Celebrating Women Leaders at Kerry


By successfully navigating the challenges of COVID-19, these women are keeping employees safe and the global food supply chain running smoothly

Success through adversity comes from having the right team members in place. Looking back at the past year, it’s clear that Kerry did. Despite COVID-19-related challenges, our people achieved new levels of creativity, innovation and connection, helping ensure our customers remained operational and consumers stayed nourished. Courage and resilience were in abundance, from our front-line manufacturing workers and scientists to our safety and supply chain specialists.

In a time that required leadership that was both intelligent and empathetic, our women leaders prevailed. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we recognize the extraordinary efforts of the following 12 women and salute all of our colleagues around the globe who, day after day, continue to give their best. As we move forward, we are committed to building an inclusive and more gender-balanced workplace that nurtures talent and fosters the next generation of leaders.

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Deirdre Smyth

Deirdre Smyth

Vice President of Global RDA Integrated Technology Systems | Naas, Ireland 

Nominated for: Encouraging emerging scientists and maximising innovation

Although the past year marked Deirdre’s twentieth with Kerry, it was anything but typical. Normal business processes were upended, project plans were at times jeopardized and customers faced rapidly changing consumer preferences. Yet, despite the challenges, 2020 was defined by the way she and her team responded with innovative solutions and new levels of creativity, ranging from bringing a first-of-its-kind plant-based technology to the marketplace to the development of an unrivaled innovation pipeline. 

Part of this success was due to new ways of working. When they couldn’t collaborate as usual, Deirdre and her team found new ways to meet with one another and with colleagues throughout the business that ultimately deepened their connections across the team and across the other functions they collaborated with. When faced with tough timelines, they changed tack and came up with new plans that sometimes even resulted in early delivery. But also contributing the year’s wins was Deirdre’s focus on developing the next generation of scientists, including those early in their careers with Kerry as well as the students she inspired during Naas’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science event.

Deirdre’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
In the coming year, I look forward to working with my colleagues across integrated technology innovation, taste and applied health and nutrition to drive innovation globally and bring exciting customer launches to our end use markets throughout the Kerry regions. I am delighted to represent RD&A on the leadership team of the Kerry Technology & Excellence program, where I’ll get to work alongside subject matter experts across the globe, building a community of practice in our technology areas and futureproofing these technologies for generations to come.

Ratchadawan (Por) Chutpathumthong

Ratchadawan (Por) Chutpathumthong

Quality Lead Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia | Bangkok, Thailand 

Nominated for: Ensuring quality standards were met and processes were improved

As Kerry prioritized keeping our people safe during COVID-19, our focus on food quality and safety remained unwavering. With the world rattled by the growing global crisis, Por and her team knew it was essential that we continue to deliver trusted food and beverage solutions and products to our customers and, ultimately, to consumers. In Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, where Por helps to oversee the quality of our manufacturing work, she was able to successfully guide and support operational activities throughout 2020 to ensure high standards and business continuity.

Resiliency and the ability to adapt to new ways or work and life was a prevailing theme for Por, who was also balancing her responsibilities as a new mother in 2020. To better manage her team and, in some cases, support remote teams virtually, she helped to create a new process for sharing direction from leadership that better propelled action on the production floor. By remaining open-minded and flexible, Por was able to lead in a changing landscape and challenge the status quo to better align our systems with new global and local government requirements and suggestions.

Por’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
The pandemic is not yet over, but there is optimism as the vaccine begins to roll out. In the meantime, the spirit of teamwork, open-mindedness, flexibility, adaptability and the ability to remain nimble are key to remaining a resilient organization. This year I will continue to keep challenging status quo and I encourage my team to do so, as well. I’m also committed to building a strong foundation of food safety and quality awareness across our company.

Luciana Di Lelo

Luciana Di Lelo

Coordinator of Health, Safety and Environment, Brazil | Campinas, Brazil

Nominated for: Improving safety and sustainability across Latin America

Building a culture of safety and reinforcing our value of “Safety First” has never been more important. To help Kerry’s Latin Americas sites prepare for and respond to COVID-19, Luciana was brought onto the Brazil sub-region’s crisis committee, which had a goal of helping protect local employees as the pandemic spread. In addition to keeping people safe and allowing the business to remain operational, Luciana was able to review other challenges in the area and implement region-wide improvements.

The regional safety audits and trainings she conducted led to measurable results. The local accident indicator was reduced by 53%, ensuring a safer environment for employees, contracted providers, visitors and customers, and local sites also met goals related to reducing risk in operations, making facilities safer and preventing loss of assets. With Luciana’s guidance, performance was standardized across the region, and environmental indicators were improved too, helping to guarantee a brighter future for the next generations. 

Luciana’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
This past year reinforced the concept that together we are stronger, and we go further. In the coming year I will work to maintain team engagement, reduce our safety events indicator and make the work environment safer and healthier. My focus will be on the safe behavior of all our employees, contractors, visitors and customers and on evolving our environmental approach toward Zero Waste to Landfill in two plants in Brazil.

Vivien Sheehan 

Vivien Sheehan 

Global Vice President RD&A, Applied Health & Nutrition | Beloit, WI, USA

Nominated for: Fast action in response to rapidly changing customer needs

When a large QSR customer came to Kerry with an unusual and urgent request—for vast quantities of hand sanitizer at the outset of COVID-19—Vivien immediately assembled a cross-functional team, providing the leadership and structure needed to facilitate agile decision making. The collaborative effort successfully navigated unfamiliar regulatory requirements and commissioned a new product line, quickly delivering thousands of gallons of business-critical hand sanitizer to the company. With this new capability, Kerry also donated hand sanitizer to first responders and schools.

This wasn’t the only pivot for Vivien this past year. She also focused on evolving how we operate technically through the activation of Preservation Central and the mobilization of a global fermentation science team. Have experts lead specialist tasks is key to furthering our innovation aspirations to deliver differentiating technologies. Vivien also found herself playing a more active customer-facing role, creating a video on food safety for the prestigious Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference and producing a webinar with the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute on reducing food waste. These efforts and more enabled Vivien to communicate the value of our industry leading approach and promote our capabilities to customers and consumers.  

Vivien’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
My most important focus for the year ahead is continuing to challenge myself to be a more impactful leader. Supporting my team to reach their career ambitions, providing them platforms to ensure visibility to the great work ongoing and unblocking hurdles to enable technical success and innovation is a personal priority. I’m also committed to attracting and retaining top talent. I recently diversified my approach to securing talent by presenting at an Irish Bord Bia/Smurfit webinar on ‘Audacious Innovation’ with the intention of enhancing Kerry’s reputation among key talent as they search for employment opportunities.  

Hasmiza Hashim

Hasmiza Hashim

Supply Chain Director, SEA | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 

Nominated for: Bringing flexibility and resiliency to the supply chain group

For Hasmiza, joining Kerry in March of last year, just two days before the lockdown period began in Malaysia, was a true opportunity to hit the ground running. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented supply chain challenges globally, and a lot of learning was done in real-time. Hasmiza and her team had to immediately increase transparency and agility in order to ensure business continuity, including maintaining close communication with partners in and out of Kerry.

Amongst the challenges faced by Hasmiza and her colleagues were pandemic-related workforce capacity restrictions as well as rapidly changing customer demand, which increased risk of having both too little or too much inventory. Thanks to their successful problem solving and dedication, the team maintained an on time in full performance of 96.5% and were recognized by our global business partners for their work above and beyond expectations.

Hasmiza’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
This year I’m partnering with HR to promote wellbeing and create a positive working environment. I also want to strengthen our partnership with commercial leaders and customers, including through the adoption of more data technologies and analysis. Finally, I’m committed to helping create a greener supply chain. With sustainability recognized as one of the key pillars at Kerry, it is important analyze the whole chain, from purchasing material to manufacturing, distribution and end of life management. 

Sarah Murphy

Sarah Murphy

Director of Continuous Improvement for North America (formerly General Manager of Kerry Foods Shillelagh) | Beloit, Wisconsin 

 Nominated for: Keeping essential workers safe and connected

On Friday, 13 March, 2020, Sarah received news that two colleagues from the site she led in Shillelagh, Ireland, had tested positive for COVID-19. These were the first two cases for Kerry Group globally, so Sarah, the central team and her team in Shillelagh wrote the script as they went. Over the coming hours and days, they worked together to ensure all colleagues were informed and kept safe. Because COVID-19 was very new and there was understandably a lot of fear, the team ensured that they called each of the site’s 750 people over that first weekend.  

As the playbooks were developed and updated, Sarah and her team continually improved their procedures, staying focused on their first priority—to keep everyone safe—as well as their commitment as essential workers to produce quality products for the food industry. While Sarah helped lead the charge, she maintains that it was the group effort that allowed the site to accomplish so much.  

Sarah’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
In December of 2020, I had the opportunity to move to a new role in Taste & Nutrition and to relocate from from Wicklow, Ireland, to Chicago, in North America. Part of my role is leading the deployment of plant transformation in North America which involves standardizing how we operate across all of our plants so this year I will learn about the region’s business while keeping people at the forefront of everything I do.     

Therese O’Rourke

Therese O’Rourke

Chief Technology Officer, Europe & Russia | Naas, Ireland

Nominated for: Inspiring creativity and innovation amongst the R&D team

While much of the world was in lockdown, Therese and the team of food scientists and technologists she oversees kept showing up to work. As essential workers, they were recognised for their important role in maintaining the global food supply chain and, as the pandemic continued, their responsive product innovations brought some much desired comfort, novelty and health to people stuck at home.

To collaborate while following stringent safety guidelines, the work took equal measures of courage and creativity. Therese helped her team to innovate and adapt, such as supporting customers on new opportunities through virtual tasting sessions and virtual scale-up trials at Kerry facilities. Throughout it all, the team stayed connected and actually reported higher engagement than in 2019, thanks largely to the focus on teamwork, camaraderie and innovation, despite the challenges.

Therese’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
In 2021 I choose to challenge by being actively involved in our Inclusion, Diversity & Belonging work. I am really excited to be the business sponsor of the External Partnerships & Community Relationships workstream to achieve our inclusive workplace goal, including ensuring we have the external partnerships and accreditations in place to support us on the journey. One goal is to increase to increase female representation in senior leadership roles to 35% by 2025.   

Aleisha Jaeger

Aleisha Jaeger

Director of Project Engineering | Chicago, IL, USA  

Nominated for: Leading Kerry’s largest strategic site investment and renovation

In 2020, Aleisha’s primary objective was to lead a strategic $125M renovation and expansion of an existing Kerry manufacturing site in Rome, GA, USA, to increase food safety, quality and growth opportunities. It is the largest engineering project in Kerry Group history, and came with the added challenge of needing to implement these improvements while maintaining operations during a global pandemic.  

Aleisha and her team navigated COVID-19 safety protocols amongst over 300 contractors by creating a detailed phasing plan and early and regular communication with the core plant team. They carried out mock COVID-19 drills to prepare the site and contractors and implemented tracking and tracing logs for everyone at site, reducing tracing timeframes in the event of an incident. With the help of technology including drones and GoPro cameras, they were able to share project milestones with global stakeholders via virtual tours and factory inspections. Despite the many obstacles faced by Aleisha and the whole team, the project remains on target and on schedule.  

Aleisha’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
As the project moves into commissioning this year, a key focus for me is results through people.  I see this project size, scale, complexity, team and technology as an amazing opportunity to provide Kerry team members across all disciplines with experiences that will help them build skills and achieve their development goals. Additionally, a core deliverable in my role is to test, improve and recreate ways of working that can be carried over from this project to others. In the comings months, I’ll continue to capture successful approaches and lessons learned throughout the project to improve the repeatability for future projects. 


Walaa Moustafa

Walaa Moustafa

Research & Development Manager | Dubai, United Arab Emirates  

Nominated for: Bringing responsive insights and innovations to customers

On a typical day, Walaa and her team help keep the business competitive by providing technical insights, developing new products and improving existing ones. When COVID-19 began to spread, she quickly recognized just how quickly the world—and the food and beverage industry—was changing. As a result, the technical and commercial team began to monitor market dynamics even more closely, keeping an eye out for innovation opportunities for their customers. 

Despite the strain of lockdowns, curfews, and limited lab time, Walaa and her team increased the number of the proactive projects they managed and brought an impressive number of new innovations and ideas to customers. They found new ways to communicate with customer team members and were able to virtually recreate key customer experiences, such as tasting sessions. And, critically, they helped customers warm to promising innovations, something that can be hard to embrace during periods of uncertainty and rapid change.  

Walaa’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
In 2021, I will transfer the year’s challenges into opportunities for growth by thinking quickly, offering market solutions, keeping focused and being proactive and reactive in my approach. This past year forced us to adapt and rethink our normal way of doing business, and some of the new strategies and ways of thinking will likely be with us for the long haul.    


Carolina Quiros

Carolina Quiros

Customer Care Lead, CACAR | San Jose, Costa Rica

Nominated for: Improving customer service and leading through transition

As Carolina transitioned the customer care team to full-time home offices at the start of COVID-19, she focused on keeping employees safe and running the department without interruption. A number of complex challenges arose, such as the need to partner with the often unreliable local phone system to ensure customer calls were routed to the correct care team members. Still, she helped lead a mostly seamless transition, and the team not only adapted to new ways of working but also found ways to thrive. 

By turning her problem-solving approach to both new challenges and existing process gaps, Carolina helped rewrite the workflow for mostly virtual business dealings, such as onboarding new business acquisitions. Working remotely enhanced the need for closer communication with all of the internal teams customer care partnered with. This added visibility helped the team find ways to increase companywide efficiencies, identifying opportunities across the business then implementing new platforms and workflows in response to the new work conditions. All the while, customer service remained a top priority, and the team achieved the best on time in full ranking in the region in 2020. 

Carolina’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
This year I will continue to help build and promote a more positive work environment. We have the new challenge of implementing customer care in our business acquisitions, but our recent experiences will help guide us through a smooth implementation for our people and our customers. I´m also very excited to work with the business terms project, which will allow me to learn more about the workings of all plants across the region.   


Genice Daniels

Genice Daniels

Human Resources Director, Food EUM & Taste | Chicago Area, IL, USA 

Nominated for: Improving outcomes and employee relations at manufacturing sites

At the start of COVID-19, Kerry created careful operational playbooks to keep employees safe. In the instances in which a manufacturing team member in the U.S. or Canada did test positive, Genice helped manage and learn from the situations, with the goal of protecting individuals and enhancing protocols. To do so, she partnered closely with team members in site human resources, operations, quality, health and safety functions to gain insight and improve company-wide practices.   

Although much of this work was done virtually, the experience built a new level of resilience within Genice’s team and reaffirmed they’re strongest when closely aligned. The focus on teamwork played out in other projects Genice helped manage in 2020, such as connecting directly with site-based employees through social media and text to ensure all voices were heard. Seeing a need, she also created a framework for a virtual training series on employee relations which is currently being expanded upon with the intention of building the capabilities of our operation managers. 

Genice’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
My challenge in 2021 is to stay courageous and agile and to not fear failure as long as I am learning. I seek to show even more care for our employees to bring higher levels of engagement, spend more time reflecting and lead in a manner that enables those around me to accomplish things we have never done before—very exciting in my view! What a pleasure and privilege to be a part of Kerry during these transformational times. 

Natalia Leon

Natalia Leon

Chief Technology Officer, Latin America | San Jose, Costa Rica 

Nominated for: Onboarding a new team with creativity and connection

In 2020, Natalia took on two important new responsibilities: serving as business lead in the acquisition of an important company in Guatemala, and welcoming her second child, who was born at the beginning of the pandemic. Natalia’s skill for nurturing trust and relationships was put to use in both scenarios. In her work with Kerry, the global interruption in travel made in-person meetings with new employees an impossibility. Rather than feel stymied, she saw an opportunity to rethink how we create meaningful connections, inspire engagement and support cultural change.

While working from home, Natalia invested in the new team members, taking the time to learn about them and sharing her own experience of joining Kerry through a previous acquisition. By connecting on personal and professional levels, the new team was quickly welcomed and supported by the existing one, easing the typical growing pains that can come with adopting new workflows and processes. This thoughtful approach helped highlight Natalia’s ability to adapt to change and to lead through creativity, intelligence and connection and helped create a seamless transition for the new business.   

Natalia’s “choose to challenge” commitment for 2021:  
2021 brings another important challenge for me as new CTO for LATAM. One of my main focuses will be to understand the needs in the region and help build an even stronger team by unlocking all the potential that we have within RDA.  I have always liked this phrase from Sheryl Sandberg: “If you´re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on”. So this is what I am doing—fastening my seatbelt and beginning a new journey and looking forward to being a close leader to my team and the necessities of the business.  

To learn more about partnering with Kerry on your next project, contact us. To find out about joining our growing team, visit Kerry Careers.

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