What made you want to begin a career working in the bakery industry?
I was born into the industry but didn’t think I would work with the bakery. When I was younger, our business was much smaller and neighborhood to regionally focused. I went to law school with a very “law and order” mentality and assumed I would practice law full time. However, as the relationship between my dad and his siblings became more apparent and as our business grew and opportunities arose for me to contribute my skills and expertise, the reality of working in the bakery industry became very real and desirable.
What challenges did you face starting out in your career?
The greatest challenge was and remains that I am not a baker so sometimes the nuts and bolts (or yeast and flour) of the operations does not always make sense to me. I understand the business, customer and relationship sides of the industry well and have learned to appreciate the talents of those in the test kitchen and R&D departments!
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the bakery industry and how did you overcome them?
I think the obstacles I faced as a woman are similar to any industry and not specifically baking. First, I was 10 years older than the first male born in my generation of a family business and nearly 16 years older than the youngest male of my generation. I feel like internally our succession planning was on hold until all the men made it to the table and only then was the generation ahead of us ready to discuss the future. In a way, that stalled my career for at least a decade but during that time I was able to balance having a family and career more than I would have been had I committed prematurely to the business. Additionally, in the process of having my family I experienced 2 totally bedridden pregnancies which few people understood or tolerated, especially because it was just prior to smart phones, easy internet access and portable laptop computers!
How long have you worked in the bakery industry?
I started working in our own bakery when I was 9 years old. I have performed all types of different functions, including retail sales, packaging, receptionist, administrative assistant, etc. and now serve as VP Legal.
What is your career highlight?
In my role as VP Legal, I work closely with the American Bakers Association and have had the opportunity to lobby on behalf of industry concerns and issues on Capitol Hill. Every time I meet with a Senator or Congressperson I think that meeting is the highlight of my career!
If you could make one change to the bakery industry, what would that be and why?
This question hits home personally. As someone who struggled with weight most of my life the ONE change I would love to see in the bakery industry (and food industry overall) is portion packaging. I think most of us suffer from portion distortion and consumers take for granted that a singularly packaged item like a muffin, donut, roll, etc. is a single serving. Many are torn between taste (i.e., keep eating it) and waste (throw out the excess) and few have the discipline to save any extra. As manufacturers we are constantly challenged to keep up with health concerns and dietary preferences (e.g., clean labels, gmo free products, etc.) so I believe a responsibility toward appropriate portions is not unreasonable.
What does your job entail?
I oversee all things “legal” in the office which may include labor and employment compliance, concerns and litigation, contracts, real estate acquisitions and dispositions, estate planning, financial document oversight, trademark enforcement/protection, etc. My job is literally different every day and most of the time what I intend to accomplish in a day is thwarted by some unexpected new issue that takes precedence.
What advice would you give to young people looking to get into the bakery industry?
My first advice is to try as many things as you can within the industry; therefore take a summer job, accept an internship, apply for entry level positions that might not be what you want to do long term but will give you a broad understanding of the business. Additionally, EXPERIMENT!! Try things at home and make mistakes so that you will recognize when you’ve done something right. Educate yourself from many resources including food networks, cook books, text books, school (high school & college) and job experience. Most importantly, get into the network – attend professional meetings, join baking organizations, exchange business cards (and follow up!!) with professionals and explore social media. Do not assume a stereotype … every opportunity is different and our products, processes and industry are always changing. Think of and respect baking for the professional career it is!
What are your hobbies and interests?
I am a regionally and nationally competitive ballroom dancer. I also teach group fitness dance classes.
Who is your role model and why?
My role model is my grandfather, Mariano Turano. He was a WWII POW survivor who returned to his family and home in Italy post war and recognized the challenges and obstacles that lay ahead for his family, notwithstanding the individual comfort and security he may have been guaranteed. He had incredible foresight and courage to bring his family to the USA and literally re-start his life when most men his age were already considering how close they could be to retirement. He began a business at 50 years old. He set a precedent that all customers are worth our time and taught us the importance and relevance of relationship building. Finally, he knew that if he could build something for his family that the family would be able to continue to develop it and provide opportunities for generations to come.
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
I try to do this with my favorite people (family, friends, colleagues) all of the time! However, if we are talking “pie in the sky”, I would love to invite the kids from elementary and high school that made me challenge my own self esteem and worth just to prove “I did it” and turned out pretty ok!
If you could switch places with one other people, who would it be and why?
It would be pretty swanky to come back as one of my own kids and have my parents as grandparents!
What is your favourite bakery event and why?
I really enjoy my Human Resource and Legal committee meetings with the ABA best because they are topic specific and helpful to what I am juggling professionally while also being intimate enough for effective networking and relationship building.
If you could choose to only eat one bakery product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Bread – any type, any kind, any where, etc.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you have learnt from your career, what would it be?
One mistake does not define you so focus on everything you do right.
How would you define success?
Success is a self measured barre. I think it is defined by being confident in what you are doing.
What would say that your proudest moment has been in your career?
My family and my career are so intertwined and blended that sometimes it is hard to tell one from the other so I have to say that my proudest moment of my career to date has been celebrating the 50 year milestone in business in 2012 and applauding my grandfather, my dad and uncles, not to mention our employees, vendors and customers for the support over literally my lifetime!
What was your big break, and how did you reach it?
One of my big breaks was the Smart Phone because I am able to work from wherever I am so people know they can depend on a response from me, even if that response is “I’ll get back to you tomorrow!”