wanting to stand out or go against the grain. Now, I have gained the confidence to be bold, stand out and make a difference. I encourage women to always speak their truth. Your insights and expertise are valuable and matter. It’s important to always remember this.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Striking a healthy work-life balance (I prefer to call it integration) is a difficult challenge even at the best of times, but the key is being good at prioritizing and juggling. I’m a wife and mom of three and I have found that my life is fulfilled by having lots of avenues to contribute my skills, passions and talents. Whether it be coaching a youth on career choices, helping my children figure out how and when to take that next important leap in their life or career or spearheading an important initiative for the organization or my community, I’ve always been at my best when managing a full workload and balancing what comes my way. Sometimes work will be more demanding and there will be times where family needs to be a main focus. Most importantly, surround yourself with a network of people you can rely on when the going gets tough.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I am fortunate to work for an organization that is serious about the issue of diversity and inclusion and is making great strides in ensuring that we create an environment where women thrive. It is important for women to have strong role models and mentors, both men and women, who can advocate and support them.. In my case, it has had a profound impact on my career. Early on in my career, I had a boss that challenged me with stretch assignments. At the time, I didn’t realize she was grooming me for the future and testing my abilities to set me up for success. As I look back on those times, I am appreciative and thankful to have had someone looking out for me and developing my skillset.
How can we encourage more women to start their own business?
Have a passion and follow your heart. We all see great success stories with companies from humble beginnings and drive, determination and hard work are essential ingredients for starting out in business. We now have several role models who have paved the way for others whether it be in a corporate environment or as a female entrepreneur. The key is to have the drive and resiliency to forge through all the challenges and obstacles that will come your way. These are the muscles you need to build your own business.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has played a big role in shaping me into the individual I have become today. It’s critically important to have formal and informal mentors who come from backgrounds with diverse life and work experiences that can be a sounding board for you to help navigate, share, and empathize to help you find your voice and passion. As executive sponsor of the Women of Ingredion Network (WIN), I fully appreciate the importance of creating that safe place for women to share experiences and learn from each other. We share wins, support each other, and learn and grow. I’ve also participated in a group called Menttium and found their organization to be a terrific mentoring resource.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have found great inspiration from many different female leaders, including Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg to Malala Yousafzai. They all uniquely have a strong determination and have demonstrated that words can have immense power and a significant impact on those who listen.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
I’ve been in my current role at Ingredion since March of 2018 and I want to step up our efforts by focusing on our team coming together in new and different ways. The company is transforming and HR is playing an instrumental role in this transformation. I say to my team that there has never been a greater time to be in HR within Ingredion. We are fortunate to lead such a bold agenda as we evolve our culture and sustain business success for future generations. I’m excited about what the future holds.
What are the top tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
Dream big, have ambitions and establish goals you believe in. Set a plan that forces you to learn and discover. A curious mind supports continuous learning. Don’t be afraid of failure, which can lead to some amazing discoveries. Connect your work to your purpose and work hard. In the end, it will be worth it.