Martha S. Buffington 97MBA

Women in business are creating their own path, starting businesses, raising amazing families, leading academic institutions, and breaking through the C-suite ceiling. In this issue of Know Your Network, we celebrate Women’s History month by asking Emory alumni to share about the female trailblazers that impacted their course.

Martha S. Buffington 97MBA

Martha S. Buffington 97MBA
Chief Procurement Officer
Royal DSM
The Netherlands

In honor of women’s history month, share how a woman has positively impacted your world view and/or career.
The collective power of women working together always uplifts and informs my perspective. I was one of the founders of Coca-Cola’s women’s business resource group over 20 years ago. Today, I sponsor the group at my current company. Being a member and a leader of these groups has been a tremendous gift. I formed a shared bond and learned new skills while working with other women toward our shared passion of developing and advancing women in business. This experience has been pivotal in my career, and I hope more women continue to support each other and join in promoting diversity and creating an inclusive environment for everyone at work.

What is your definition of success?
I think it is important to have your own personal definition of success. Don’t measure your success using (outdated) traditional definitions like promotions and job titles. These things won’t make you happy. My definition of success has changed over the years. Now I feel successful professionally when I can make an impact on the strategy and results of the company overall and can create a ‘great place to work’ culture.

Is there a lasting lesson, memory or skill gained from business school that you particularly remember or credit your success to?
I still use the things I learned in statistics, negotiations, finance, economics and communications classes. Since business school, my focus has been on developing my leadership skills. Becoming a better leader is something you can learn, but it is a continuing journey. As you move up in an organization, it is even more important to have a true purpose in your leadership so you can be inspirational.

What advice do you have for today’s business students?
Have a ‘north star’ for your career to help guide your decisions along the way. Mine was working internationally and having global responsibility. Build your career through a series of diverse experiences, rather than specific roles, and that are aligned with your ‘north star.’ There is no one definition of success or path to get there, so figure out what is important to you and keep gathering experiences that move you in that direction.

What is a professional moment or accomplishment you are most proud of and why?
After 21 years at The Coca-Cola Company, I recently changed jobs and moved to a new company, a new industry, and a new country. I am CPO at Royal DSM, which is a global nutrition, health and sustainable living company headquartered in The Netherlands. The first year was harder than I expected, because it required quickly learning the business, building relationships, developing a team, and driving change in a new culture. Tackling such a big challenge successfully has given me confidence that I can continue to make an impact even in a totally new environment.

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