Julie Hamilton is global chief customer and commercial leadership officer and senior vice president of The Coca-Cola Company. In this role, she works closely with and supports the company’s global customer partners while building commercial strategies and customer capabilities across the global system. Julie brings a deep appreciation and understanding of the company’s global customers and the strategies that must be executed in the market every day to ensure that the company’s customers, bottling partners and the company itself all thrive and grow.

Julie joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1996 and has held a variety of sales, marketing and operational positions including group vice president of the North America Walmart team, vice president of gobal customer eevelopment, group director for global on-premise customers, director of marketing in the North America Retail Division, group manager for the worldwide marketing partnership with Blockbuster, and brand development manager of still beverages.

Julie grew up in Italy, Seattle and St. Louis. She attended high school in LeMans, France, studied at Vanderbilt University and London’s Imperial College of Science & Economics and graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Currently, Julie serves on the boards of The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Network of Executive Women in Retail and Enactus. As a champion of women in business, she served as president of the Coca-Cola Women’s Forum from 2005-2007 and continues to mentors fellow associates and youth in the community.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

My parents shaped my values and work ethic. They set high expectations and held me accountable. Like all great parents they were also empathetic and supportive, and gave me the room to learn from mistakes. They always had my back and worked enormously hard to create an environment for my success. Their example has really helped define my management style. 

I also had the privilege of living in Italy as a child, attending high school in France and doing some college coursework in London. And I’ve lived all over the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest to the Southeast. This diversity of life and cultural experience really helped me at such a global and diverse company as Coca-Cola.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Coca Cola?

Prior to coming to Coke, I spent time in domestic and international sales at Anheuser-Busch. I learned a lot about the supply chain, distribution and retail complexities of the beverage business. I experienced the power of a lot of great people who were very committed to stewarding a very respected global brand and the importance of building relationships with retail customers. 

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Coca Cola?

I’ve had the great fortune of working on so many interesting aspects of our business, from helping manage key customer relationships to working on the Walmart account team to running the chairman’s office. While they’ve all been extraordinary experiences, there was nothing like the day-to-day challenges and exhilarations of working side by side with Muhtar Kent, our chairman and CEO. He is, without question, a brilliant and tireless force of nature. I learned more from Muhtar in that role as his executive assistant than I have in my entire career.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

First, take the initiative to learn all you can. Study the industry. Learn who the leaders are and where the opportunities lie for each of the major companies. Once you’ve done your own diligence, reach out and make contact through your own personal network or through broader industry networks. Be willing to do any job to get your foot in the door and never stop learning about the business. In October, I’m speaking at an event in London, run by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). The event, the Future Leaders Programme, has been established over 60 years and has top talent drawn from across the industry -- a real opportunity for rubbing shoulders and networking with both retailers and manufacturers in our industry.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

Relationships make the world go ‘round. Work on that skill. Refine it. Never lose it. And never, ever take it for granted.

Similarly, don’t forget to give back. Helping those who wish to follow your footsteps is hugely important. The CGF Future Leaders Programme gives me the opportunity to do just that, we share ideas together and I have the opportunity to help develop and mentor the next generation of leaders in this exciting industry, in fact I am able to learn from them too!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I am very deliberate in this regard. I know that personal renewal -- and taking time for myself -- is not only good for my physical and mental well-being, but it’s also critical to my job performance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Work, life and family issues are always going to challenge women just as they do men. I think the issues we see today are less gender-specific than they were a few generations ago. We all have to wrestle with balance, workload, career progression, continuous learning and all the issues that define the workplace of 2016 and beyond.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

It’s made a huge difference. It teaches you the art of being selfless and of giving back and creating a legacy. These are all important attributes for leadership and mentorship is a critical part of leadership development.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

There are just so many. Ones that immediately come to mind are Margaret Thatcher and her courageous resolve and commitment to her ideals, Condi Rice for her determination and ability to make any subject her own speciality, and Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company -- she’s a truly great leader. And then, of course, there were all the women leaders at Coca-Cola who came before me and opened so many doors and led the way.

What do you want Coca Cola to accomplish in the next year?

To keep leading the way as a business that is relentlessly focused on its retail customers, as well as the consumers who invite us into their lives nearly 2 billion times a day.

 

This interview was originally published by The Huffington Post.

Follow Laura Dunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauraemilyd