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General Mills: Getting the Support to Make a Career Switch


For nearly 18 years, Sean Burress has worked for General Mills in a variety of areas including information systems, brand marketing, and now consumer insights. With a degree in computer science, he began his career at the firm as an intern in 1992. “What I really enjoyed was the idea of rotating,” Burress recalls. “Our information systems department allows new hires to rotate through a variety of positions supporting different businesses.”

But after 10 years in IS, Burress developed an interest in marketing and wanted more management responsibility. He pursued an M.B.A. part time at the University of St. Thomas, in Minnesota, with 100% financial support from the company. “I wanted to be at the table when business decisions were made,” says Burress. “That’s what drove me into marketing.”

Today, the 37-year-old consumer insights manager, whose team researches consumer behavior and applies strategic insights to retail partners, credits his advancement opportunities to several factors, including support from the company’s African American affinity group called the Black Champions Network, of which he is a former president. The affinity group focuses on areas of retention, development, recruiting, and mentoring, the latter of which, Burress says, is very much part of the company culture. “If you are here and have been retained, there’s someone who reached out to you,” he offers. There is also the individual development program, a yearly exercise in which all employees formally detail development goals as well as a plan to fulfill them with support from their managers. “Through the development program, you have the opportunity to expose your passions and skills,” Burress explains. “General Mills has an environment where you are constantly trying to make yourself better by learning and developing.”

Aetna: Finding the Right Opportunity


When Chekesha Kidd decided to switch industries–moving from finance to healthcare–she says that Aetna Chairman and CEO Ron Williams and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Elease Wright strongly appealed to her sense of how to conduct business. “When I came in for interviews, the culture of the company was overwhelming,” remembers Kidd. “‘The Aetna Way’ is something that Ron brought to fruition in terms of how he wanted his company to be run with ethics and integrity.”

A former director within the investment banking department and a healthcare equity research analyst covering medical device companies at UBS Investment Bank, Kidd joined Aetna as a director within the company’s Corporate Development team, where she was responsible for identifying, negotiating, and executing transactions for the company’s global business units. But within just a year, the 33-year-old was promoted to the position of chief of staff and head of business development for the Local

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