The Globally Inspired Leader: Nancy Pak TEE’11

By Adam Sylvain

02 May 2024


Columbia College, BA and Columbia Business School, MBA

Walden Local Meat Co.

Nancy Pak TEE’11 had spent several years in Bangkok, Thailand as a marketing director for the greater Asia division of Colgate-Palmolive when she was selected for Tuck Executive Education’s Global Leadership program

Unfolding over the course of an academic year, Global Leadership invites a consortium of non-competing companies to convene on campus in Hanover—as well as on-location in foreign markets like India and Kenya—where they engage in immersive learning experiences designed to prepare high-potential executives for senior leadership roles across the world.

Pak says the program had a dramatic impact on her growth as a business leader. 

“It was an amazing opportunity to reflect on some really key questions,” says Pak. “For example, how do you manage and adapt while working with people from different backgrounds and lived experiences? The program prepared me to harness the full power and capabilities of a team rather than focusing on individual contributions.”

While on campus, Pak and her Global Leadership colleagues received instruction from Tuck faculty, including Vijay “VG” Govindarajan, a world-renowned expert on strategy and innovation. They also traveled to India and China to learn on the ground about the diverse needs of consumers in rapidly developing economies. This knowledge was then applied to a team-based action learning project designed to address a timely business challenge impacting their company.  

For their project, Pak and her 12-person cohort from Colgate-Palmolive met with locals in the different countries they visited to gain a deeper understanding of how oral health care practices differ in global markets. The research they conducted was then used to advise senior leadership on strategies to educate consumers on the importance of establishing a daily oral health care routine.

In addition to helping her become better prepared to manage diverse teams, Pak says her Global Leadership experience also imparted critical lessons related to time management and delegation. 

“No one was taking a one-year sabbatical to participate—we all had full-time roles that we were responsible for alongside our project and all the research,” shares Pak. “It called into focus skills like time management, prioritization, and delegation. You recognize the things you really need to hold onto and what you can loosen your grip on to make time for learning and development.”

Following her time in the Global Leadership program, Pak continued as a regional marketing director in Thailand, and later Poland, before joining Colgate-Palmolive subsidiary Tom’s of Maine as general manager in 2015. The move fulfilled a growing desire to branch out and assume more responsibility for the end-to-end strategy and operations of a business.

Pak continued on that leadership path when she became CEO of Tate’s Bake Shop in 2020. Enticed by the challenge of learning a new industry as well as the company’s small size, family feel, and strong ties to its founder and legacy, Pak expertly fostered a proud culture during her time with the company.

In 2022, Pak was named CEO of Walden Local Meat Co., a community-based, direct-to-consumer share program that delivers local, farm-raised meat to members across the Northeast. In this latest stop on her journey, Pak says she was able to leverage all that she learned in larger organizations, and abroad, to help an earlier-stage company reach new heights. 

During her first year in the role, Pak was keenly focused on learning the business, primarily by networking and listening well. Although she had plenty of leadership experience to draw from, Pak says there is always more to learn. 

“Spending the first few months really listening to people brought clarity to the places I could contribute,” says Pak. “It made it easier to recognize how I could leverage my experience in marketing, sales, and team building to help a company that is very mission-oriented and driven by a desire to bring the highest quality, local, farm-raised meat to people’s doorsteps.”

Rather than jumping in and making fast changes, Pak strongly advises new CEOs to take the time to learn about the organization and its people—Who are they? Who’s in their family? What is their work style? What do they love about the company and what can be done better?

Pak also notes that for this particular role, CEOs may not be able to rely on the attributes that have worked for them in the past, and suggests taking on a new perspective. “Most of us spend a lot of years focused on individual contribution,” she says, “But as CEO, you really have to be focused on the team and how you can best coach, mentor, and lead people to create the greatest impact. It’s not your particular expertise or knowledge but being a connector of talent across the organization that is most important.”

On Staying Steadfast
“Staying steadfast is key, especially in moments of uncertainty. If you look and act panicked, you’re not doing what you should be doing to bring folks together and reassure them.”

On the Importance of Networking
“Your dream job, or something you want to do next, most often doesn’t just come knocking. You have to take the time to network and learn more about different industries and functions. Talk to people at different levels of an organization. You build a range of advocates this way.”

This story appeared in print in the winter 2024 issue of Tuck Today magazine. 

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