It’s amazing that I’ve been able to change industries and functions after spending my whole career in restaurants and finance.
During her 23 years participating in the Miami Business School Mentor Program, Sherry Ulsh (MBA ’83) has urged dozens of students and young professionals to build and nurture their networks. Following that advice helped her land a position at The Hershey Company as part of its indirect sourcing organization. She heard about the position after connecting with the company through a former colleague. “How that happened was entirely about networking,” says Ulsh, who has actively participated in women’s leadership councils and professional associations throughout her career. “I reached out to a woman who had worked for me and gone on to work at a national advertising trade association, and she put me in touch with an executive at Hershey.” Ulsh’s position has recently been expanded to lead the marketing procurement group for the US and Canada.
At the time she made that call to a former colleague, Ulsh was senior director of operations and marketing finance at Church’s Chicken in Atlanta, having spent her entire 33-year career in the restaurant industry. That trajectory began when she landed a job in Miami-based Burger King’s finance department just after graduating from the school. Thrilled at the chance to stay in Miami working in finance at a top company, Ulsh climbed the ranks in Burger King’s finance division, leaving only briefly for a stint as a consultant. While she was serving as director of global marketing finance and procurement, Burger King was acquired by the private equity firm, 3G Capital. Ulsh left one year later for an opportunity in Atlanta.
“I moved to Atlanta and went to work with Church’s Chicken, where there were quite a few Burger King alumni,” Ulsh recounts, noting that joining a mid-size regional player after being with a huge international company for so long was a big change. “At a smaller company, you can make a greater impact than you can at a larger company,” Ulsh explains. “But there are more opportunities at larger companies, and bigger budgets for continuous learning and professional development.”
After four years at Church’s, Ulsh was ready for a change – and a job at Hershey would also bring her back to her home state of Pennsylvania. “I wanted to be closer to my parents,” she says, noting that she was also intrigued by the opportunity to try something different. “It’s amazing that I’ve been able to change industries and functions after spending my entire career in the restaurant industry and in the finance function. Hershey actually liked that I came from a different industry because I had a different perspective and had also worked with marketers for a very long time – and they wanted someone who really understood how to do that.”
Ulsh is picking up new skills related to the consumer product goods industry, including handling procurement for shopper and customer marketing. Her previous experience and robust network paved the way for a smooth transition. “I had a good knowledge base, a strong understanding of marketing and procurement, a broad network of agency and marketer connections and robust relationships at key trade associations – everything else could be taught,” she says.