Tuck Voices: Women in Leadership—Part 3
Kim Schaller may have shattered the glass ceiling at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, the famed chocolate maker’s sister company that operates the 11-roller coaster Hersheypark and a number of other hospitality and entertainment businesses. The first woman on the executive committee of the 86-year-old Hershey, Penn.-based company, she’s modest about her accomplishments. “It’s been an amazing run,” she says. “I love my job. I love the brands and the products and the people.”
With a background in marketing, Schaller came to the Tuck Executive Program (TEP) last year with more than a bit of anxiety about learning quantitative subjects like finance and accounting. Tuck’s atmosphere gave her the space she wanted to dig in and tackle the gaps in her knowledge. One year later, Schaller shared her thoughts on the myth of the superwoman and bolstering your career through executive education.
Q: How did you become an executive at an entertainment and hospitality company?
A: I went to Penn State and got a degree in advertising in 1980 and started as a receptionist at an advertising agency making $9,000 a year.
Eventually I worked my way up to be a director at the agency and then was recruited by Hershey Entertainment and Resorts to do marketing. I’ve been with the company a total of 25 years. I was the first woman and first marketer on the executive committee and now I’m its longest serving member.
I’d say to anyone, if you’re not loving what you do, make a change. You spend way too much time at work not to be somewhere you’re not engaged and contributing.
Q: How did you balance career and family?
Schaller: I have a daughter who is 22 now. My husband was a stay at home dad that pretty much ran everything around the household. He coached her sports teams and took her to orthodontist appointments.
I was lucky in that I worked for an organization that supported my family. This job enabled me to bring her along sometimes when I’d have a meeting at Hershey Park and I’d say, ‘come wait for me and afterwards we can ride the roller coaster.’ When she was younger I would leave at 2:30 pm a couple days a week to run the concession stand for her basketball team, but Hershey knew I would be in checking email that night at 8:30.
Still, I’d say this about the idea of the superwoman: there’s no such thing. You cannot have it all, or maybe you can have it all but not at the same time. You can’t focus on your kids, your work and your relationship all at the same time. Sometimes you’ve got to give yourself a break and let some balls fall.
Q: Why did you come to TEP?
Schaller: My boss (CEO, Bill Simpson, TEP ‘ 09), came into my office and said ‘I have an opportunity for you.’ He had an amazing experience during his three weeks at TEP and said it changed him as an executive leader. The finance part of it scared me to death. I’m a career marketer and I’m fully aware of what I’m good and bad at and finance is not my strong suit.
Q. How did you get over your apprehension?
The amount of support you get from the time you are even considering coming to when you actually get to Tuck really is amazing. The environment at Tuck is unbelievably conducive to learning. If I was New York or Boston I would have been distracted. At TEP I would go back and read the case studies and be doing the homework until 11 or 12 at night. Tuck faculty not only focused on us completely in the classroom, but they had breakfast with us and lunch with us and drinks with us and dinner with us, so you can get offline with them and have conversations around concepts you didn’t understand or want to know more about. The peer learning was also hugely supportive. During the three weeks we built an amazing amount of trust in our study groups.
At the end of TEP I had such a great sense of accomplishment, I thought ‘oh gosh, I can hang with anybody.’
Q: How did your TEP experience shape you as a leader?
Schaller: I found the 360-degree leadership assessment to be really powerful.great. I realized it’s not only about learning business skills. It’s also about looking inward, looking at yourself. One of the things my 360 feedback it highlighted was that I’m really obedient—and I think as a general statement women tend to be more obedient than men do. I came away with a list of ten things I want to work towards over the long run. It’s a challenge to stay focused on these given the day-to-day demands of business, but I’m a work in progress.
Name: Kim Schaller
Title: Executive Vice President, Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co., began at Hershey in 1985.
Career History: Hershey Entertainment and Resorts; Space Center Houston, Visitors’ Center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in advertising, Penn State University
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Penn.
Video: Women Leaders