Last month, making my rounds at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, I had the opportunity to sit down with Marty Thompson, president and ceo of Chirardelli Chocolate Co., and chat about his “Career Day” participation at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard.
Thompson, who had graduated from there in 1980, was asked to speak to juniors at the high school earlier this year about the sales profession. Having worked for a series of companies, including Procter & Gamble and the Clorox Co. before joining Ghiradelli and eventually ascending to the chief executive role, Thompson’s broad base of experiences was certainly worth sharing with today’s younger generation.
The former three-sport athlete — Thompson played basketball, baseball and football at Montini — thought it would be valuable to the students if he identified what traits Ghirardelli was looking for in candidates applying for positions at the San Francisco-based company.
“At Ghiradelli, we look for people who have leadership skills, can work collaboratively and can think strategically,” he told the group of 17-year-olds. It’s critical to discover who you are and what your values are, Thompson continued. In doing so, it becomes easier to find one’s career path. As the chief chocolate executive went on to explain, “great companies” also stay true to their values.
Now some of you may be asking how did I get wind of Thompson and his association with Montini high school, given the fact that most ceos like to keep their private life, well, private?
Thought you’d never ask. When Thompson discovered he was going to speak to the students, the ceo started preparing a presentation. In doing so, he discovered that two of his classmates, Bill Tumpane, and John Conversa worked in the confectionery industry.
What was even more amazing is that both were featured on the cover of Candy Industry magazine; Tumpane, plant director of Mars’ Chicago facility in the October 2009 issue and John Conversa, U.S. plant manager for Ferrara Pan Candy Co. in our July 2010 issue. Thompson, by the way, was featured on the May 2011 cover of the magazine.
An unbelievable coincidence, wouldn’t you say? Consequently, Thompson sent me an e-mail early this year seeing if I could provide him PDFs of his former classmates. Yes, I recognize that being on the cover of Candy Industry isn’t quite like being on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, but still impressive nonetheless.
So to cap this vignette off, that same weekend Thompson was inducted into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame. Watching the induction was his father, who also was a salesman.
Given how busy we all get in this industry, particularly when there’s a show such as the Sweets & Snacks Expo, I thought it would be good to take some time out and recognize how lucky we are to have such dynamic people in the industry. Understand that not all of them come from Montini. Still, it does one good to see individuals within our industry recognized, be it on the cover of Candy Industry or one’s high school. In Thompson’s case, he “lettered” twice. End result: It’s comforting to know our industry is in good hands.