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Advocating for women in business

Chantel Adams

Chantel Adams’ career in consumer marketing has taken her from Ohio to California, Illinois, Massachusetts and back to California.

But two connections never loosen across the miles: Her strong ties to UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Forté Foundation. The common thread is her advocacy for women in business.

Adams (MBA ’14) is senior manager in consumer marketing for Align Technology, the global medical device company that makes Invisalign clear aligners, in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It’s an exciting time to be in the field and work at an innovative company where I get to help shape the way consumers view the product,” she says.

She’s particularly excited about the new Invisalign First Clear Aligners, which treats growing children so they don’t have to wait until they are older to start addressing orthodontic issues. This resonates with Adams, who had to wear braces twice and have jaw surgery at age 21.

Adams leads the digital, social media and PR efforts to reach the decision makers – mothers. “Moms make decisions for their kids and across categories. Kids have a big say in purchasing decisions, providing more input than ever before because of the internet and social media. They always had ‘nagging power’ in the grocery store, but now teens suggest products for their mothers to purchase – it’s a different consumer journey where the nagging power is even more powerful.”

The Brooklyn native has a track record as a consumer product goods manager at top food-and-beverage companies. Her MBA summer internship was at Nestlé USA’s prepared foods division, working on the Stouffer’s Brand, in Solon, Ohio, and she joined the firm after graduation as a seasonal marketing associate in Glendale, California.

Her next roles were at Kraft Heinz Company as a senior associate brand manager in Chicago, and brand manager in global innovation at Ocean Spray Cranberries in Boston.

Throughout her career she’s almost always ended up working with a UNC Kenan-Flagler graduate from the MBA or Undergraduate Business Programs. She worked with Jennifer Shamshoian (MBA ’09) – who she recently ran into at Vidcon in Anaheim – at Ocean Spray Cranberries, and works with Katie Zimmerman (MBA ’12), based in Raleigh, on the teen business at Align Technology.

Finding a community

Adams, who had studied finance at Simmons College, worked at Moody’s Investors Service at Geller & Company before she decided to earn her MBA. While her quantitative abilities impressed her supervisors, they encouraged her to consider a career that also used her strong interpersonal communication skills.

“Business school was a way for me to figure out how best to package myself, leverage all of my skills and assets, and find a career that I really enjoyed,” she says.

The culture at UNC Kenan-Flagler attracted Adams to the full-time MBA Program. Students act like teammates instead of competitors, and small classes and the close-knit environment foster engaging class discussions and forge strong social bonds between students, she says. Even when vying for the same positions, she and her classmates prepared for interviews together and cheered each other on.

“Going into business school I thought it was going to be much more of a shark tank,” she says. “The collaborative culture is something that is very unique to UNC Kenan-Flagler.”

And that collaboration extends to tapping into the talents and perspectives of the diverse student body. “Everyone’s so receptive to the diversity that you bring to the table – be it gender, ability, interests, age, sexual orientation or race – people are so open to that,” says Adams. “UNC Kenan-Flagler is about inclusion.”

She concentrated in marketing and sustainable enterprise. Her professors told her to never stop learning and she’s grateful. No one could have anticipated how dramatically marketing would change in the digital age, she says. “The first job out of the MBA program gets your foot in the door but you have to keep sharpening your skills and knowledge.”

Her academic regret: She didn’t take a supply-chain course. Knowing more about how to take a concept to a tangible product would have informed her marketing strategies earlier in her career.

Adams engaged deeply in the School’s community. She served as president of Carolina Women in Business (CWIB) and changed the timing of its annual conference so prospective students could attend it before they applied to UNC Kenan-Flagler. Attendance increased more than 60 percent.

She was a team leader on a Dean’s Fellows women’s initiative to increase the number of female students at UNC Kenan-Flagler; a Forté Fellow (she had joined the organization a few years before she attended business school), a Consortium fellow and liaison, and an MBA Ambassador.

Advocating for women in business

Forté – a non-profit alliance of women, universities and corporations – honored Adams with its Edie Hunt Inspiration Award in 2014 based on her contributions to her school or community to advance women into business leadership positions.

Forté continues to provide both a network and platform for Adams’ advocacy, and she’s paying it forward, mentoring young women about earning their MBAs and pursuing careers in business.

She also is active in Ellevate, founded by Sallie Krawcheck (AB ’87), who hinted at the organization’s creation when she spoke at the 2013 CWIB conference. She participated in an Ellevate Squad mastermind group in 2018, meeting women from different fields to share ideas and fresh perspectives about the next stages in their careers.

Adams stays involved with UNC Kenan-Flagler, representing the School at admission events and tapping the alumni network. “Our alumni are responsive wherever you are.”

“UNC Kenan-Flagler definitely lives its mission of creating leaders for the greater good,” she said. “We have a number of opportunities to put our business knowledge and skills to work, and also give back to the community around us.”

9.11.2019