We are honored to recognize Monica Ganley this month for the Females in Food Member Spotlight. Her international career journey from CPG to owning her own company is nothing short of inspiring. In this short Q&A Monica opens up about how her career journey, lessons learned, and how she is serving the dairy industry in Latin America today.
Q. Tell us about your current role/company.
A. Currently, I am the Principal of Quarterra Consulting and Advisory. Quarterra is a boutique strategy consultancy that helps food and agriculture businesses understand and capitalize on opportunities in Latin American markets. I decided to found the consultancy about five years ago after identifying a gap in the market. While consultants are plentiful, there didn’t seem to be many that were focused exclusively on Latin America and even fewer that could leverage a cross cultural fluency to build bridges with this specific region. Each of our engagements is unique, but our clients are most often interested in our help to execute market studies, perform investment analyses, and facilitate market visits.
Q. How did you decide on a career in the food industry? What has your career path entailed?
A. I have been passionate about the food and agriculture industry for most of my life. When I was younger, I was very involved in 4H, raising livestock and participating in judging competitions up to the national level. Like many other animal lovers, I had originally wanted to be a veterinarian. However, when I began studying at Cornell University I was introduced to agricultural economics. I loved the idea of looking at food and agriculture from a quantitative angle, and ultimately received my Bachelors in that field.
After Cornell I had my first foray into the dairy industry when, thanks to an introduction from my professor, I received the opportunity to work at Leprino Foods as a Dairy Economist. At Leprino Foods I had the privilege of working with many smart and talented people and picked up what would become a passion for the dairy sector which persists until today.
Following several years at Leprino Foods I decided to go back to school to get my MBA at the University of Chicago. During that time, I completed a summer strategy internship with MillerCoors that gave me a taste of the Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) world. After completing my MBA, I decided to take a geographical leap and I accepted a role in Corporate Finance with PepsiCo Foods in Buenos Aires and moved to Argentina.
I worked on organizational design and capital expenditure projects with PepsiCo for a few years before deciding that I wanted to pursue a long-held dream of mine to strike out on my own. In 2015 I founded Quarterra and have been working on developing the consultancy ever since.
Q. What accomplishments are you the most proud of?
A. I am most proud of having had the conviction to take the plunge and found Quarterra when I did. Though I had long hoped to one day be my own boss, I always expected it to happen much further down my career path. But fate pays little heed to our own timetables, and I arrived at an inflection point in my career where working for myself would allow me to pursue some personal and professional objectives. There were a million reasons to put off the decision to go solo, but I am proud that I had enough self-belief to give it a shot and go after something that I really wanted.
Q. What are your areas of expertise for Females in Food members to connect with you on?
A. I love networking and meeting new people so I would be enthusiastic to connect with other members of the Females in Food community. Geographically speaking, I spend most of my time working on Latin America so if any members want to speak about the region, I would love to engage. Though the majority of my work is within the dairy industry, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of other sectors as well.
I am also happy to share more details about my experience moving abroad and starting my own consultancy if that could be interesting to other members.
Q. What do you enjoy doing most in your free time?
A. I am an avid horsewoman and amateur polo player which is part of the reason I was particularly drawn to Argentina, the polo capital of the world. I keep a string of ponies here in Buenos Aires and play as often as I can. If you want to see me at my happiest, come find me at the barn. Besides my horses I also love to travel and have used my time during quarantine this year to expand my cooking skills.
Q. What advice would you give your younger self? Or What advice do you have for those who are just coming into the food industry?
A. When we are young, I think it is easy to believe that there are only a finite number of career paths, when in reality the options for having meaningful professional experiences are endless. I would tell my younger self to recognize the value of traditional careers but not be shy about designing a life that works for me, even if it is not traditional or linear. Also, maybe finish paying off your student loans before striking out on your own. 😉 One of the reasons that I love the food industry is that I find people are exceptionally willing to lend a hand to those who are just starting out. For those people just coming into the industry I would encourage them to fully take advantage of this unique characteristic of the sector. In my experience, people are often more than happy to have a coffee or a zoom chat to share their experiences and see how they can help you.