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Career spotlight: Katharine Newby Grant (1996)

Posted on May 22

5 min read

Career Events & News

Katharine Newby Grant (née Joy) (1996) is Vice President of Brand Organisation & Beauty Care at Proctor & Gamble. She has over 20 years’ experience in global marketing and brand building and has held many leadership positions at P&G. During her career Katharine has been named among Campaign’s Power 100 and Marketing Week’s Top 100. Here she talks about her career journey and some of her sporting passions and successes.

You were the first female JCR President at St John’s – tell us a bit more about that.

Katharine Newby Grant. This is a professional headshot. Katharine has long blonde hair and blue eyes. She is smiling and has a blue shirt on.

Being JCR President was a privilege and an experience that I will treasure forever. I have my amazing College friends (Al, Meg, Nell, Neg, Zoe, Liv, Emily and Mal) to thank for persuading me to stand for President and for helping me with my campaign. I am delighted to have paved the way for future female Presidents, all whom have achieved far more than I did! But more importantly, I hope I showed that anyone with a passion, from any background or walk of life, can take on a leadership position if they want to. Being JCR President is about ensuring that all voices are heard and supported, not just the loudest and most confident. 

I didn’t realise it at the time, but being JCR President was one of the single most effective experiences I had to enable me to successfully land a job with Procter & Gamble. It gave me the chance to experience leadership, collaboration, strategic thinking, vision setting, creative problem solving, influence, agility, perseverance and humility ­– all of which are key skills and behaviours that companies look for in the next generation of leaders.  I was able to quote many examples of how I had learnt and leveraged these skills in real-life situations.

What first drew you to the marketing world?

I first discovered marketing as I watched my dad advertising and creating demand for his business. My passion was cemented during an internship at L’Oreal in my second year of University. I learnt from research and by talking to people that Procter & Gamble was the very best at brand building and business leadership, and I decided this was the place for me.

On leaving St John’s I only applied for one job and that was for brand management at Procter & Gamble. I left all my fellow economists to go for the banking and consulting jobs. Marketing and the overall Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) business is the perfect combination of science and art, creativity and logic. It allows me to combine my interests in psychology, economics, business, chemistry and creative development.

Please can you give us a brief summary of your career?

I joined Procter & Gamble as an Assistant Brand Manager in oral care. I started in our European Head Quarters in Geneva, Switzerland working on product and packaging innovation for the UK, Germany and Italy. This was a fantastic experience, working with so many different nationalities and cultures, and living in a beautiful part of the world. I spent my weekends skiing or walking in the mountains.

Katharine is in mid air on skis. She is above a snowy mountain. The ski poles are held aloft and she is wearing a yellow coat.

After a few years I returned to the UK and took on various Brand and Sales Manager roles across oral care, cosmetics and hair care. Then back in Geneva from 2008, I ran our Head & Shoulders brand for Europe, looking after all the product and packaging innovation as well as the advertising campaigns and overall brand strategy. I progressed to run our Pantene brand across Europe and Middle East Africa, and then took on responsibility for our total hair care portfolio in Europe.

In 2014 I came back to the UK to head our media and data organisation, which was responsible for the media, CRM programs, data partnerships and other marketing capabilities for all our brands. This all led me to my current role as VP, Beauty & Brand.

What are the responsibilities of your current role?

I am the Vice President for our Beauty business (hair, skin and personal care brands) and our Brand organisation (everyone working in marketing across the category and corporate teams – 120+ people). I look after the UK, Ireland and the Nordics (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway) and my brands are Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Aussie, Herbal Essences, Bear Fruits, Olay and Old Spice.

With my Beauty hat on, I am responsible for marketing, sales, finance and product supply, ensuring that we generate enough trust in and demand for our brands through our marketing activities, that we supply products in the right quantities at the right time to our retailers and that we look amazing at shelf and online.

With my Brand Organisation hat, on I am responsible for recruiting, developing and inspiring the next generation of brand builders and business leaders, and ensuring that we have the very best marketing capabilities to serve all our categories.

I manage incredible teams and work with retailers, advertising agency partners and innovation teams who design and develop new products. I aim to inspire my team members with a clear vision and set of strategic choices, coach on a daily basis, provide guidance and support wherever is required, remove barriers, make clear decisions and think about what’s next.

What are your interests outside of work?

I am married with two children (aged 15 and 12), which in itself brings lots to do outside of work. Now the kids are older, it mostly consists of helping with exam revision, being a taxi service for all their activities and ensuring there are meals on the table and packed lunches made! 

Sport is my huge passion. I spent my childhood doing everything – gymnastics, ballet, athletics, tennis, hockey and netball. I discovered rugby at University, captaining the St John’s College team through an undefeated season as well as playing for the University 1st team.

This is an image of Katharine running (presumably a marathon). Katharine is wearing a blue Proctor & Gamble running vest. She has her hands in the air in a wave and is smiling. She is next to some other runners, some of whom are also wearing P&G vests.

Since leaving St John’s I have taken part in many challenges, including sailing from England to Alaska via the Panama Canal (I am forever indebted to Meg Clothier (1996) and her family for the opportunity), climbing Mont Blanc on skis and running marathons and long trail runs. I completed the Ukatak (500km non-stop adventure race across the Canadian wilderness just south of the Arctic Circle) for which I had to learn to cross-country ski. This was televised on BBC Prime as part of a documentary. I was delighted that our team won the race, all thanks to my amazing team mates who were professional adventure racers and the best navigators on the planet. They saved us hours by taking the best routes with just a map and a compass, no GPS, no Google Maps. My only job was to try and keep up!

I have also learnt to surf, paraglide and tele-mark ski in recent years, although I can’t claim to be expert in any of them. Surfing did take me to Bali last month, which has to be a pinnacle in my surfing experience – warm water, perfect waves and incredible instructors. The dream!

Katharine is surfing on a large wave. She is wearing a black top and blue board shorts.