Photo of Shilpa Gadhok
Photograph courtesy Shilpa Gadhok

A Workday With Shilpa Gadhok

As a brand manager for the Hershey Company, Gadhok cooks up innovative marketing and creative campaigns for the much-loved confectioner.

Shilpa Gadhok, ’13, is a strategic brand builder. Blending creative ideas with analytics, she has amplified the reach of Hershey brands and revitalized its iconic Kit Kat bar. When Chance the Rapper sang his own spin on Kit Kat’s famous jingle, Gadhok was behind that. Now the brand manager of barkThins, a craft snacking chocolate that Hershey recently acquired, she relishes the challenge of creating an appetite for a new product category. “I’m at a point where I know what I love and what I want to do, so I try to be intentional about myself and my career at every moment,” said Gadhok, who moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, last summer.

7:30 AM Alarm goes off. I grab my phone, check Facebook, and scan emails. Competitor data just came in, which I’ll use to finalize a top-priority analytics dashboard that will help identify trends in the barkThins sales and velocity data. The report will not only feed our media and marketing strategy, but also help Hershey’s leadership make more-informed decisions as they look to grow the other craft brands in our portfolio.

8:45 AM Once I’m at the office, I’m eager to plow through as many emails as I can before my first meeting. So I opt for a protein bar for breakfast with coffee (strong, with almond milk and liquid stevia).

Photo of Barkthins Now the brand manager of barkThins snacking chocolate, Gadhok was named to AdAge's 40 under 40 list for her work on the iconic Kit Kat brand.

10 AM The barkThins brand team meets to discuss our priorities for the week. Each of us brings different passions and areas of expertise, but we work together extremely well. There are no egos here. I feel lucky to work alongside people who are so open, receptive to collaboration, and just genuinely good people with whom I can be myself.

11 AM I take a call with our external creative agency. We run through a few action items to finalize the first major barkThins campaign, which is nearly ready to launch.

NOON Lunch is my time to eat and cull through analytics. This is foundational to successful brand strategy. For example, if I see that specific SKUs or items are lagging on velocity and it is important to the business that these items succeed in market, I know to feature them in my creative to help generate demand, or develop other in-store promotional strategies to drive sell-through.

1 PM Touch base with our media agency to approve any optimizations to our media buys or targeting strategies, then head upstairs to discuss the barkThins brand book with in-house Hershey designers. It sets the standards for how the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice should come to life on packaging and creative materials.

I’ve been a solo dancer all my life, so I’m naturally used to taking the lead. It’s valuable—and pretty challenging for me—to learn how to follow.

Shilpa Gadhok

2:15 PM Solo work time. I head to the atrium with my laptop. The comfy couches and natural light make for the perfect place to decompress and work through things on my own.

3 PM Time for a one-on-one with our barkThins assistant brand manager. One of the fundamentals to brand management I’m trying to impart is helping her ask the “right” questions to get to the core of the business challenge. I learned the value of this at Booth through rigorous debate in our classrooms. What’s at the heart of the issue and what evidence do you have to support your viewpoint? Mastering this skill will serve her well along every stage of her career. Helping ABMs build up their tool kit for success makes managing and mentoring one of my favorite parts of my job.

4:30 PM Back to my desk to work on that competitive-analysis report. A handout from professor James Schrager’s New Venture Strategy class hangs at my desk. One quote especially rings true right now: “First mover is not a strategy; it can either hurt or help you. You must understand and predict your competitors’ strategy as well as your own. Never forget it’s a chess game. The other side gets to move.” BarkThins is a first mover and a category disruptor, and much of my day-to-day is combating a growing list of competitors and imitators.

Photo of a shoe After work, it's off to ballroom-dancing class, says Gadhok.

6 PM Off to private ballroom-dancing lessons. It’s so much fun! I’ve been a solo dancer all my life, so I’m naturally used to taking the lead. It’s valuable—and pretty challenging for me—to learn how to follow. We’re practicing the waltz. I’m intensely focused as I think about the steps.

7 PM Tonight I’m cooking up chicken and fresh veggies from last weekend’s trip to the farmer’s market.

7:30 PM I’m really close with my family. Every night I FaceTime my 1-year-old niece right before her bedtime and we sing songs together. Then I call my parents to hear about their day.

8:30 PM Watch a few episodes of either Madam Secretary or cooking shows, which I’m a big fan of. Chopped and Top Chef are a couple of favorites.

—As told to Betsy Mikel