The 60-Second Interview with Deb Henretta

January 2012

Deb Henretta, Group President - Asia for Procter & Gamble, sat down with Farmer School student Marina Annunziata during a recent visit to Miami University.

Q: How can a student best prepare for a successful career?

A: The single biggest thing that people can do these days is to have a mindset of being a continual learner. Sometimes students get their degree and think "Great! I'm done!" My philosophy is that it's just the beginning - that a successful student will adopt an attitude of continual learning. The world is changing too quickly - you need to learn and explore and re-invent yourself to remain relevant and competitive.

Q: If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a professional career what would it be?

A: Pursue your passion. I believe that if you find work that you are passionate about - something that you really, really like to do - you will be successful. And it doesn't matter what position you're in or what industry: if you can find something that you're passionate about, you will make a big difference in what you do with that job. And if you find something you're passionate about, you'll approach it in a much more positive way.

I'm a big believer in looking at your glass as half full, not half empty. When you're passionate about something, it gets you through the obstacles and the setbacks. Passion is connected to persistence - it makes you more willing to take that extra step and try one more time. Some of my greatest successes happened when I was almost ready to throw in the towel.

Then, with that one last push, we were able to have a significant breakthrough.

Q: What qualities do you look for when hiring new employees?

A: First and foremost, I look for leadership: people who can have a vision for something, who can inspire other people to follow that vision, and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and implement plans to make that vision a marketplace reality.

I also look for change agents. I want people who are mavericks, people who can look at the status quo and find a new way, or a new approach, to doing something. The world we live in, the technology we use, and the way we do business is changing so fast - the people who will be successful in the future are people who are comfortable pushing and living with constant change.

Q: Who has influenced you the most?

A: My parents taught me several really important things that I carry with me to this day. The first thing is that if you want to be successful, you really have to put your mind and your time into it. Success doesn't happen overnight, it happens over time. It goes back to that old adage "practice makes perfect." When you're an athlete, nobody thinks twice about practicing to achieve athletic perfection. And yet, I think sometimes in other careers, people don't think about that aspect of practice. You can practice being a better leader by being open to feedback and then using that feedback to adjust. And then keep practicing!

The other thing my parents taught me was that success in life is not as much about what you're given at the start, but what you make of what you're given. You've got to use your time and talents to make the biggest difference you can with the talents you've been given.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I wish I had more time to read. Right now, I have a copy of Colin Powell's "Lessons on Leadership" that sits on my nightstand and I pick it up frequently. I find it really inspiring and I go back to it time and time again as a reminder when I feel I need to sharpen my own leadership skills.

This interview was conducted, written and edited by Marina Annunziata, a sophomore marketing major at the Farmer School of Business. She is also a member of Miami's Women in Business. The Farmer School's "60-Second Interview" is a series of short conversations between business leaders and Farmer School students about leadership and life.