“The act of creation is what I get excited about,” Valerie Toothman, Vice President for Innovation, US, at Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), told a packed room of students at the recent Olin Entrepreneurship Summit. Toothman, MBA’08, returned to campus to share her experience as an entrepreneurial innovator inside a global corporation.
Toothman has helped develop AB brands such as Budweiser Black Crown, Bud Light Platinum, and Bud Light Lime Lime-a-Rita. Her career in the beer industry began with an internship while she was an MBA student at Olin—a position that opened the door to her first post-MBA job as a Brand/Innovation Manager. She advanced to Innovation Director four years later, and has been VP of Innovation since 2015.
In her current position, Toothman is responsible for innovation in products, packaging, and graphics. She says cross discipline competence, collaboration skills, curiosity and a willingness to challenge the status quo are essential in her position.
In 2013, Toothman was named Anheuser-Busch InBev’s internal Marketer of the Year. She credits her Olin professors Sam Chun and Sergio Chayet for a strong foundation in the creative product development process. (She highly recommended Olin’s Power & Politics and Crisis Communication courses to the first year MBA students). Toothman was also honored as one of Olin’s Emerging Leaders in 2015.
Toothman’s interest in innovation also inspired her pre-AB InBev career as a biomedical engineer. “The biggest passion point for me is a natural curiosity for solving ambiguous problems,” she says, “whether in the realm of a medical device or of beer, whether that’s talking to surgeons and patients or brewmasters and beer consumers. I have an insatiable need to solve ambiguous problems.”
While tracing her career path, Toothman also shared some of the lessons she’s learned along the way with the packed classroom of current students. The slides from her presentation are below: