Our first edition of 2020 in the “Women in Leadership” series, we interviewed Linda Theisen, Vice President of Corporate Procurement at Hilton Corporation. Linda talks about how her path has been very spontaneous, leading to a very diverse career in many different industries. She emphasizes being open to possibilities and having faith in yourself to take the next step.
What is your current role and how long have you been in it?
I have been the Vice President of Corporate Procurement for Hilton Corporation in McLean, Virginia since July 2018.
What has your career path been to date? Was it planned steps or spontaneous?
My career path has been very spontaneous versus planned. I have an undergraduate degree in Package Engineering from Michigan State University which enabled me to land a job out of college with Ford Motor Company. While at Ford, I was able to transition from Packaging to Purchasing, which at the time I had very little knowledge. It was a nice fit however, between my technical abilities and my desire to be more involved with people. I worked at Ford for nearly 20 years and held many different roles including managing the procurement of direct vehicle parts, a system’s integration role, as well as leading the recruiting for the Procurement College Graduate program and an international assignment in the UK. Having a sound foundation from Ford I moved to a Tier 1 automotive supplier, Metaldyne, where I led both Procurement, Quality and Sales, and gained exposure to the world of private equity. After the shakeup of the economy in 2010, I was recruited to a startup company in California, electric car company, Fisker Automotive. This adventure lasted two years, but showed me how agile you need to be in a start up environment. It also was my path to move out of the automotive industry and into the consumer products industry where I was VP of Indirect Procurement for Mattel for six years. From Mattel I was recruited to the hospitality industry, where today I am the VP of Corporate Procurement for Hilton. When I look back, although not planned, the pieces of my career all fit together and were built from the blocks of both my education and on the job experience.
In your current ‘Act’- or stage in your career -what is the number one challenge you face?
My number one challenge is learning the nuances of the hospitality industry and determining how I can bring the learnings of my previous positions to my current role.
What does the phrase “women supporting women” mean to you?
Women supporting women means to reach out and have conversations and find where I connect with other women. Having been the ‘new person’ at a company I know how important it is to schedule coffee or lunch to get to know someone. For me in particular, collaborating with woman has benefited me much more than competing with them.
Do you now OR have you had a mentor? Are you a mentor? What have those experiences brought to you?
I had several mentors over my career. One in particular stands out. She was a senior female leader who took many of the up and coming female leaders under her wing. Her influence is with me today as I mentor others. I have found mentoring others allows me to give back by sharing my experience of having ‘been there, done that’ and hopefully impact my mentees to know their worth and unique talents they bring to leadership.
If you could give insights or advice to your ACT 1 self – what would it be?
Don’t doubt yourself or worry about being a fraud. Your education or experience may not seem the perfect fit for a job you are considering, but have faith in yourself and your ability to take that next step. Don’t change who you are but find a company that values what you bring. Finally, don’t plan your life…leave yourself open to see what possibilities are out there.
What insights would you like to give to the ACT I women just entering the workplace?
For ACT 1 women entering the workforce, I would say believe in yourself, ask questions, be curious, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of learning and growing. Take them seriously, own them and learn from them. Finally, pay attention to your workplace culture. Understanding a company’s culture and finding one that’s conducive to your success and happiness is key.