Global President, Kimberly-Clark Professional
For remarkable leadership in research and engineering, supply-chain and marketing across the North American commercial products industry, and for success in creating exceptional workplaces for business customers
Kimberly Underhill has fulfilled many professional roles on multiple continents and today serves as the global president of a multibillion dollar corporation. Her career goals have always been to enjoy purposeful work while giving back.
With that in mind, Underhill has embarked on a highly successful 30-year career as an engineer, brand manager, operations manager, marketing director and international executive. The 1987 Purdue graduate has filled most of those roles and more during her 28-year career with Kimberly-Clark Professional, a $3.5 billion worldwide business-to-business company that focuses on health and hygiene products.
“While my business of making and selling toilet paper, paper towels and hand hygiene products may not be the most glamorous in the world, I know that I’m making a difference to people all over the world by providing better sanitation solutions,” she says. “A visit to India and seeing the lack of toilets, or a visit to a hospital in Bogota, makes my job more rewarding than I could have ever expected.”
Underhill was initially reluctant to follow the path that eventually led to her diverse international career in business management and development.
“I had a mentor who asked me to take a marketing job about five years into my career. Marketing had not been on my radar, and I was clearly progressing down a technical career path,” she says. “We made a deal that if I didn’t like it I could return to my research and development position in six months.”
Underhill was indeed unhappy with the marketing position after those six months. Per the agreement, she went to her mentor and asked for her old job back. He persisted. “He said, ‘No, you can’t go back yet,’” Underhill says. “‘You haven’t given yourself a chance to enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Let’s try another six months.’ After another six months, I never looked back.”
Underhill says she learned an important lesson from that experience: “Take a chance — especially when you’re young — because you never know where it might lead you. My mentor took a chance on a young engineer and saw something in me that I didn’t see for years to come. Don’t be too worried about what your first job is. Get started in an industry that you love and then look for ways to continue to build your profile through different experiences.”
Underhill’s career has taken her all over the world, including a three-year stint as president of a European consumer business in the United Kingdom. Now based in Atlanta, she is a loyal member of both the John Purdue Club and the University’s President’s Council. She still credits Purdue for laying the foundation for her success.
“Purdue taught me the value of hard work, and that an engineering degree can open many doors in life,” she says. “My Purdue degree taught me how to solve problems. Even though I have ventured off of a technical career path, the problem-solving skills I acquired through my Purdue education have been invaluable. It teaches you to gather all the facts, define the goal, evaluate options and then determine the best path forward. That can be applied to any facet of business.”
I believe that you should enjoy what you do and find a purpose that gives back to the world.”
|2014-present||Global President, Kimberly-Clark Professional (K-CP|
|2011-2014||President Consumer Europe (London), K-CP|
|2009-2011||Vice President & Managing Director, K-CP|
|2006-2009||President North American Family Care, K-CP|
|2005-2006||Marketing Director, North Atlantic Baby/Child Care Customer Development, K-CP|
|2000-2003||Associate Marketing Director, Child Care Consumer Marketing, K-CP|
|1998-2000||Associate Marketing Director, Feminine Care Customer Marketing, K-CP|
|1988-1998||Research, Operations and Brand Management roles, K-CP|
|1987-1988||Process Engineer, General Electric|
|1987||BS Chemical Engineering, Purdue University|
|1998||MS Engineering Management, Milwaukee School of Engineering|