Annie Young-Scrivner

A Conversation with Annie Young-Scrivner

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Executive Spotlight is a forum where we sit down with some of the top leaders in their industries to leverage their wisdom on some of the important issues facing businesses today.

This issue’s guest is Annie Young-Scrivner, ’04 CEMBA and Chief Executive Officer of Godiva Chocolatier, Inc. She has more than 25 years of global leadership experience. Some of her previous roles include Global Chief Marketing Officer, Starbucks Coffee Company and President, Tazo Tea before leading the brand’s Canada business, and then returning to the U.S. as President of Teavana and EVP of Global Tea for Starbucks. She spent the last 18 months of her career at Starbucks leading global loyalty and digital for the company. Prior to Starbucks, she had a strong 20-year career with PepsiCo where she led organizations in marketing, sales, and general management.


Can you tell us a little about your MBA experience here and why you chose the Carlson School for your graduate program?


When I enrolled in the Carlson School, I had been enjoying my career with PepsiCo for nearly 10 years. I was incredibly fortunate to be with such a great portfolio of iconic brands and had benefited tremendously from on-the-job development, but I wanted to learn about other industries and business models. What did the business world look like outside of PepsiCo? What were other companies and leaders doing to win in their markets? And how could I take these learnings and apply them to my own personal growth?

Based on its reputation in the industry and the recommendations of my peers, I decided to apply to the Carlson School Executive MBA Program so that I could continue leading at PepsiCo while furthering my education. I began to reap the benefits immediately, taking what I learned in the classroom and applying it to the boardroom. I knew instantly that I made the right choice and consider it to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My experience at Carlson was greatly influenced by my class. I had the honor of attending the program with remarkably talented people who not only enhanced my MBA experience, but also became some of my dearest friends. We shared some poignant experiences as well as an incredible amount of fun that bonded us forever. I cherish the way we’ve enriched each other’s lives over the years and can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.


This issue of the magazine is themed around the school’s career centers. Can you comment on the value they bring to the educational experience?


Career centers are designed to help you determine how you can achieve your career ambitions. They’re a great resource for everyone, especially for those who are considering a career change or just joining the professional workforce. With so many options and directions to consider, having the career center to help you navigate your next step is invaluable. Be sure to make the time to get to know the talented staff and stop by regularly to discuss your vision for the future and how you’ll get there.


How would you explain to someone the importance of having a global identity?

Technology and new, ground-breaking innovation are bringing us increasingly closer together. Your sphere of influence and your personal brand will absolutely reach a global audience, regardless of whether or not your career takes you to different countries. Because our global economies, industries, and interests are all so interconnected, it’s more important now than ever to be aware of what’s happening around the world. I encourage you to leverage technology to stay up to date on world events and their implications. As an example, I use Google Alerts to stay abreast of news related to businesses, fields, countries, and people that are of interest to me. This supports my perpetual education about our world and helps to ensure that I have the right information to lead my global business effectively.



The Carlson School is currently in the midst of its $150 million Driven campaign. The school’s theme is “Business as a Force for Good.” What does this phrase mean to you personally?

I believe that businesses have an increasingly critical responsibility to leverage our scale, power, and talent for the greater good of the world. Businesses’ role within our communities has evolved from the transactional to one of community and environmental stewardship. I am a big believer in addressing society’s most pressing issues through collaboration between the private and public sectors.

Annie Young-Scrivner's group at Godiva

At Godiva, we have a long-standing and unwavering commitment to being a socially responsible company. This dedication to our communities has been at the heart of our brand since our inception back in 1926. We strive to enrich the lives of our customers, our people, and cocoa growing communities while supporting sustainable farming methods that enrich the planet. We collaborate with Save the Children to care for the children of cocoa farming communities by advocating for equitable health services and public health education in the region. We’ve also signed the Cocoa and Forests Initiative pledge to eliminate cocoa production in protected national forests and parks in the cocoa growing regions of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. We are updating our Global Supplier Code of Conduct to ensure that our ingredient suppliers across all of our commodities establish sourcing programs that combat deforestation and forest degradation. Collaborating, contributing, and generosity in this space are part of what makes our brand so powerful. It speaks to our culture and the spirit of our namesake, Lady Godiva, who embodied selflessness.


You yourself have been a speaker at various Carlson School alumni events. Why is it important for you to give back some of your time in this way?

I’ve always appreciated learning from our school’s alumni. I found their experiences to be extraordinarily complementary to the classroom learning. Now, as an alumna, it’s my time to give back to the school and connect with the students by sharing my experiences with them. It’s also very rewarding for me to engage with the young talent who are attending the Carlson School. I feel reenergized just by being around all of the future leaders!


What do business schools need to do to effectively prepare tomorrow’s workforce, particularly those in leadership roles?

As leaders, part of our job is to build an inspiring vision that others will follow. To do this, you must win people’s minds as well as their hearts. Great leaders communicate with authenticity and clarity and know that talent and capabilities development is one of their most important roles.Business schools can cultivate these characteristics in their students and prepare them for the future by providing real case studies and giving students an opportunity to manage through tough situations. It’s important to learn early on that leading during profitable or favorable times is one thing, but leading during challenging times requires great emotional strength, faith in yourself, and determination.


What do you consider are the defining characteristics of business leaders, especially at Godiva?

Godiva was founded by an entrepreneur more than 90 years ago and we take great pride in fostering this entrepreneurial approach across our business. Agility is also important to us since we must quickly pivot based on the changing needs of our customers in different parts of the world. Resiliency is another—the ability to stay focused on being the best consumer-centric chocolatier and bringing joy to our customers one day at a time. Also, having a collaborative mindset is critical. At Godiva, teamwork is part of our DNA and one of the reasons our people love coming to work. Finally, a generous spirit—treating our customers, employees, and the communities where we operate with love and kindness is vital to the leadership of our brand.


Annie Young-Scrivner and Godiva Employees

Finally, what words of wisdom would you give to someone just starting on their career path?

I immigrated to the United States from China when I was only seven years old. I didn’t speak one word of English when I arrived. With the support of so many wonderful people throughout my life, and by following these words of wisdom, I was able to become the CEO of an incredible global company.

1. DREAM BIG! Set your goals high and work hard towards them.

2. TAKE CALCULATED RISKS. Take on the toughest roles. Take chances on people and push them to fulfill their potential.

3. BE THE ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR. Understand your own strengths and weaknesses and build a team comprised of the best people who add their own unique value. I look for people who are smarter than me, or smarter in different ways, to shore-up my own weaknesses. Give your people clear direction, hold them accountable to their objectives, and allow them to shine!

4. DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and move on. Pick yourself up and be better the next time.

5. GIVE BACK. Support the communities where you live and work. Give back to the institutions and people who have supported you.

6. LOOK AT YOUR CAREER IN FIVE-YEAR INCREMENTS. Sit down with your leader to outline the skillsets and capabilities that you need to reach your five-year goal. And remember, most of your development will be on the job. To continue growing and developing, be sure that the roles you take will challenge you.


This article appeared in the Spring 2018 alumni magazine

In this issue, we explore how the Carlson School's Career Center is helping point the way from education to career.

Spring 2018 table of contents