By: Amy Timmes
Think Tic Tac mints in assorted colors and flavors, gold-wrapped Rocher hazelnut chocolates, and the ever-popular Nutella cocoa-hazelnut spread. Imagine working for a company that makes these tasty products! For confection-lover Stephanie (Gage) Ryskåsen, Stillman School of Business alumna (‘09/BS and ’17/MBA), it is a dream come true.
In her role as Planning Manager of Ferrero U.S.A., Inc., in Parsippany, NJ, Ryskåsen works with this global company, where she is responsible for leading a team on sales reporting and broker commission management for all internal and external stakeholders. A combination of finance and marketing backgrounds provided Ryskåsen with a unique opportunity to evolve into her current role.
It Started With Finance –
Her career started after graduating from Seton Hall University’s School of Business, with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Marketing (and a minor in Italian), when she worked with a small manufacturer of packaged goods in Florham Park, NJ, called Ciao Bella Gelato. As Manager of Sales and Promotion Financial Analysis, where she created and managed all systematic approaches to promotion accounting, budgeting, and production forecasting, Ryskåsen honed her skills. She credits her boss, Ciao Bella CFO, Raymond Bialick, who mentored her throughout her career, with helping her to become a cross-functional professional.
“He [Bialick] always took the time to clarify and teach me the concepts of financial analysis and forecasting,” Ryskåsen explains. “He encouraged me to network inside the company to create bonds in order to gain more insight into the business, which in turn, made me more valuable.” His mentoring led Ryskåsen to pursue her MBA while working for Ciao.
Drawn to Sales –
“When I decided to make a change,” she says, “I reflected on the parts of my job that I enjoyed the most. My favorite part of that job was the interaction with the Sales Team.” She explained that being on the finance side she felt that she was missing a whole “point of view” with the business. Ryskåsen then decided it was time to seek another opportunity.
In 2012, she applied for a Sales Operations Manager position with Ferrero. The Vice President of Sales, John Kennington, invited her to interview for his department; and the CFO invited her to interview for an opening in his department! They both offered her the respective jobs for which she interviewed. Kennington [VP-Sales] and the CFO “argued about who would get” her! Ryskåsen asked them to choose between themselves, as she did not want to start a new job with one of the company executives upset at her for choosing the other. Sales prevailed.
During the five years with Ferrero, Ryskåsen has earned her stripes as a leader and a team player while building a reputation for accepting challenges, even when they were outside the scope of her job description. Her work has clearly exceeded the expectations of Kennington who challenged her with new projects. She states with confidence, “I leveraged my value to achieve a position in a trade marketing role, which was completely different from my finance experience.”
Recognizing Stillman Influences –
Ryskåsen pays tribute to her Stillman background for providing “real-life experience” during her graduate studies. “Some of the faculty had this [real-life] background and it was obvious that they were passionate about what they were doing.” Additionally, she stated that attending classes with other working professionals gave her significant networking support.
Does she dream in chocolate? Or hazelnut? “Definitely hazelnut,” Ryskåsen explains. “As a kid, we used to visit family in Italy every summer, and my grandmother always had a jar of Nutella in the cabinet,” Ryskåsen recalls. “I used to sneak in and grab a spoonful!”
No more sneaking around in her grandmother’s house to satiate her taste buds. During the holidays, she reveals, Ferrero provides their employees with a giant red box containing all Ferrero products from Europe. Sweet!
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 24th print edition.