Joann Lublin writes, "You won’t get ahead in mid-career unless you’re ready to put your career on the line.
Many executive women I met made their marks midway through their careers by tackling risky roles, especially ones that involved a 'mission impossible.' Taking this gutsy approach wasn’t always easy, as Liz Smith, chief executive of Bloomin’ Brands, the casual dining chain, found out firsthand.
By the 1990s, Smith was in her thirties and already on the fast track at Kraft Foods Inc. The giant food company had promoted Smith to senior product manager of its popular Jell-O products, and she assumed that she would soon advance to business director of a big Kraft brand.
Jell-O was part of the company’s desserts division, which was then led by Irene Rosenfeld, the current head of Mondelez International, manufacturer of Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, and other products. In the fall of 1996, Rosenfeld summoned Smith to her corner office at divisional headquarters in White Plains, New York. Kraft had acquired Callard & Bowser, a tiny distributor of Altoids mints. The 250-year-old breath mint was imported from Wales and sold in distinctive tins. A colorful, older Englishman ran the distributorship from Elmsford, a short drive from White Plains."