Meet Incoming Management Professor, Valerie Bell
Valerie has an extensive professional work history with experience as a senior executive in the areas of domestic and international business strategy development, new product development, commercialization, technology transfer and innovation experience, and in Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit groups, and as an Executive and Non-Executive Director. She’s the owner and CEO of Bell Alliances International of Mississauga, Ontario, an entrepreneurial consultancy firm executing international business projects for clients in North American and Asian health and life sciences and biotechnology sectors.
Tell us about your early years in business.
After getting my undergraduate degree and working with real patients, I discovered that I didn’t enjoy writing diets for people who had no interest in following them. I decided that I might be better suited to work in the marketing of food products. To do that, all the Fortune 500 firms wanted you to begin by working in their sales departments. So, I got a job as a sales representative for Kellogg’s and was responsible for major accounts all over Western and Northern Canada.
You then did a variety of marketing work, with companies like Coca-Cola and Mars, and established your own agency, and by 1995 you were working for H.J. Heinz.
I was given numerous leadership roles on the global teams at Heinz. I was asked to lead a six-week project in China that led to me being involved in the development of Heinz’s second (infant feeding) and third (Heinz sauces) joint ventures in the People’s Republic of China over the next two and a half years. During that time, I managed the introduction of those brands to No. 1 market positions.
Then my husband became ill, so I returned to Canada. I took a job as President and CEO of Canada’s largest natural health and organic products trade association and managed the largest regulatory change for dietary supplement products in Canadian history from a foods-based system to one that was drug-based. I led six international trade missions to Mexico, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the U.S., which tripled Canadian exports of dietary supplements and organic products.
How will you relate your professional experiences to your students?
These experiences and my many international connections allow me to not only accurately understand what businesses need to be successful internationally but to bring that learning into the classroom to help train a new generation of international managers. In today’s rapidly changing and complex economic atmosphere every business needs an international strategy.
What prompted you to return to academia?
I had always wanted to do graduate studies, but life always seemed to intervene. In 2009, I lost my husband quite suddenly. I decided that having accomplished so much in my professional career, I wanted to prioritize things that I had always wanted to do but just hadn’t been able to do previously. At the top of that list was returning to university.
When you’re not teaching, doing research or writing, what will you be doing?
I try to walk a minimum of 10 miles a day. My father was a senior manager who established many Canadian national parks, so I still try to spend as much time as possible bird watching and enjoying nature.
What attracted you to Merrimack College?
I love Boston and have many relatives in the area. It’s also a major biotech, pharmaceutical and medical research area, which is the focus of my research. I loved my undergraduate studies in a small college and wanted to work in a college of a similar size, where the quality of education was excellent, students make lasting friendships, and I could make a contribution to their learning and futures.