This academic year marks the 100th anniversary of women enrolling at the Driehaus College of Business. To commemorate this milestone, we cast a spotlight on successful alumnae who are making meaningful contributions in the world of business and leading the way for future graduates.
Currently the CEO and president of Hickory Farms, Diane Pearse (MBA ’86)
has witnessed a world of change for women employees and leaders during her
35-plus years in business. During her career, Pearse has helped shape
omnipresent brands such as Redbox DVD, BP Amoco and Crate & Barrel. In this
Q&A, Pearse discusses how pushing herself outside of her comfort zone has
led her to where she is today.
What is the path you
took to get where you are today, including what happened that was planned and
what was serendipitous?
The planned part of the path was choosing my educational field of study and the universities that I attended, as well as my first employer out of undergrad. The rest of the path was based on my philosophy in life and career. That philosophy is to have a constant hunger to learn and to push myself outside my comfort zone to feed that hunger and to grow. That also includes being much more afraid of boredom than being afraid of change. By taking this approach, many more opportunities and options were available.
I take a short-term view of planning, which focuses on gaining or honing specific skills. However, I have never really focused on longer-term career planning, as I believe it limits the possibilities. I honestly believe I am in the position I am today because I thought of my career more broadly and as a journey of constantly learning and taking risks to push myself outside of my comfort zone.
They say women lead differently. How do you lead, and can you share an anecdote about your leadership style?
As a generalization, yes, I believe women do lead differently. However, the traits of a good leader are the same no matter your gender. Good leaders need to be strong, smart, decisive and authentic. In addition, leaders today need to have a more caring and human side. It is okay to be vulnerable and willing to admit mistakes. I think women have an easier time showing this more human side.
Do you have any
advice for young women seeking to get where you are now?
Believe in yourself and your abilities. As women, we tend to
be our own worst critics and expect more perfection from ourselves than men do.
Women are often less willing to take risks unless they believe they have ALL
the skills and experience that a new role requires. Instead, focus on a
constant hunger to learn and take risks to push yourself outside of your
comfort zone, which will sometimes be before you are completely ready. Be much
more afraid of boredom than you are of change and challenge.
Read more about Pearse
and other DePaul business alumnae in Business Exchange, the alumni and friends magazine of the
Driehaus College of Business.
Learn more about the DePaul MBA