FOUNDED IN 1894 by Milton Hershey, an entrepreneur from rural Pennsylvania, the Hershey company has been making sweets for over 125 years.

What was once a local purveyor of caramel and cocoa powder is today a $33 billion company satisfying America's sweet tooth.

Michele Buck is a latest in a succession of chief executives to lead the company, and the fourth in the last 12 years.

Some of that turnover has been attributed to clashes between the chief executive and the Hershey Trust, which controls a majority of the company's voting stock and funds a kindergarten to Grade 12 boarding school for children from low-income families.

But since taking over the company in March 2017, Ms. Buck has proved herself an adept steward of Hershey. A native of rural Pennsylvania herself, she spent her career moving the ranks of the food industry.

During her tenure, the company's stock has risen more than 40 percent.

The interview which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted in New York City.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in south-central Pennsylvania, as did my parents. My mother grew up on a farm with indoor plumbing. My dad's parents dropped out out of school in seventh grade.

My dad was the first in his family to graduate from high school and he went on to college. He enlisted in the Army because he had to pay for his college. He ended up being an electrical engineer, and then even once he and my mom were married and we were little kids, he went back to get a master's degree at night.

He was really driven to break out of the mold and do something for himself and make it happen., and that was a really key influence on me.

I was raised understanding that you're going to have to work hard for what you want.

What did you study in college?

My first major was social welfare. I wanted to give back, work with people, have that positive impact.

Then I was an intern at half-way house for people who were transitioning back to society.

In doing that, what I realized was, wow, I like being around people, like working with people, but doing this every day would be so emotionally draining because I'm so attached. And I decided it wasn't the right career. So I switched to business.

What was your first job?

One of the notable things about me and my childhood was my desire to work. I started working when I was 10, and I worked constantly. I had a paper route first, then started babysitting. Then I waitressed, which I did off and on through college. I sold Avon door to door.

I wanted independence, and having a job was independence. It was about having money to be able to do things I wanted to do. And I was also about the learning.

I loved the experience of every different job, and what I learned doing it, both in the terms of work itself but also how working with people in each in each of those different environments made a difference.

Waitressing is the epitome of that. People have a bad experience, and how you handle it makes a world of difference.

What was your first job after school?

I was an assistant brand manager for Funyun onion rings. Munchos potato chips, Baken-Ets pork rinds.

Then I moved to Cheetos. I loved the work, loved the opportunity to go in and look at how you could really make a difference and seize opportunities and find something nobody had done in the business yet, whether it was a small brand or a big brand.

Then, when I first went to Kraft, I worked on yogurt, a very low margin business. I found the opportunity to create the first ever kids' yogurt, which was a creative, innovative thing at the time.

Then I had an opportunity to work on Cool Whip, which is a highly profitable business.

The question was : How do you sell more? I was able to create a fifth holiday for that brand that they still use today - the flag cake for July Fourth, which was a bog new opportunity that drove significant growth.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Great Achievers and Icons, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, David Gelles.


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