Home » Profile: Meet Melissa Fulmore-Hardwick With Acosta

Profile: Meet Melissa Fulmore-Hardwick With Acosta

Acosta

The Shelby Report and The Grocery Group together present this series, People to Watch, to focus on current and future leadership in the grocery industry. In this installment, The Grocery Group Founder and CEO Cindy Sorensen interviews Melissa Fulmore-Hardwick, VP of IT enterprise applications for Acosta.

Tell me a little bit about you and what do you like to do with your time away from the office?

During my free time, I am working on a nonprofit that encourages young girls to explore and expand their abilities beyond what society dictates. I am dedicated to empowering and educating girls to feel more confident, competent and connected.

This is not only a nonprofit but a movement. We focus on enlightening girls through leadership, education and positive identity development. We also offer a component of this program that focuses on introducing girls and young women to STEM careers. 

Please provide a brief description of Acosta.

Acosta is the sales and marketing powerhouse behind most of the trusted brands seen in stores every day. The company provides a range of outsourced sales, marketing and retail merchandising services to thousands of brands throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. 

For 90 years, Acosta has led the industry in helping consumer-packaged goods companies move products off shelves and into shoppers’ baskets across all channels of distribution. For more information, please visit www.acosta.com.

Acosta offers a truly integrated approach that engages shoppers at every point along the path to purchase and ensures that our clients’ products are strategically positioned to most effectively convert shoppers at the shelf. We also offer support services for back-office order-to-cash processes that help our clients drive innovation and achieve cost savings. 

Through subsidiaries, including Mosaic Sales Solutions and ActionLink, Acosta offers clients access to an expanded set of marketing, experiential, sales solutions, digital, public relations and social media options.

What is your role at Acosta? Responsibilities?

As VP of IT enterprise applications, I orchestrate planning, design and architecture of enterprise back-office platforms for Acosta’s more than 26,000 employees. I oversee the technology portfolio of more than $40 million and a team of directors over enterprise resource planning, sales force support, project management, developers and contractors. 

I steer innovation and delivery of cloud strategy, software development tools, technology integration and agile development projects. I collaborate with executive partners and business leaders on development projects.

What was your career path to this position? 

I started off as an accountant using an ERP system and became a subject matter expert on the tool. Having an undergraduate degree in accounting, IT was never in my career plans. But I found myself enjoying building a tool that will help the business. 

This quickly launched me into a BA role and male-dominated leadership roles implementing enterprise applications. So my journey has been amazing as I grew from a practitioner in this space to a leader in IT. 

It’s not about where you start, as I was open to new opportunities and raised my hand when others didn’t. 

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for workforce and leadership development within the grocery industry?

There are many opportunities in this industry, so being open minded and agile could lead to an amazing career in grocery. 

Any leadership and training development is vital to a business for growth. It’s important that we bring the best out in our associates and give them all the proper resources and tools available where they can best utilize their strengths. 

This industry is changing rapidly, so being able to develop in-house talent and ensure that there is diversity in leadership is critically important. This has been a relatively male-dominated industry and now we see far more women in executive roles. I think this will contribute highly to the overall success of the grocery business. 

In what ways does Acosta focus on developing future leadership? Tell me a little more about that.

Acosta has a leadership development program that is available to both internal and external candidates. We are excited about investing in our people and creating influential future leaders for our organization through this important program. 

We look to current leaders to build up our teams and strengthen the leadership pipeline. We look across our teams to identify employees who are prepared for an exciting challenge resulting in better knowledge of Acosta’s retail, business intelligence and sales functions.  

Do you personally play a role in helping to develop/coach/mentor future leadership in the industry…either internally or externally?

Absolutely. I spend a great deal of time working to develop girls and young women especially, both inside of Acosta and in the community. Often times, it’s about giving someone an opportunity that they may not have otherwise gotten for whatever reason. 

I believe most people want to be better but may not know how to go about seeking a mentor in the field they would like to enter. So I am an advocate for these people and often daydream about how to help advance the careers of young, underserved children and families.

Did you utilize or participate in any mentoring/coaching experiences as you developed your career?

Yes, I had mentors, sponsors and leaders who believed in me, and I did not want to disappoint them. So I asked questions, studied their leadership styles and was always eager to learn. In some instances, these people didn’t even know that I considered them a mentor. To this day, I still find relationships that can help me grow. 

What advice do you have for college students and young professionals looking at the grocery industry as one where they can build a career?

CPG-grocery retail is a fast-paced, growing industry. Before coming to work with Acosta, I had no idea of what all the grocery industry entailed. 

It’s more than just walking in my local grocery stores and seeing people stock shelves. There are careers full of endless opportunities.

What pieces of advice did you receive as you built your career to this point, which you found most helpful? 

Show up in your authentic self. It’s OK to be passionate. Raise your hand for new opportunities. Always give back.

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