Memphis-based Monogram Foods has tapped a woman who joined the company in 2013 to fill a newly created position of chief information officer.
Having a female executive at a company like Monogram in charge of IT is something of a rarity, according to Joan Vanness, who was promoted to the new role after joining Monogram first as senior vice president for information technology.
She works out of the company’s Memphis support center in the Oak Court Office Building, and her responsibilities include everything involving the IT systems, from the equipment used to networks to the security of applications.
“I think there are a few reasons why it’s not common to see,” Vanness said about her new role at Monogram, a company that produces and distributes packaged meat products, snacks and appetizers. “First is just the percentage of females going into the IT business and going into technology is certainly a lot less than their male counterparts. I think that immediately cuts it down to make it an anomaly.”
She was promoted a few weeks ago to her new role and started her tenure overseeing the implementation of Monogram’s new business process management software. The Athena Project, as the implementation is referred to internally, will provide the company with more standardized processes and business sustainability as it continues to grow.
Since it started in 2005 by purchasing the former King Cotton and Circle B brands of meat products from Sara Lee Corp., Monogram has grown considerably through numerous acquisitions of meat brands and plants, many in the Midwest. It has made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies eight times.
Monogram said Vanness and her team will also continue to execute everyday IT operations and work to improve the efficiency at Monogram plants through an initiative that will collect data from manufacturing machines and use that data to improve other systems.
Before joining Monogram, Vanness worked in a variety of different IT roles for manufacturing companies.
She graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in electrical engineering, and held her first job as a systems engineer for DuPont in Nashville. She then moved on to General Electric as a senior programmer.
She later rejoined the DuPoint team in Nashville – after part of the company there got bought out – to redesign and update its hardware and software technology systems. A company called Daramic then recruited Vanness to move to France to be its chief project manager, overseeing implementation of its enterprise resource planning system there.
After that project was finished and running smoothly, Vanness joined Polymer Group as its vice president of IT. At the time, Polymer Group had 22 manufacturing facilities in seven different countries.
She came to Memphis about five years ago after having worked out of Barcelona, Spain, on a three-country project. She decided she wanted to move back to be closer to her parents who lived in Memphis, although Vanness herself never had.
She also worked at Wright Medical Group Inc. for about a year as a contract project manager before her first position at Monogram came open.
“Joan has built an IT department since joining Monogram that positions us for continued growth,” said Monogram CFO David Dunavant, who praised her “consistent and steady leadership at the executive level,” as well as her “professionalism and knowledge.”
Her advice for women considering roles in IT or even entering technology-related fields at all is to first and foremost have confidence in themselves.
“Get yourself out of the comfort zone and see what you can achieve,” she said. “I think it’s more than what people would set their sights on. And look for other points of view. There’s lots of ways to be successful, lots of ways to be right. And you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone to find some of those.”