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Pung Speaker Series: Applying a growth mindset in business

By Vivian Tran, student writer
Monday, December 19, 2022

Jennifer Holahan (MBA ’05), vice president of Haleon’s U.S. Wellness Division, served as the guest speaker for the final installment of the fall 2022 Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series. Joined by an audience of Full-Time MBA students, she presented on the fundamental components of business development and managing personal career changes.

“While I’m a marketer at heart, I’ve spent a lot of time assessing, pursuing, living through and leading integrations for over 30 targets and assets,” Holahan said. “I’ve been part of it in one way, shape or form. It’s becoming more and more of what I do.”

Holahan has spent over 20 years building her career across retail, consumer packaged goods and consumer health care at firms such as Target Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and GSK. Holahan also serves as an executive committee and board member for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, where she supports advancements within the dietary supplement industry.

Today at Haleon — currently the largest consumer health company in the world — Holahan’s role consists of being the general manager and marketing VP for household wellness brands such as Centrum, Emergen-C, ChapStick and Abreva. Part of leading these brands includes cross-functional collaboration with customer sales, innovation, supply chain and research and development, and these are exciting components of her responsibilities. Business development is also playing a role as well, as Haleon explores opportunities for growth.

“Part of the reason they continue to feed a lot of the business development my way is because I’ve had diverse experience, not just in marketing and leading a P&L, but in sales — I understand the operational side of it, having led that piece. In strategy, I led the digital strategy piece, so I understand the changing dynamics,” she said. “Diversification in my career has been very beneficial and opened up a lot of doors.”

With hands-on experience in acquisitions and integrations, Holahan discussed the stages that occur when a firm is assessing opportunities to see if they strategically align with their business, including opportunity identification, nonconfidential evaluation, business case and initial due diligence, confirmatory due diligence, agreement and execution/integration.

“We take a look at what we believe the business will be worth under our management. There are two places we look at in the valuation: top-line growth and synergy cost efficiency,” Holahan shared. “There are benefits top-line we can bring to the table. As a big company, we have access to all the big retailers and great relationships with them. We may be able to get distribution that [the smaller business] couldn’t get. As a big company, we have contracted rates with our manufacturing partners, so are there cost of goods synergies we could bring to the table? We have partnerships with media agencies, so could we purchase media for cheaper? Those all get factored into our valuation.”

“Think of your career as a series of sprints through a marathon versus a straight sprint to the top.”

As with the Pung Series speakers before her, Holahan shared career advice with the MBA students. She displaying a quote from Charles Darwin on her presentation slides that connected perfectly with her discussion: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Using her own career as the perfect case study for this, Holahan discussed how she has navigated various transformations with companies, including joint ventures and spinoffs. Holahan also noted how the marketing landscape is evolving as consumers’ habits have changed with social media platforms such as TikTok. She emphasized how valuable it is to embrace all kinds of challenges and to approach opportunities with a growth mindset.

“As you think about your careers, don’t always look for the straight path up. We talk a lot in our organization about lattice moves versus the ladder. Those lattice moves where you can take a new experience will pay off in the long run,” she explained. “Think of your career as a series of sprints through a marathon versus a straight sprint to the top. You will always learn in those roles.”

Although Broad Spartans may never fully know where their career will take them, alumni like Holahan serve as a stellar example of how the Broad MBA can pave numerous roads to success.

More information on upcoming events in the 2022–23 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available at the Full-Time MBA program page.

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