Partial Transcript: Well, good afternoon.
Segment Synopsis: Lisa Banner, the university relations and institute program director for Beam Suntory, is introduced as the subject of the oral history. Banner talks about her family's background, and goes into detail about her upbringing in Belize. She goes into further detail about her education, and how Belize's background as an English colony informed her upbringing.
Keywords: A House for Mr. Biswas; Beam Suntory; Belize; Belize City (Belize); Black people; California; Catholic schools; Colonialism; Eminal (Belize); Family; Kentucky; Literature; Oral histories; Representation
Partial Transcript: So you talk a little bit about the value placed on education--
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about how highly her parents valued her ability to get an education, and the steps they took to make that possible. She goes on to talk about how she and her siblings have successfully pursued secondary education, often for multiple degrees.
Keywords: Belize; Colleges; Education; Grad schools; Higher education; Socioeconomics; Universities
Partial Transcript: What types of conversations did your family have about race?
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about the discussions about race and ethnicity she had with her family growing up. She details how society in Belize looks at these issues in different ways to other parts of the world.
Keywords: Belize; Black people; Colonialism; Colorism; Discrimination; Ethnicity; Socioeconomics
Partial Transcript: What did you want to be when you--you know, what did you want to be when you grew up when you were little?
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about her time pursuing secondary education, first at a junior college in Belize and then later at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. She speaks about her experiences as an international student, and what pushed her to apply to a school overseas.
Keywords: Belize; Bourbon; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); Rum; Scholarships; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth; Spalding University
Partial Transcript: What, what was your first job?
Segment Synopsis: Banning discusses her reasoning for going back for a Master's degree, and the jobs she held during her time at Spalding. She describes how she was able to acquire a full scholarship for that degree, an internship with the finance cabinet in Frankfort, and how a chance encounter at a temp agency led to her working at Beam Suntory.
Keywords: AIKCU; Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities; Beam Suntory; Finance Cabinets; Frankfort (Ky.); Grad school; Internships; Kelly Services; Reimbursement specialists; Scholarships; Temp Agencies
Partial Transcript: Tell me about that.
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks briefly about the different roles and positions she's worked in at Beam Suntory. She also discusses the racial and gender demographics of the company when she started, and how the lack of a network or access to mentors provided extra challenges for her.
Keywords: Beam Suntory; Black people; Black women; Bourbon; Business administration; Mentors; Microaggressions; Networks; SAP; Supervisors; Whiskey industry
Partial Transcript: So, I mean you've started to talk a little bit about this--
Segment Synopsis: Banner discusses how her role has changed within Beam Suntory over her career. She describes her new role working with the University of Kentucky, and other institutions she communicates with as part of the position.
Keywords: Beam Suntory; Bourbon; James B. Beam Institute; KDA; Kentucky Distillers' Association; Sustainability; University of Kentucky; Whiskey industry
Partial Transcript: Thinking about that, just how much the industry has changed--
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about some of the changes she's seen in the bourbon industry since she started working with Beam Suntory. She pays special attention to the increase in focus on diversity and inclusion within the industry at large.
Keywords: Bourbon; DEI; Diversity; EIGs; Employee Impact Groups; Inclusion; KDA; Kentucky Distillers' Association; POCs; People of color; Representation; Sustainability; Victoria Russell; Whiskey industry
Partial Transcript: And, just in terms of, like, bourbon from an aficionado kind of perspective--
Segment Synopsis: Banner speaks on her journey developing a taste for bourbon while working at Beam Suntory. She goes on to talk about the various challenges she has faced and goals she'd like to accomplish in her new role working with the University of Kentucky. She mentions that one of her major goals is expanding the workforce coming into the bourbon industry, and making sure they represent a diverse skillset.
Keywords: Beam Suntory; Bourbon; Challenges; Goals; Palates; University of Kentucky
Partial Transcript: Yeah, we've talked a lot about that kind of importance of seeing yourself and your representation. And I was grateful that you pointed out how important it was to see Victoria--
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about her views on being a Black woman in a leadership position within the bourbon industry. She talks about balancing focusing on her job with the knowledge that she is a figure of representation for Black women within her field. She also discusses how she has networked with both minorities and the white male majority within the industry, and how that has affected her career.
Keywords: Beam Suntory; Black people; Black women; Bourbon; Leadership; POCs; People of color; Representation; Whiskey industry
Partial Transcript: How do you envision the ideal way to cultivate additional Black talent for the bourbon industry?
Segment Synopsis: Banner discusses what she thinks is the best way to incorporate minorities into the bourbon industry, both people of color and women among others. She says that giving time to interested parties is important, and actually including them within the business is necessary for real improvement. Banner also talks about how there has been an increased presence of females within Beam Suntory since she started, citing a push for inclusion and technological advances as driving the increase. She says that starting in 2015 there has also been a movement to start recognizing women as valuable consumers of bourbon as well.
Keywords: Black people; Bourbon; Career paths; POCs; People of color; Representation; Whiskey industry; Women
Partial Transcript: And what are some of the important trends that you think people should be paying attention to?
Segment Synopsis: Banner talks about some of the trends she is seeing in the bourbon industry, particularly in the way its being marketed for a new generation. She also talks about her aspirations for a truly diverse industry in the future, and gives advice for students who might be looking to enter the bourbon industry once they graduate.
Keywords: Alcohol; Beam Suntory; Bourbon; Diversity; Inclusion; Marketing; Representation; Whiskey industry
FERNHEIMER: Well, good afternoon.
BANNER: Good afternoon too.
FERNHEIMER: Thank you so much for joining us today. It's my second in-personinterview for this project since we've resumed business as usual after the pandemic, and I'm pretty excited about it.
BANNER: That is exciting, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: My name is Jan Fernheimer. I am a professor of writing, rhetoric,and digital studies, the Zantker professor of Jewish Studies, and a James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits faculty fellow. And I am conducting this interview as part of the Black Women in Bourbon targeted interviewing initiative, which is supported by the United in Racial Equity Grant, which is part of the Women in Bourbon Oral History Project. Today is October 12, 2022. And it is my great honor and pleasure to interview Lisa Banner, the 00:01:00university relations and institute program director at Beam Suntory. We are here at the Louie B. Nunn Center recording studio in Lexington, Kentucky. Thank you so much for coming in today, and thank you so much for being patient as we get our act together.
BANNER: Oh, not a problem. Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here andbeing a part of the project.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. So for the official record, please tell me your name and whenyou were born, just the year. Not any more details than that because we--
BANNER: --my name is Lisa Banner and I was born in 1981.
FERNHEIMER: And where were you born?
BANNER: I was born in Belize City, Belize, which is in Central America rightbelow Mexico.
FERNHEIMER: And tell me a little bit about your family background. Where areyour parents from? How did they meet?
BANNER: So both--most of my family on both sides are originally from Belize. Mymom grew up in the city of Belize. And my dad is about an hour outside of the city, so he grew up in more of a what you would say country or farm 00:02:00setting. They met--and my dad eventually--well, went to high school to the city and after graduating, so they met early--in their early twenties. And eventually from there a few years into that, I guess they didn't--my sister was born. I was born, and they got married, I guess right after I was born. So I come from a family of four: two brothers, one sister. So that's pretty much--sums up my family.
FERNHEIMER: And where are you in the lineup?
BANNER: I'm the youngest, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And how many years are between?
BANNER: So my sister and I are pretty--we're right back-to-back. She's, like, ayear and nine months older than I am, so--and my, I guess, older brother, which is--he's the third in line or the--oldest, he's seven years and my 00:03:00oldest brother is nine years older than I am.
FERNHEIMER: Nice, and where do they reside now? Are they here or there?
BANNER: So my--one of my brothers lives in California, that's the oldest, andthe other lives in Belize.
FERNHEIMER: Nice, and your sister?
BANNER: She's in Kentucky with me, so we live in--we both live in the samestate. We came to school together, actually.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, excite--I want to hear more about that in just--
FERNHEIMER: --a minute. In fact, now that we've talked a bit about your familybackground, I want to shift gears and hear a little bit more about what it was like growing up in Belize City.
BANNER: Oh, definitely. It was definitely not as--it was very unrestrictive, Iwould say. So in the summertime we spent most of our summers with my grandparents in the village that my dad is from, called Eminal (??). So we spent most of--there's, like, a creek which is almost the size of a river that runs right through the middle of the community. And as kids all my cousins, we would just spend most of our days there. So we'd pretty much have breakfast 00:04:00in the morning, help my grandmother clean up a little bit, and go out pretty much all day, come back for lunch, go back to the river, and then come back for supper. So that was pretty much our summer days. As soon as the summer was wrapped up, of course, we had to go back to school. And I always had to go back to school on my birthday, which is--we start school in Belize in, like, early September, and I'm, like--I'm early September, and it always seems to be on the day of my birthday that I had to go back to school. But--
FERNHEIMER: How did you feel about that?
BANNER: Not so good, not so happy. (laughter) But majority of--but the schoolingpart of it did impact, like, you know, I guess the background and the culture of how I grew up because most--I went to school all Catholic schools. And in Belize most of our education, there are very few schools that are probably not backed by either some type of religious affiliation as far as schooling. So 00:05:00you either have Catholic or you have some type of Pentecostal or something. So I went to--we had, like publicly-funded school--truly publicly-funded school was probably far and few in between. So went to an all-girls Catholic high school and eventually junior college as well was Catholic as well.
FERNHEIMER: Was it also all-girls, or--?
BANNER: No, that was coed, so--but it made, as far as going back to, like,unrestricted growing up, it--being from a smaller country, smaller community, like, the experiences--so like our weekends as friends, even all girls in high school, we'd get to, like, go out and do a lot of stuff. You could go to the key, the islands. You could do quick trips. We had a lot of rivers and stuff like--so it made it--it was an adventurous--it was adventurous.
FERNHEIMER: I guess which one of--you sort of shared your summer00:06:00experiences, but what's one of your favorite memories from growing up there?
BANNER: I would say going to the--I am connected to nature. I love nature, andso oftentimes when people ask me, "If I go to Belize, what should I do?" And I'm like, well, I guess I have to talk about the beaches because that's what people like. But I do love going to the rainforest, like, spending my day. Like, my cousins and stuff, we would go and just, like, explore for, like, hours, like, if you go inland to the rainforest. And that was one of my--there's an area west of Belize called Cayo. And they--it's a, like, nature reserve called Mountain Pine Ridge, and that used to be one of my favorite trips, and we would go there at least twice a year. And I would say growing up, those were one of my better memories as a child. As I got older in high school, I would say the beach became more of a--but I still love the nature part of it, trees, that are 00:07:00more centered (??). But that--when I went to Placencia, which is a peninsula off of the southern portion of Belize, it almost seemed like you were in a bubble and everything was perfect. Like there was--like if the world is ever to stop and this was perfection, this would be it.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, that sounds magical.
FERNHEIMER: When you were in school, what kind of extracurricular activities didyou do?
BANNER: So when I was in, like, I guess, like most people, like, here inKentucky and in the States would say, like, middle school. We just had, like, elementary school. Then you go to high school. So you went through first grade through eighth, which is--we had an English system, which is standard one, two, three. But when I went to--when I was in elementary school, most of--that was academic and stuff. When I went to high school I actually got into--I tried out cheerleading for a year. I didn't care for that too much. So I went into soccer, and I actually--or we called it football-- 00:08:00
BANNER: Yeah. So I actually really liked that. We never really, like, won, butit was still fun.
FERNHEIMER: And did you play on the girls' team? Was it divided by gender? Irealize I'm presuming.
BANNER: So the high school is all girls, so we played--yeah, it was divided. Sowe played against other high schools. Even if they were coed it was, like, a girls' team, and then they had, like, a boys' team and stuff like that.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. What was your favorite subject in school then?
BANNER: I would have to say literature. Reading and stuff like that has alwaysbeen my favorite stuff. I like going inward. I'm an introvert, so if I could--I read something, and I'll think about it. And I remember, like, one day I missed, like--I missed, like--I think I was ill or something like that, and I missed a couple classes. And I came back, and I came back to a literature test. And the teacher was like, do you want to sit out? And I was like, "Oh, no, I've read the book." And she was like, "You don't even--" I said, no, I've--and I 00:09:00actually, I think I got, like, one of the highest grades in the class because it was going back to say, like, the question was, like--it was Wuthering Heights, and a book with, like, English. And the question was, like, in this--so-and-so said this to so-and-so in this situation, and why did they say it? And I'm like, oh, John said this to Susie because of this, this--and I think I--I was the only one that got all of it correct, and most--in fact, a lot of people in the class failed, and they were like, "How did you ever--" and I was like, I just, like, if I read a book and I internalize it and I enjoy it, I'll never forget it.
FERNHEIMER: That's impressive. How--you've mentioned Wuthering Heights. What wasthe variety of literature that you were exposed to? Did you--how represented did you feel in the kind of characters that you encountered?
BANNER: So I would say unique to my background growing up, Belize is anEnglish-speaking country that was a colony of England. So we did have the background of slavery, so majority of-- I would say majority of the 00:10:00people in Belize, except for, like, maybe if they identified Hispanic probably, identified Black with some--with different ethnicities. And a lot of--I would say in high school a lot of our books--like, we did have some English books because--just because of our background. But a lot of the books came from the Caribbean, which is representative of the culture, and also Belize. In fact, one of the books, and I can't remember the name of it, that we had in my first year of high school was actually written by an author in Belize that was a Black female. And she actually wrote about her--like herself growing up--well, a character growing up that went to the same high school that I went. So that even--
FERNHEIMER: --oh, wow--
BANNER: --touched home. She touched on the representation of what it means to beBlack, even as far as the physical attributes, the experiences that you had because traditionally, the school that I went to, majority of the 00:11:00people were of Hispanic descent and would come from neighboring countries to go there. And even now I would say it's a fifty-fifty representation. So to listen to that person's experience that was of dark skin, their features were representative of being Black I think was--I think it was a book that I think touched most of the students there, even if they didn't represent it that way. And even to know that someone that went to your--so you could--even when you read the stories, you could identify with it because you've, like--I'm going to this school. I know what they're talking about. I know where that statue is. I know--so that was, I would say, unique to--that was unique to where--the literature was very much influenced by either Caribbean or locally. There was another book, I think, was called A House for Mr. Biswas that was written from Trinidad and Tobago that we read. And it was very representative of the culture, not only within Belize but within the Caribbean because the book 00:12:00was--the main character was a man that was of Indian descent, like from India. And his family came through what they would call--I can't remember the name that they call it, but basically they pay for your family and your trip to the Caribbean to work in the sugar fields. And then you repay that. So you're probably about there for ten years before you actually repay--or if--I think it's about five years, but then if you wanted to go back to your country you had to work again another five years. And so then we also have a lot of--
FERNHEIMER: --like an indentured kind of--
BANNER: --yeah, yes, like an indentured--and in the culture, most people don'tknow we have a lot of Asian representation as well. Most of the corner grocery stores are run by Asians that have--that were transplanted or traveled or moved, migrated to either places like Belize or the Caribbean. And then you 00:13:00have people that are ancestors of the slaves that were brought there. And to see, like, even though it was written in Trinidad and Tobago, a lot of our culture is similar because most--just like them, like, our corner stores are run by, like, you know, Asian descendants or people that have migrated there. You have all the different ethnicities within the same country. And it talked about his plight of trying to own a home and the decisions that he went and just the culture within from an Caribbean-Indian perspective and how it impacted the decisions that he made. And that--which I thought the end of the book was very sad because he ended up with a house, but he bought the house in--he went and looked at the house at night in the rain. And so he didn't see all the flaws of the home. And so he ended up buying this house, and the next day or whenever he moved in it was like he saw all the flaws. And just--but it was, 00:14:00like, a representation of how his culture and not being able to facilitate and think through, that still impacted his goals and his dreams and his desires. So as you can tell, I really like that book.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, powerful. I mean, to encounter literature that you feelrepresents you and your culture has a lasting and powerful impact.
FERNHEIMER: Thank you for sharing that. I wonder if you can talk a little bitabout some of the values your parents instilled in you.
BANNER: Yes, definitely. I would say from a--my dad actually taught me to bemore laid back. My mom taught me to, like, be like a go-getter and work hard. Like, even, like--and so I think even in my adult life, trying to balance those two things of, like, taking care of yourself, not taking things too 00:15:00seriously but at the same time doing what is required to move forward and building your goals and your dreams. And it wasn't until an adult that I've realized it's those two forces, how impactful your parents and your family life is. Because my mom always used to tell a story that, oh, like, I remember as a little--as a kid she would say, "Oh, I never take vacations. I work and I take the money that I would've gone on vacation and invest in your education and stuff," which I'm grateful to her and everything. But then now as an adult, I look back and I think, I don't think I--that's not cool. (laughter) But I mean, you know, so balancing that drive which is a very good thing, but then also knowing that there is a balance of self-care and making sure that you are taking care of yourself so that you can show up for others in a meaningful way. 00:16:00
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. So you talk a little bit about the value placed on education--
FERNHEIMER: --in your house. How did your parents talk about education in yourgrowing up?
BANNER: So for--I would say for my parents because they're both high schoolgraduates, my mom didn't go back to--my mom now has an associate degree. Years later she went back. But I think for my mom, especially having a child--because she was twenty when she got pregnant and when she had her first child. And I think for her--and especially being the oldest in her family, really I think she in some way accepted that, you know, this is my journey and this is my life, but that does not mean that my children are--or especially my daughters cannot, you know, go as far as they need to. So my mom definitely, ever since we were kids that was, like, a known. You were going to go to college. You were going to go to the best schools. And no matter what I have to do for you to do 00:17:00that will get done. I mean, she paid our home off in Belize in, like, let's say if it was a thirty-year loan, she paid it off in fifteen years because she was like, when you guys got to the age of going to college I wanted to make sure that I had some type of asset that I could use to--you know, so that you could get your loans or whatever you needed to go somewhere. So she was thinking about that even, like, as we were toddlers running around. That was what she wanted. And even--and even--and she was always engaged in, like, whether it's, like, learning a skill or, like, going back to learn Windows or something like that to use in her job. So that was something that was always of value to her. My dad, I would say, even though he was high school, he was a contractor. He's always been like a left-brain. He's very good at math. And so why I was more 00:18:00inclined to analytical and whatever, I never--if I had a math problem, I could always ask my parents, even though they weren't college educated or anything like that. They were equipped in that way to support. So I think that made a difference for myself four degrees later. My sister is in now three degrees. She has a--she's a nurse right now, and she's going back to school for her nurse practitioner. My brother, I think--believe is that he went back to school for, like, to get an IT degree. So I think it's just natural. My nephew, who is my sister's son, I mean, even though, like, he plays sports and football and stuff like that, like, the argument--it was funny. He was younger, and he was, like, it's not like my sister was arguing with him that he had to go to college. They're arguing about--he was like ten--where he was going to go to college. So it's just, like, a known, like--because he saw us live that, it was, 00:19:00like, just a known that that was something that he was going to do. And even if it wasn't college, a place where he could be educated in a skillset that would let him contribute to his own life and the people around him.
FERNHEIMER: Wow. The power of that, kind of seeing--
BANNER: --yeah, yeah--
FERNHEIMER: --what you--what you were encountering and seeing yourself in others--
FERNHEIMER: --resonates. What types of conversations did your family have aboutrace? I recognize in Belize race figures differently than it does here in the United States. And still, there's, you know, the background conversation about that.
BANNER: Yeah, I would say you're right that it's different, that it's not a raceconversation. It's an ethnicity conversation. It's a conversation about socioeconomics. It's a--so the conversation does differ a little bit. But you do deal with, I would say, prejudices and maybe some discrimination because then you get into colonization and who is at the top, who is at the 00:20:00bottom. And even within my own family structure, I would say, you experience it because my mom is, like, you know, she's a dark-skinned Black woman, and my dad is more, like, his--my grandmother, his mom, is Hispanic. She was from Honduras, so the hair texture, the look is a little bit different. And so even in a community where you're not dealing directly with race, say white or Black, you're dealing with levels of where are you on that level of, like, where you stand in the society. And so you do get comments about whether the lightness of your skin, the darkness of your skin, the texture of your hair. In certain schools and stuff like that, like the schools that I went, you definitely see discrimination in how you look or how you represent. So it is something definitely. I had my niece, who is my brother that lives in Belize, 00:21:00she actually is in her early twenties now. And she had her first job with the state government and her manager actually spoke to her about her hair being natural. And now this is a country where majority of the people represent Black. They look Black. And that customers complain because it's not professional. And we still deal with--because of that--within our history of colonization and that--how to reach the ideal look or state or whatever, so you still deal with it. And I would think that it's probably even more deeper because you're not dealing with, like, per se a race but you're looking at yourself from an, okay, where do I fit in on this hierarchy. And then also on top of that, where is my socioeconomic place within that hierarchy? So a lot of people might 00:22:00go to a country like Belize and think that you wouldn't experience that because most people do represent Black or they have--or it's within your family. Like in my family there is a range of shade. There is a range of hair texture. But you do experience it.
FERNHEIMER: And so did you talk about it in explicit ways in your family?
BANNER: I would say with my mom because I think for us it impacted us more inrecognizing that we don't exactly look like my dad's family. And when you get comments about your hair texture or stuff like that, it's impactful. But I don't know if we talked about it in a way of how you move beyond. Like, it's more about how you feel and what was said and things like that.
FERNHEIMER: So, like, processing the interactions or--
BANNER: --yeah, help to process, yeah--
FERNHEIMER: --I guess microaggressions or macroaggressions in some regards.
FERNHEIMER: But that's really challenging when it comes even --when it00:23:00comes at all, but when it comes especially from within the family--
BANNER: --yeah. Yeah. It's very challenging because you get--and especially whenyou're in close proximity and you know you're with family members, but you recognize that there's a difference and there's always that recognition throughout your life that there's a difference. And it impacts your relationships that you have with your family and even, like, when you go out into the community because that recognition is always there that there is a difference. And you have a choice of saying, do I become a part of that? Do I look to see who's behind me? Or do I stop it right here and say no, this is--we're not going to talk about hair texture. We're not going to talk about skin tone. We're not going to--because it is tempting when you're in environment where you do--can see yourself in the middle ground, and there is someone with a darker complexion or their hair is not--you know, it doesn't look like yours, to be tempted to do that, and you see it all the time.
FERNHEIMER: Does your mom --what were, I guess, some of the most00:24:00powerful things she said to you in how to process some of the things that you were encountering from the other side of your family? Was there something that stood out as--that stays with you today?
BANNER: Yeah, like--yeah, one of the things--because a lot of times we tend towant to personalize things. And it does--and so hers was like, it has nothing to do with you. I mean, you know if someone looks you or even say anything, just understanding not to personalize things because there is more going on there than as a child that I could process, you know.
FERNHEIMER: Pretty good advice. (laughter)
BANNER: Yeah. I think it take--it has helped me throughout my life, even in work career.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Oh, we'll get to that in a minute too, I hope. What did youwant to be when you--you know, what did you want to be when you grew up when you were little?
BANNER: Well, I talked about nature earlier, and I always wanted to be anenvironmentalist or an ecologist. And I actually even when I was in 00:25:00junior college in Belize I volunteered at a local environmental--like, they worked with manatees. And they--
FERNHEIMER: How cool.
BANNER: I never went--I never got to go out, though. I just worked in the officeand looked at numbers. And so that was--but I still--that's something that I wanted to do. I enjoyed being outdoors. I could spend all day outdoors, but--and I did apply for a scholarship, and I was the second runner-up. But then I got the scholarship to go to Spalding and, of course, they didn't--and I was like, well--yeah, and I felt at that time if I didn't do something now that I don't know if I would get another opportunity. So that landed me in the business arena, but I'm fine with that because I can still outdoors. (laughter)
FERNHEIMER: Do you have any memories from your childhood? I imagine bourbon isnot the liquor of choice in the Caribbean.
BANNER: No, it's not.
FERNHEIMER: What, if any, memories or encounters or experiences do you have withbourbon from your childhood?
BANNER: I would say I don't--I can't even remember if I had experiences.To be honest, the only dark--I think at that time, and given, was 00:26:00like brandy. I don't think--and then of course we had rum in Belize.
BANNER: That was--but I can't remember even having a conversation about bourbon.
FERNHEIMER: What was your first encounter with bourbon then?
BANNER: My first encounter in bourbon was when I moved to Kentucky.
BANNER: Because, I mean, before that, if I was even to think about drinkingalc--it would've been rum or it would've been, like, some--a vodka or something like that, at that age and just given the arena. So it wasn't until I got here. And even when I got--when I got here it wasn't something that I would've--like, I saw it. I knew about it. But I never drank it until I start working at Beam.
FERNHEIMER: Okay, cool. Well, you said you always knew you wanted to go to college.
FERNHEIMER: And that it was just an expectation in your family. And I know thatyou earned your BA in business administration from Spalding 00:27:00University in 2003 after your associate's degree at St. John's. And you said that there was a scholarship process. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Like, how did you find out about it? Who helped you with your application? That kind of stuff.
BANNER: So I found out about it at a junior college that I went. They had, like,fliers out and where they have the information section. So I went to the registrar's office where they said the application and I just filled it out. And I actually did all that myself. I didn't really--my parents didn't help at all, so I--not that they wouldn't have, but it's just--was just something that I just did myself. And I filled it out, got the application, went to a couple of the professors that I had, asked them for letter of recommendation and submitted. One of them--not the Spalding one, but one of them I actually had to do an interview, which I've never, like, had to do, like, go sit somewhere 00:28:00and talk about myself and why I should get that. So that was very intimidating. It was an experience. But the Spalding one, as far as it was just something--I saw it advertised, I applied, and it worked out.
FERNHEIMER: That's--and were there other schools that you were looking at at thesame time?
BANNER: There was a little school, I can't--in Little Rock, Arkansas. There wasone in California that I was looking at as well. But the scholarships weren't as equivalent, or I just didn't get the scholarship. Like I said, the one that was for the environmental position, I was the alternate. So if the first person that didn't--if something didn't work out, I would have gotten it. And I was like, well, I don't see that person not taking it.
FERNHEIMER: And were there--you talked about your mom saving from the time youand your sister were little toddlers running around. What resources, 00:29:00in addition to scholarship, did you imagine you had available to you?
BANNER: So addition to the scholarship, we got a loan, like--because in Belizewe don't have, like, what you would call, like, student loans--
FERNHEIMER: --student loans--
BANNER: --where you could get--so you have to get, like, a traditional loanwhere you use--and that's why my mom paid off her house, so it could be used as an asset for college. Also, we put in an--we got, like, a grant, like, a five--like a five thousand dollar grant each. But we had to put in an application that--with the local government there to help you with travel and that type of expense. So that worked out as well.
FERNHEIMER: And did you--before you set foot on campus, had you been toKentucky, or--
BANNER: --no, I had not. The only--
FERNHEIMER: --what expectations did you have?
BANNER: The only connection I ever had to Kentucky is that I had a teacher inelementary school that taught me my last two years of elementary school. She was a Sister of Charity at that time. I don't think she's a part--she's a 00:30:00sister anymore. And she came to--when I went to high school she left the elementary school, and she came--she went to Spalding University and got her master's, because--and of course the Sister of Charity, I believe, their main office or whatever is in Louisville, Kentucky. And then when she came back, she went to the high school that I was teaching, so I would hear her talk about--and that was--even then I didn't think Kentucky--like, it was--okay, Kentucky fried chicken. But it's, like, Kentucky's not a place I would live. (laughs) But so when I came here it was the first--yeah, it--and luckily it was both my sister and I. It was the first time we came here. The--
FERNHEIMER: --and so, did your sister start school roughly around the same timeyou did?
BANNER: So my sister's a couple years ahead of me in school, but she wasactually working at a local bank because she got through--she went to the same junior college. We went to the same high school, same junior college. 00:31:00And she was actually working as a teller at a local bank. And so when I applied for the scholarship she was like, "You're not going to leave me here. I'm going to apply for that scholarship too." And I was like, "Well, I don't know if both of us would get it, but sure."
FERNHEIMER: Aw, that's sweet.
BANNER: And we did, so we ended up--we came together, and it made it easier.
FERNHEIMER: Wow. What was it like to come to the United States and to go toschool and be on your own with your sister in this whole new place? What was that like?
BANNER: Well, it was like--so like I said, like my grandmother at the time livedin California, so we visited the States before, so it wasn't, like--but we've never been to Kentucky. Other than that, we've never been to Kentucky or anywhere else. And the first thing that stood out to me was, like--now I don't notice because I've been here long enough, but, like, the accent. I was like, what? (laughter) And of course, I have an accent, so it's like, you 00:32:00know, but that was--it was--the ability not to--as I said earlier, in Belize you have that freedom to move around. It's much smaller. So that ability not to be able to navigate and move as you would like. I mean, one, you don't know where you would going. And second, you don't know anyone really until you start--I mean, after you start developing relationships and getting around, but that was the--I think the--but it made it easier that I was going through that with someone else, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. How did you decide to study business administration? What drewyou to it?
BANNER: It was--so I went from environmental--like, I knew that it wassomething, okay, it's broad enough that I could pivot at any time and get back into it. And plus, Spalding didn't really have, like--I mean, unless you were going to do chemistry or whatever, they didn't--and that was not my--I didn't want to directly do that, so I figured, well, business is the best 00:33:00route as far as career. Even going back to school and go in a different direction is something that I could always do.
FERNHEIMER: What--were you involved in extracurriculars while you were there?
BANNER: At Spalding?
BANNER: Just a part of the international student club. Yeah, and that was--Ithink that was pretty much it, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And your sister, was she doing similar things? What did she studywhile she was there?
BANNER: Yeah, she was--she actually majored in IT, so she got her first--herfirst degree, her bachelor's in computer science, and then she went back to school and got her degree in nursing.
FERNHEIMER: Did you all live together while you were here?
BANNER: Yes, we--and we roommate together when were in the dorms, and then afterthe first year we moved out and got an apartment. So most of our lives have been converging together because she--later on she got married, and she 00:34:00went through a divorce and then we end up living together again, I think, for about five years with my nephew. And then eventually she moved to--she moved out and got her own place and got everything situated.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. And she's still in Kentucky now, right?
BANNER: Yeah, she's still in Kentucky. She's in eastern Kentucky.
FERNHEIMER: Okay. And after graduating in 2003, what was life like for you aftercollege? What--
BANNER: --actually, it was--
FERNHEIMER: --where did you land your first job, and how?
BANNER: To be honest, it was--I was thinking about that the other day, it was avery hard and emotional time, I think. One, I think just looking for jobs in an environment--and you don't have that net--or that social network of people that you could say, well, oh, I grew up with this--like, I know this person. And at that time, so it took me about six months, I would say, to find a real job. I mean I had, like, a part-time job, but it was--I mean, I remember one--like, one night I finally got, like I just kept getting letter of, oh, you 00:35:00know, whatever. And one night I just locked myself in the bathroom and started crying. And I thought--(laughs)--I was like, I'm going to fail. I'm going to have to go back to Belize and you don't have anything to show for it, not even a job for a year or whatever. Because I was on my student visa. And then I had a work permit, like, that you--and I thought, I'm never going to find a job, and I have to start paying my student loan. And I'm like--it was just--it was just a hard time.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Yeah, and then something broke, right?
FERNHEIMER: What was your first job?
BANNER: So the part-time job that I had there was this guy working there, and hewas like--and then he--we were just talking, and I was like, "Well, I'm still looking for a full-time job." So I actually got a job, I believe, at that time. I don't think it exists anymore in Louisville, but it was called Southern--forget the name. But anyway, I was a reimbursement special--it was a home healthcare facility. And I worked there for a year 00:36:00before--actually, maybe nine months before I went back to school to get my master's. But it was still very--it wasn't the job that I wanted. It was, like--it was hard. It was an emotionally hard time for me.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, well, it's a big period of transition.
FERNHEIMER: And to be far from home--
FERNHEIMER: --is hard.
BANNER: And I think that made the pressure even because you don't have--it's notlike I could say, well, I'm going to go home, move in with my parents, or I'm going to--so it was that pressure of, like, I have student loans. I have, like, a rent to pay. I have--and not--just like, and then also where I envisioned myself and what I would like to be. So it was like--it was hard.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. I'm sorry to make you reimagine that now. I can identify withhow challenging that is. Once you were in that year and you found the full-time job that wasn't quite your cup of tea, what motivated you to go back 00:37:00to school? Did you start right away, pretty much?
BANNER: Yeah, I--so pretty much, yeah. I think I finished out the year, and thatwas--that would've been, like, summer of--what--2004, maybe? Yeah. I went back to school because I was like, okay, this isn't working out. And I just need to--I kept--I had a part-time job that I kept. And I just need to refocus and make sure that I'm going in the right direction because it shouldn't be this hard. (laughter)
FERNHEIMER: A theme for today.
BANNER: And I remember, and I told my mom, I said, "Well, I don't even know howI'm going to pay for it." And my mom went--my said, "One step at a time. Just register, go to class, and see what happens." She said, "Walk in faith." So I was like, okay. And I went back to class. And the first semester I had, like, graduate research assistant --I guess, what do you call it? 00:38:00
FERNHEIMER: A position?
BANNER: Position, yeah. And I did that for--but it would--it only paid for,like--I think it covered a couple of my classes. And so I was like, okay, I'm going to finish, do this, but it's not working. And then I just--just, like, the scholarship, I was walking around campus one day and I saw this, like, note that says they were giving scholarships to students in Central America, like, the specific background. And they--like, they had to meet certain requirements, and I'm like, I meet all these requirements. So I went to the coordinator that was in charge of the scholarship, and I was like--and she said, "Well, you're the only one on campus that meets these requirements, so if you apply for it you're going to get it." She said, "I just don't know how much it would be." And so I showed up the day for the interview and they interviewed me. And she--they came back, and she--the coordinator came back. They talked or whatever, and they said, "Nice interview." And she came back and she said, "They're 00:39:00going to pay for your full school, like, everything." And I was like, "What?" She said, "I don't know what happened, but they only typically give 2,500 a semester. But they're going to pay for everything." And I was like--
BANNER: So that was definitely--definitely meant to happen. So when my mom saidwalk in faith--because that was like, she was like, "Well, you're the only person on campus that would qualify." I was like, okay.
FERNHEIMER: Wow. So that took care of your master's degree.
BANNER: Yeah, that did. And then also on the back end of that, I also wasworking--I started working at Beam as well, and they do tuition reimbursement as well, so--
FERNHEIMER: How did you get in at Beam? What was the opening there? Whatattracted you to apply? Or tell me that story.
BANNER: So my first year in doing my master's program, I actually applied for aninternship position through the Association of Kentucky Independent 00:40:00Colleges. And they usually do a summer--or it's for the semester with the state government. And one of the ones that I picked was for the finance. I applied for it, and it was within the Finance Cabinet. And I got a position with the internal audit for the Finance Cabinet in Frankfort. So that--so I moved to Frankfort. I did that for a semester. They kept me on after the internship was over. It went into the summer, so they extended. They asked if I was interested in staying on, and I said yes. When that came to an end, it was time to, like, go back to classes and stuff. And I was like, well--and I just walked into, like, Kelly Services for--I think it was, like, one more--said well I'll just look for something part-time until I actually just go back to school or whatever. And, like, that was Thursday to Monday, like, they called me in at Beam, and that was it.
FERNHEIMER: So you just saw the ad or--00:41:00
BANNER: No, I actually literally was driving by Kelly Services, and I went inthere. And I said, "Well, I'm just--I'll just put my name in. If anything comes up from an administrative perspective, just let me know."
FERNHEIMER: So Kelly Services is like--
BANNER: --is a temp agency, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Okay, I'm sorry. I was familiar with it.
BANNER: Yeah, and I said, "Well, just let me know," because, I mean, and Iwasn't really thinking about--I mean, I was planning to go back to school anyway, and it was like--I think it was like Labor Day weekend, so it was a long weekend. So I think I went in that Thursday. Actually, the next day, Friday they asked me if I could go in for an interview. And I went to Jim Beam facility in Frankfort. And the HR person, I remember clearly, she said, "Well, if you pass your drug test, we'll--everything should be fine, and we'll--" and I remember shaking her hand, and I said, "Well, I'll see you Tuesday," because Monday was a holiday. And she looked at me like-- because I'm thinking if that's 00:42:00the only hold up then I guess I'll see you Tuesday. And that--you know, that started my career at Beam right there, something--just a chance encounter.
FERNHEIMER: Wow. And so when you started, tell me about that. I mean, you'vebeen there for more than seventeen years now and you've had such a variety of leadership positions, which we'll talk a little bit more about too. In your own words, kind of give me the overview of your trajectory (laughter) for seventeen years--
BANNER: --yeah, definitely--
FERNHEIMER: --from chance encounter with Kelly Services to, you know, where youare now.
BANNER: Yeah, so when I started, when they hired me full-time at Beam, which wasa few months later, when I started I actually started in what you call production planning. And that's where they make the schedules for the bottling line, and that was--as talking about career path, I never--if someone would have said--like, when I imagined myself and when I think of--if I were to, 00:43:00like, meditate and I think about myself as what my career would be and what I would want to feel like, I often imagine, especially from when I decided to go the business route, that I would have on a dress and heels and not be in this corporate office or whatever. And so it was definitely--I enjoyed it, but it was definitely not something that I, from maybe not knowing what careers are out there. And it really helped me to interact with all the different parts of manufacturing that supply chain. So I had to work with the processing department, receiving, shipping and distribution, customer service, just to support building that schedule for the bottling line based on customer orders. Eventually I went to the shipping department as a distribution supervisor. That was my first time--so I expressed interest in being a supervisor, and 00:44:00I got the opportunity to still work in production scheduling while, I guess, supporting our liaison and learning with a supervisor role. Eventually when a position was opened, I applied and transitioned full time as a distribution supervisor. That also was a very unique role in that you're--there are, like, administrative things to do, but you're more in the physical realm of the work. So you're working with union hourly employees to get trucks loaded, meeting customer orders, working with the bottling. So you're really now in the house of full manufacturing and distribution. And a part of--one of my bigger roles that I guess I had a knack for when I was the distribution supervisor I 00:45:00worked a lot in the system finishing out orders, working--you know, if there was an issue in the system and when we--when the organization was doing a full ERP SAP system implementation, like, I was given the opportunity to join that project team as a business lead, just based on some of the work that I was doing in what we called order-to-cash, so from the time the customer puts in their order to the shipping, shipping it to the customer. So just that experience put me onto the project team as a business lead. But that was definitely--as you can tell from --------(??), was definitely taking me out of that production manufacturing environment onto a role that I was used to. Like, you, like--there is something that has to be done, right. So like, if a--this we have 00:46:00fifty trucks going out today, it has to be loaded. It has to be done. You end your day. You go home. This was definitely a shift in the type of work because now you are projecting your own timeline. You have to drive the projects onto something that's not really concrete. You don't see it until, you know. And you're also in the middle of trying to influence as well, so you're getting information from the business. You're trying to make sure that IT's translating that information back into the system and then also navigating, and so that people side came into that role. From there, when that project ended I transitioned into the change management specialist. From--just from that people perspective.
FERNHEIMER: Can I ask a question here?
FERNHEIMER: What motivated you--how did you know you wanted to be in thatsupervisory role working with and over other people? 00:47:00
BANNER: So I would say I don't know if it was necessarily that I wanted to,like--for me it was about, one, I wanted to, like, advance within the organization. But second, it was about something that I know that I had a natural--like, I build natural relationships with people. And there was just something internal to me that I felt like I could give more. And so that was the drive to it. And if there were opportunities that were available, I definitely wanted to build and grow and develop in that area. So it was definitely for me more of a development pursuit than necessarily the idea that, oh, I would be over people. (laughter)
FERNHEIMER: Right, right. I--that was a poorly phrased question. I'm going to--
BANNER: --no, I mean--
FERNHEIMER: As I said, as the afternoon goes on my abilities, they diminish alittle bit.
BANNER: Because especially at Beam, we were such a relationship-orientedorganization. It doesn't matter if they don't like you. They don't (??)--(laughter) 00:48:00
FERNHEIMER: I mean, I was thinking as I was looking at your trajectory and sortof how you worked your way up, something that really struck me was how historically women entered the bourbon industry on the bottling line. And that that was--you know, in the earlier days of the industry, that was one of the few places that women had--
FERNHEIMER: --opportunities to participate. And so what was it like to be aBlack woman in leadership in charge of facilitation and efficient bottling schedules and thinking about that?
BANNER: So I would say, like, when I first walked into the facility at theFrankfort plant, like, when I look around, I could tell that there was--I think I could count the people in my hand that looked like me, especially females. I mean, if it was five Black--or female of color in there, it was a lot. And so initially I was apprehensive. But from a people perspective, I would say that they were very welcoming and open. However, I think there was still 00:49:00some type of, like, maybe that microaggression or lack of awareness or that unconscious bias. Of even, like, if you pursue something or you are having to feedback their things that are--like, one of the things that used to get to me was, like, the backhand is like the, oh, you did a great job. I didn't know you would've been able to do that. And I'm like, so why did you ask me to do--(laughter)--but--and just like--you know, and then it was because I did have some--it wasn't, like, all roses for me. I did have some difficult time. I would say the first year of my career, I personally feel that I would have been much further if there weren't those unconscious biases, looking back. But then there's also that me not aware of it either as well, even at that time. Because I think as you get older you look back and you go--(gasps)--you know. 00:50:00Like, because even, like, one of my first experiences when I applied for that supervisor position that things that you don't normally talk about, you ask someone about their career path. I was actually called into the HR office and asked why I was asking about supervisor position. And I said, "Well, because I'm interested in supervisory positions and I would like to know more about them and what the qualifications are." And the HR person at that time was a white female. She said, "Well, how would we know what you want if you keep asking about all these jobs?" And I'm like--I hesitated for a minute, and I was like, "Because I will tell you what I want." I was like--almost, like--I was like, "Because I will tell you what I want." And then she was like, "Well, we--how--we don't--we can't--quit asking about all these jobs because we don't know how we--how--" you know, and I was like--I walked out of there thinking, well, you go to college and they tell you to be proactive and assertive and ask about things and like that. And looking back at my career, it impacted me in a way that it 00:51:00made me feel self-conscious about the things that I was doing. And I would--and I think as--when you--if you were working, if you--if I were reporting to you and you were in that leadership position, if I'm apprehensive about my decisions and about the things that I do it comes across that I'm not capable or I'm not--but it's just all this backstory that's going on in your head of like, should I do this? Could I do this? I was actually laughing at my--it was all--a funny story because I actually went for years not asking for an outside PIN to call out because I didn't want to overstep and ask.
FERNHEIMER: To be perceived as asking too much? Wow. So--
BANNER: --so I mean, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: That's pretty powerful--
FERNHEIMER: --to have that, what you call backstory--=
FERNHEIMER: --sort of on repeat in the background.
BANNER: Yeah, in the back--and you don't--and I think it comes to a point whereyou don't even realize it. You have to do the work to actual recognize it and get out of it. Like, I had to do a lot of work of saying, okay, Lisa, 00:52:00like, you have as much value. If you--your presence alone in this room is valuable, to ask for the things that you need and the things that you want. And so even, like, you know, at points throughout my career I used to get--be upset and say, well, I'm not getting that advancement. I'm not moving forward. But then I had to take that ownership of saying--of looking at myself and saying, why, right? And it's these backstories because it impacts your behavior more than you think. So if someone doesn't think that you're capable of it, they're probably, in their mind because they're seeing your behavior not acting like you're capable of it, right. And so I had to do a lot of work around moving through that.
FERNHEIMER: So that--I wonder what networks then and maybe even now existed forsupporting women and other minorities, either at Beam itself or just more broadly, to help create that environment to --I'm not going to word 00:53:00this very well, but to create the kind of counternarrative to that backstory that helps you begin to succeed and believe in yourself that--or reaffirm. Because you already knew that you could succeed--
FERNHEIMER: --in this predominantly white--I'm calling it a universe, but it'sactually an industry. You know, when you began, this is the early 2000s. You know, it's not--on the one it's like, almost twenty years ago. On the other hand, it's not that long ago.
BANNER: Long ago, yep.
FERNHEIMER: So were there networks for support or mentorship or--
BANNER: No, and I wish that we had. Like, at least if it was there I was notpersonally aware of it to take advantage of it. But I honest--actually, I was at a Dale Carnegie, and that was one of the things that I talked about in the classes that we took. That I wish that, like--I can't even imagine where my career would be if I had a mentor or some type of network or felt 00:54:00that I was in an environment that I could go to someone and talk about it.
BANNER: --and the--this DNI (??) conversation was not even a thing in theindustry then, so it--a lot of it was, like, me not--I think you take it on, and you go, well, I don't want to be the angry Black woman. I don't want to be the one perceived--because if you're not aware of your unconscious biases and I come to you and I said, "Well, Jan, you said this yesterday and this this," it's just going to be, "Well, no, not really. I didn't say that. That's not what I meant." And then I'm the one with the problem.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. So I mean, you've started to talk a little bit about this, butI'm going to ask in a more broad way. What were your impressions of the bourbon industry then? And I think that's a two-part question because it's the immediate work environment that you were exposed to at Beam. But then also kind of more broadly as we think about bourbon as an industry and where it's come --where it's come and gone. Where it's gone in the last twenty 00:55:00years--again, I'm sorry. I'm tired. (laughter)
BANNER: You're good. I think I get it. I think I understand. I would say, like,when I first started working at Beam, like, for, like, the product itself, the liquid was--bourbon was not really in the boom. It wasn't really a thing. And so even, like--so I think even sitting down for me, sitting down and researching where this could go and where I could go was not a thing. But I think what drove me is that I really enjoyed being in the industry. I enjoyed being with the people that I worked with. And every year I would put in my--what I would want for development. I don't think at that time people paid attention to that stuff, but one manager did. And I'm glad that he did, and it actually--that what brought to me, like, the SAP business league was what allowed me to see what the bourbon industry was really about because you get to come out of that 00:56:00one network of environment that you were in from a production standpoint. And you were able to see not only--you were able to see women in other places, even if it wasn't leadership or decision-making positions you were able to see--at least I was able to see other women. And I think that also exposed me to the consumer side of it as well because when that product left the distribution side of it, I--you know, I had no connection to that. And so I think understanding that this is something that I could truly make a career out of once I started to see outside of--you know, outside of the normal or where I was. I think it made a difference for me to make those personal choices and take the risk to--because taking the business lead role was a risk. I had no background in that, not even project IT or anything like that, so it was truly a risk to take. And 00:57:00mostly at that time in Beam, they'll--actually, I had someone tell me after I took that was like, "You know that's how they get rid of people once they go on project team?" So then I'm like--so but in my mind I'm like, well, fine, that's good if they get rid of me. Then I have the experience to go out there.
BANNER: --but of course that never happened.
FERNHEIMER: Forgive--just so that I'm clear on the timing, this was, like,around 2013, 2015?
BANNER: Yes, yeah, 2013.
FERNHEIMER: And so at the same time, you're also pursuing your doctorate.
FERNHEIMER: Also at Spalding--
FERNHEIMER: --this time specifically in leadership.
FERNHEIMER: So I have a whole bunch of questions. I'm going to try and ask a fewof the easy ones first. So forgive my ignorance. Can you walk me through the corporate alphabet soup of ERP and SAP? Like, we have an SAP here, but I'm guessing it's not the same as the SAP there.
BANNER: Well, for us, I would say it's probably a FID (??) IT system. It's thesame. So it's basically we have all our financial systems, all our-- 00:58:00
BANNER: --production system and everything in there. So a customer puts in anorder, it--you know, the production planning where I was, they were able to go into the system, pull it up.
BANNER: The sales, distribution, and everything is, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Okay, thank you. And what was it like going to school? Like, whatmotivated you to go back for the doctorate? And what was it like to be going to school and also working full time?
BANNER: Yeah, so going back to school for the doctorate, this is like a--like, Idon't know. Like, I've always had it in me. I wanted to go back to school and get the higher education or degree. But at the time I really didn't know what was the purpose of it, and I kept telling myself some day there'll be a purpose for it. I'll be ready (??). (laughter) But at the same time I think it took me out of feeling--at that time I was--before going on to the business lead role, I wasn't quite satisfied with the trajectory (??) of my career. So I think it helped me to--from that self--like, I did enjoy going to school. I 00:59:00enjoyed the conversations. I learned a lot, and it made me feel better, I think, about where I was and that it--maybe it was just me telling myself that I was where I needed to be. And but when I moved into that SAP business league path (??), it was--I mean, it really drove, for me, self-discipline. Like, you know, every night I would have a list of things that I needed to get done that night. I would check it off. Even if it was, like, thirty minutes that I had to do something so by Friday I could get all my work done and turn it in. And it was--when I did my dissertation and defended my dissertation we were in the middle of an implementation, so we were getting up at six o'clock in the morning. I think at that time it was in Canada, so we were traveling too as well. So it was a test of self-discipline.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, it sounds pretty intense. But you knew you wanted it.01:00:00
BANNER: Yeah, yes.
FERNHEIMER: And, I mean, from the outside looking in, when I was looking at yourresume, it seems like there's a real, like, strategic move after the degree.
FERNHEIMER: You take on these different kinds of roles at Beam that really havea kind of more abstract--
FERNHEIMER: --sense about them. More--I mean, that was my sense looking in. Iwant to ask you to talk about that in your own words. When you're thinking about, you know, from going to work on the plant of these very business-oriented, SAP leading things--
BANNER: --yeah, very--yeah, very concrete, like, this is what you're doing andthis is the end, and--
FERNHEIMER: --yeah, there's a product that needs to--
BANNER: --and this is what it looks like, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: And then, you know, you're in the change management specialistposition for a year and the organizational change management leader. And I guess that--was it the strategic projects, is that where you--
FERNHEIMER: And then now you're in the university relations and instituteprogram director role. So tell me, you know, did you see it from your 01:01:00perspective as kind of moving in this new role? And how did you see yourself as a leader in this institution, this industry--institution?
BANNER: Well, I would say, yes, it was strategic. But I don't know if it was,like, precisely strategic, if that's--(laughter)
FERNHEIMER: I love it. We'll go with it.
BANNER: If that's--because I was looking for opportunities that would notconfine me back into, like, a production role because I did enjoy the people side of it. I did enjoy seeing the different aspects of the organization that comes together for the end project of what we would--what our brand is. And I also knew at that time that eventually I would like to be in a leadership role. And still I don't--currently don't envision myself where I would like to be, but I'm on that path. And I knew that the people side, understanding the 01:02:00business from different aspects was definitely an essential. The people side of it, being able to understand yourself but then also interact with people and influence people, and being a part of moving a strategic objective forward was something that I could take anywhere within the organization. I went from--you know, from reporting through a manufacturing perspective, supply chain, now I report through public affairs which has nothing to do with concrete and you're building relationships. You're bringing back what's going on in the external environment back to the organization to match our strategic and objective goals with partnership and things that are going out so that we can advance what we're doing. And so as you can--they are two different worlds. And one of the things that I'm trying to manage now for myself is, like, okay, now you've kind of understand the business. You understand who you can go back to. How 01:03:00do you move those skills that you have learned to be more in a people leadership--people lead--so that some of the things that I'm thinking about to kind of advance my role. But, yes, it was, to--long story short, it is a strategic move. I knew that for what I wanted for my career, that going back in manufacturing and production was not where I needed to be.
FERNHEIMER: So tell me about your new role. I mean, I know a little bit aboutthe Institute because from the faculty side, as a faculty fellow at the Beam Institute here on campus and I teach also a little bit in the distillation--
FERNHEIMER: --oh, I can never remember. The certificate in distillation, wine,and brewing, I think that's the order that it goes in.
BANNER: Yeah, I think that's it, yes.
FERNHEIMER: And so I know from that side of things. But from your side ofthings, you know, and from Beam's side of things, how do they imagine this relationship with University of Kentucky specifically? But I know you also work with other university and industry partners, so tell me a little bit 01:04:00about that.
BANNER: So I'll go back to initially how it got started. So for us at Beam, inthe role as change management strategic projects I worked for--at that time, for--in the mature (??) liquid--liquid team that manages the warehouse and the aging liquid. One of the things that we wanted to do was support from an educational perspective. Knowing, like, if we said we put people first, a big part of that is development. A lot of our knowledge that we have is actually handed down. We don't really have a database that you could go to or somewhere. And so part of that was to upscale and educate from just--I mean, we were thinking--at that time we think we were thinking big, but we really weren't just from an education perspective. And it coincidentally happened that Kevin Smith, who I now report to, is from--I believe through the KDA [Kentucky Distillers' Association]. UK was having this--the University of Kentucky was 01:05:00having the same conversation. And he was like, "Well, I'll take you to the team that I know have been talking about some educational stuff." And it just--it kind of worked out perfectly. I think from our perspective, and I know it's about the advancement of the bourbon industry, like, we--and we talked about earlier that in early 2000s when I first came in the bourbon industry, what it felt like, what it looked like. We know that to advance the bourbon industry, one, education is a big supporter of that. Getting people educated, get them to understand the bourbon industry, the career path that's available for students within the industry and keeping people within Kentucky. Second, we have our sustainability goals that surround, you know, nature whether it's, you know, forest, water. That we know that we can only accomplish those big 01:06:00goals through partnerships, whether with the James B. Beam Institute and the Kentucky Distillers' Association. This week we got the Scotch Whiskey Research Institute visiting Kentucky. And finally from a community perspective and people, we do have some social responsibility programming. So all of that coming together not only to educate the next generation but ensuring that it's a vital industry a hundred, two hundred years from now. However, I would say that we are still doing a lot of work in communicating that external to, like, other industry members and other universities as well, and even internally to Beam Suntory. I still do a lot of communication because I think for most people they are like, great, we have a partnership with University of Kentucky and this is the vision and this is the mission. But to truly understand what that partnership means, I think there's still a lot of work to--that, yes, 01:07:00this actually drives our sustainability goals.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. And then, in thinking about that, just how much the industryhas changed--
FERNHEIMER: --you know, since you entered it. How--what networks are there nowto help support, you know, as both internal education, you know, about unconscious bias and about the kinds of things that are happening in the workplace every day? Is that different now for, you know, a young person coming in on the scene and--
BANNER: --yes, very, very, very different. And I'll tell you even--so now wehave--you mentioned Victoria Russell, someone that's our chief officer for diversity and inclusion, and she has a whole team. That was something that was never a thing. And that was the first time, I'm going to add, that when they hired her that I actually saw a person of color in a leadership role at that level within our organization. So that's something to note as well. 01:08:00
FERNHEIMER: I was going to ask about that. And what year was that?
BANNER: Twenty twenty. And I remember look--and you know, representation doesmatter because I remember thinking, okay, I could definitely do this. And in the back of my mind, if--but I would say, yes. And now that we have different EIG [Employee Impact Groups] groups, so we have, you know, for--
FERNHEIMER: --what's EIG?
BANNER: I think it's like impact--something impact, but it's like,different--like, it's one, a group for women. We have the--we have, like, different--we have, like, a Latin--Latinx group. So let me see, something impact group. Employee Impact Groups.
BANNER: That's it.
FERNHEIMER: I could've figured that out.
FERNHEIMER: Eventually. (laughter)
BANNER: I was like, okay, impact groups. But we actually have education andtraining around it now, which I think is the--like we've had the conversation of, if I were to have a conversation with someone that I feel like was doing something that I thought was biased or something, that that 01:09:00conversation would've ended on me and me being the problem. So I think conversations about--we actually have education and training and conversation. There is active goals around our sustainability goal, fifty percent women by a certain time frame in certain leadership level positions, and even in our recruiting. Now we have--when we interview someone, the interview panel has to be diverse. So there's--which makes a big difference because we don't often see our biases and so it helps for it to be challenged when you're interviewing someone to come into the organization. So there is an active push to bring diversity into the industry, which is definitely vital if we think about the survival of the industry and the demographics of the country. We want, you know, what the people that we--that's buying our product to feel like they're represented. and I would say within Kentucky or even Louisville, 01:10:00that's closer to our facility, I don't believe people feel that way.
FERNHEIMER: Just in thinking a little bit more about that, so did theybring--was--they brought Virginia on before or after the--
BANNER: --Victoria, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Oh, Victoria, I'm sorry. I had it in my mind right and I said itwrong. They brought her on before or after the events of the summer of 2020? So was that before or after George Floyd?
BANNER: Before because she started in spring of 2020, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: Because I know that there was a pivotal moment where, you know, theKDA formed--I'm going to gumble the name, also on diversity and inclusion.
FERNHEIMER: I don't know if it was a task force or panel--
BANNER: --yes, yep, they did--
FERNHEIMER: --at the same time. And so there was an opening there.
BANNER: Yeah, so I would say--yeah, before that. She was hired on before thatsummer. But I would say that they--I think it was coming to a time, even before that, I would say, where that recognition that we don't have that 01:11:00representation and even things going on within the broader community, that was impacting that decision and that move. Because prior--I think prior to Victoria, they did the--they tried to do some different--but it was put on the HR team. So then you already have someone that's already have a lot of work to do, and then you're pushing that piece onto their work as well, which wasn't really working out.
FERNHEIMER: As one more thing as opposed to--
FERNHEIMER: --its own thing.
BANNER: Yeah, its own thing, yeah.
FERNHEIMER: So I'm curious. What kinds of materials--a lighter question. Whatkinds of materials does your current position require you to read and write on a daily basis?
BANNER: So I would say read, I do--I get a lot of, like the--I get a lot ofindustry updates. Like, for example, I believe is it Diageo that's no 01:12:00longer a part of DISCUS? So I do get, like, industry update stuff. But I do, from a personal reading perspective, read a lot. Like, right now I'm reading a Stephen Covey book on trust and it's, like, a leadership book that he has. I do read a lot of stuff on communication, influence and because it's a lot of the work that I do. Especially because we do have leadership updates with the institute in what we do and how do you continue to ask for financial support or continue without, you know, showing that investment. And so you--even though you're showing the data, what are some--how can you communicate and influence with a way that moves people in a direction? I do read a--like, you know, if there's any announcement from universities or something, overall I would. So industry type things and local, you know, interactions of who's doing what type of project and who they're working with. 01:13:00
FERNHEIMER: Is there, like, a--I don't know. Is there some kind of industryupdate that gets delivered to your inbox or do you have to go out and sort of find it in these different kinds of places?
BANNER: So I do--I do get the KDA, like, if they do their report and stuff likethat. And I do the Kentucky Chambers, they have a lot of update that they send out from a workforce development perspective. Which is very important because you get to see what other companies are going to come into Kentucky that would be taking your workforce in, like, five years.
FERNHEIMER: The competition.
BANNER: Yeah. And some of them, you just--if someone says something, I'll justgo out there and Google and see, you know, what's going on.
FERNHEIMER: And are there other materials that you read to stay informed abouttrends in the industry? I don't know, more broadly product trends, or the--kind of the new trend seems to be putting, you know, wood (??) into the product and trying to stay within those definitions of what bourbon is and-- 01:14:00
BANNER: --well, I just--I would say, from an internal perspective, I keep up alot with the--actually, we have internal sites that talk about from the social responsibility perspective because that's a big piece. Like, I try to go to our--we have what we call our proof positive site, so they talk about the nature, community, and consumer pieces of it. So I try to keep abreast of what direction the organization is going. And of course, if there's any, like, new competitive thing out there, I would go--but a lot information for me is trying to understand, like I said, from a competitive perspective locally because most of my work is locally. And then from an internal perspective, I try to understand clearly what our internal goals are so that when I interact externally that I could understand, okay, these are partnerships for initiatives that I think would fit well with where we're going. And bringing it 01:15:00back to the organization and saying, hey, this is something that's going on in the community around workforce development. And sometimes it fits. Sometimes it doesn't. But truly understanding--and even, like, if--when we're with the James B. Beam Institute, some of the things or direction that we're going. Like, and it's fine because it's, like, university of Kentucky entity, but we're--so if we do partner with some of the initiatives, does it fit into any of these buckets and are we using our resources wisely. So for me, a lot of it is understanding externally what's going on and then making sure that I have a good understanding of--and it does--the goals internally does evolve, so you have to check on it.
FERNHEIMER: And just in terms of, like, bourbon from an aficionado kind ofperspective, did you--once you began working in the industry, how motivated were you to begin to develop your palate or to gain more experience in the kind of sensory aspects of responsibly engaging with product? 01:16:00
BANNER: So when I was working at the Frankfort plant, they actually had--like,they had an internal taste panel that they had. They had ex-employees to come every day, and you get to, like, evaluate whatever was coming off the bottling line or going off the bottling line. So you get to smell it and you would say, okay, this is an off whatever. Actually, I was the second place, runner-up of best smell or nose, whatever. So I think that's what drew my interest in because I've always been, like--been able to, like, smell something and tell. And so I think from there it drew my interest at being able to say, okay, I would like to start tasting. Because even then I wasn't, like, a big bourbon drinker or anything like that. And I said that would be good. And at the Frankfort plant were more rum and flavored drinks. So when I moved to the Clermont facility, that was when I had the opportunity to get more into taste and, like, our small batches. Like, you know, the Booker's brand, Knob Creek, Basil 01:17:00Hayden, Baker's. And so I would say that I'm a fan of all of them now. But one of my favorite--well, it depends on the--would be Booker's because it has that more stronger finish to it that I like, like a spice that comes to the end. And then Basil Hayden and Baker's are more like a smoother drink. So if you're just getting into and wanted to try bourbon, there's something--that would be what I would recommend, but.
FERNHEIMER: And have you felt like--did you feel pressure that you needed todevelop that or was it more you were interested in developing it?
BANNER: I think I was interested in developing it from the--being able to--thesensory panel, because that, I think that I would--I'm more interested in the sensory panel. I'm fascinated that someone could actually develop their sensory skills to that degree that they're able to detect different things, because I can't detect anything. (laughter) 01:18:00
FERNHEIMER: It's easy to get in and out of practice, right.
BANNER: Yeah. But so I think--so from a pressure--perspective personally, no, Ididn't feel--I think it just--as you were in the industry, it just kind of evolved. Plus there is--I think there is more of an external pressure than an internal pressure because if someone hears that you work in the bourbon industry, the first thing they go to is, like--and then it's like, well, I don't really drink bourbon. So I can't tell you what you should--
FERNHEIMER: --what you should buy for so-and-so for the holidays. Tell me about,you know, the most challenging and rewarding parts of your current role right now in university relations.
BANNER: I would say the most challenging part of it is that the universityrelations role is the first of its kind at Beam, so it's not--I don't have, like, a person or a department that I can go to and said, okay, what direction we should go. And we--it's not--we don't have it much in the industry either. I think, like, one other company has someone that has not even the 01:19:00exact role but a similar role that actually interacts with universities and stuff like that. So this is--not only from a DNI perspective, but even this is new, I think, for--you have recruiters, and you have people that--but just a role that developed, that relationship wasn't there. So I would say for me, one of the challenging part of it is, is just--it was--when we developed the Institute, that's how I--this was--I worked with Seth (??) and the team over there before going into this role. I think that was an easier part because you're looking at infrastructure. You're looking at, okay, what does this look like. But when I went back into my organization, I didn't really know what it looked like for us, how we were going to move forward. So I had to sit down and work with our leaders. I had several meetings and said, okay, this is the partnership that we've had. Here are the things from an external perspective that we say it's about education. It's about outreach. It's about social responsibility. Does that fit with the things that we're doing and 01:20:00hearing from all the leaders, and what does this mean for us as this partnership? So going through that--because even though you're getting the feedback, you have to pull all of that together to make sense. And then have people buy it (??) and said, okay, yeah, that's what I said, or that's what I think we're going in the right direction. So just being able to create the strategic and the direction of saying where we're going without anyone saying, okay, Lisa, I think you should be doing that. There's no, like, right, wrong or way (??), so I could be doing great. Far as I'm concerned, I'll always be doing great because no one could tell me otherwise. (laughs)
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. Where--personally, what are your goals in terms of, you know,the kind of paths you're trying to create either for students that are here at the University of Kentucky or the kind of openings that you're trying to create within the industry for those, you know, more educated workforce or the students that are coming from here, or something else? I'm just 01:21:00thinking off the top of my head, but trying to get a better handle on how you think about this.
BANNER: So I would say from a--even a goal within my role and also a personalgoal is when I started my career at Beam I really didn't have a direction within the bourbon industry. Like, it was just, like, what I look around at and that I can see. And then if I advance to another role, then I get more exposure to what else is going on, and that's been primarily my career at Beam. And I think for students coming in, it's to understand before--if I could help students or people coming into the industry to understand that you do have a career path and what that career path looks like. And also open the industry to ensure that it's just not a boom and it ends. That we are building infrastructure within-- locally within the different distilleries that are in 01:22:00Kentucky, that bourbon industry is Kentucky, and that we can take that worldwide. So if you think about Scotch, you know, you think about Scotland. You think about bourbon, you want to think about Kentucky. We want to keep it that way. So opening opportunities for the bourbon industry to expand as well while bringing the people side of that along. Because even, like, when I go to universities now, like, students don't understand. Like, you know, they'll say, "Well, oh, yeah, I have an agricultural degree." And I was like, "Well, we are talking about an agricultural product. This is--" or, "I have a--I'm getting my certificate in business and supply chain or finance." And they--there's just--and that's on us, I think, as an industry, because this is something in the past we've never had to done. I mean, I've been there--what--seventeen years, and I would--most people--I would say it's only within the last five years that I would talk to people and they've been at Beam at year, 01:23:00two years or whatever, because of the growth of the industry. But prior to that, most people are there twenty years, twenty-five, thirty years. And if they leave, they go to another distillery, another competitor, so there is never really need for that. So I think not only expanding where the bourbon industry goes from a sustainability perspective but making sure that we have the people from a skillset, from a desire to want to be a part of the bourbon industry, I think, and the ability to see themselves in it.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, we've talked a lot about that kind of importance of seeingyourself and your representation. And I was grateful that you pointed out how important it was to see Victoria--
FERNHEIMER: --in that role and to see someone be visible--
FERNHEIMER: --in a position of leadership. And now you are visible in a positionof leadership at Beam. And you're helping to make Black women more visible in this predominantly-white male, still, industry. How often do you 01:24:00think about yourself in that role, and how has that experience been for you?
BANNER: I--so you mean navigating the bourbon industry from a female and a Black female?
FERNHEIMER: But--and also as a leader who's very kind of prominent and visibleas a Black and female leader in this otherwise--
BANNER: --okay, so--
FERNHEIMER: --not so much industry.
BANNER: I would say that for me it's been--I try to have a lot of self-awarenessabout even my interaction in a day-to-day business internally to the organization and externally, because you never know. For me, it's like, you never know who's watching and who you would make a difference for, especially if it's like a female and/or a Black female or someone of color coming into the organization. But I do--I guess it's a dual because sometimes, like, 01:25:00I don't--I think I'm just doing my job, and I don't really see myself as, like--as this person that I'm being seen as. But then at the same time there's also an awareness that I am visible. If I go to something externally representing the company. Even in this interview, you know, being an employee at Beam Suntory, that there is an importance to that. And the way that I portray myself in the role in the organization is essential to encouraging other people to want to at least check it out, have an internship position, see what it's about.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. And who do you see as your peers and mentors? You mentionedthat one manager. You didn't mention his name, but I think he was male, who helped--
FERNHEIMER: --you transition into this different path. Are there other mentors?Or if that's the one you want to name, I don't know.
BANNER: Well, so when I said--so initially, of course when I saw01:26:00Victoria I reached out to her. So we have one-on-one conversations every so often, you know, like, more--it's not a very formal but informal mentorship position. I've now been--the organization through DNI efforts have set up official--I mean, official mentorship program, so I do have someone that I've met with a--actually, we met this morning. So--and--but the most influential has been the informal relationships. Like Kevin Smith, who I now report to, has been very influential in my career. He was the project manager on the SAP project that I was on. And that was really one of the first times that I kind of told myself and believed that, you know what? I could have the audacity to say or do ask for something without--
FERNHEIMER: --the code to make the external phone calls. (laughter) I laugh, butit's not funny.
BANNER: Exactly. I mean, I laughed at it the other day. I was01:27:00thinking about it. I think how crazy is that? But--and then even, like, my peers--
BANNER: You know, and as we talk about a white-dominated male, most of thesupport that I've gotten is from white males. So it's just there are--you know, yes, you deal with unconscious biases, but at the end of the day I would say that most--a lot of the support as far as career development, like, when I--when I was distribution supervisor, it was a white male that put my name in to be part of the SAP project. So throughout my career with the industry, that's--I've gotten that network and support. And I've also built a network of, like, females of, like, you know, like, that we are within the same level that you could be able--if something is not going well, you could talk to even if it's a quick conversation. So I would say it's been a network of formal and informal with majority of it--I guess the less--maybe not the majority of it, but 01:28:00the lessons that have been impactful through actions and the way they support has been more impactful for me.
FERNHEIMER: What would you say is kind of like the best mentoring advice you'vereceived or that you tend to give out when you're talking, you know, up, down, across peer-to-peer, all those situations?
BANNER: Feedback is a gift, and so that allowed me to be open to it andnot--because I think sometimes that idea to personalize really steps in. And that fear of, well, I don't want to feel like I'm not good enough, so I'm not going to ask. But then if you look at it as a gift and it's an ability to internalize what's being said--because you don't have to take everything that's being said but say--and reevaluate or rebrand or re--if you had to work--something that you're working on, to make it better. Because 01:29:00one of the things that I've learned throughout my career is that when I--I used to take things so personally, and it impacted, like, if something--if I did something and I didn't feel like it went so well--but then, like, I had to start asking my--putting myself in other people's shoes, and when people make a mistake, do I think about their mistakes for a month or two weeks later? No, it's their mistake, and I forget about it, and I move on. So I've learned to give myself that same grace of not beating up myself for not doing something perfect or not feeling like--
FERNHEIMER: --yeah, that's important.
FERNHEIMER: I'm sure it makes the day a lot easier to get through.
BANNER: Yes, it does, being able to just, like, let it go.
FERNHEIMER: What effect do you hope your presence will have? You talked a littlebit about that in terms of inspiring others. But beyond that, I don't know.
BANNER: As far as--I would hope that my presence, whether I interact--01:30:00like, whether it's at work, whether if--you know, if I'm in my role as a university relations or at work sending (??) to someone, that my presence inspires people to be their best selves. And whether that--I mean, that does not have--whether that's in their day, in whatever they're doing, I think at the end of the day, for anything to be successful you have to feel good about it, meaning that you feel good about yourself, feel good that--what you're doing. And one of the things that I've learned to do with myself is, like, okay, how--for this day is how do I want to feel, not necessarily what do I want to accomplish because I think it will come along if you're working towards feeling a certain way. And so for me is that I would want people to feel that it's a positive feeling whenever I interact with them and it's inspirational because I think the how and the what will come along.
FERNHEIMER: Yeah, that's been born out, right, in your path as well. How do youenvision the ideal way to cultivate additional Black talent for the 01:31:00bourbon industry? Or I should expand that to say Black and other people of color, ethnic minorities. I want to be expansive there in that term.
BANNER: I think something that we're definitely doing is presence. You know, wetalk about representation, but when I--even when I walked in the door at Jim Beam--what--six, seventeen years ago at Frankfort, I--it was--I walked in there thinking, I'm going to have a job. I'll make some money. I'll go back to school. I never thought about it as something that could be incorporated into who I am and how I represent myself and my brand or--and I think presence--so that there is that ability, like I talked about, how would I feel in this industry, how do I want to feel. And that might you lead into a career, whether it's finance, you could become a finance director someday. Whether it's distilling, a 01:32:00master distiller, whether--so I think presence, the ability--not only just from people but the organization, whether it's in the James B. Beam institute or supporting different student organization. But giving of your time as well, to support students in understanding what's available. But then also putting that money where it is if, okay, I'll give you an opportunity in internships and the ability, if you wanted to take a visit that day to understand a role or shadow a role. So investing that time. The resources, whether it's time, financing, and make sure that we have a presence.
FERNHEIMER: What reading materials, if any, would you recommend to other womenwho want to learn more about the industry?
BANNER: So I would say it's in--I could see it in my living room. But01:33:00we--I don't think I have it because I forgot the name of it. But I would say there's several, even if you go to the distilling or visitor's site, there's several books there that you could look up or look into. So I really can't remember off the top of my head. (laughter)
FERNHEIMER: That's okay. It's not a quiz. It was just a kind--if something stoodout. And, you know, what kinds of things do you think should be created in order to help other women, Black women, other people of color, to enter and navigate the industry. Like if--if you had a magic ball or wand--I guess it's a wand, not a ball. I'm thinking about the magic eight ball. I'm so confused. (laughter) You know, and you could hand out any manner of pamphlet, you didn't have to write themselves, right.
FERNHEIMER: So the fairies are going to come and write it for you. But whatkinds of materials do you think would be really helpful to have at hand?
BANNER: I think--so if it was just like physical material, if you were01:34:00going into somewhere, I think images of, you know--so representation, images of that, and then also stories that are representative of women that look like them that are already in the industry. But I would say ultimately it has to end with an invite. Whether it's, if you're in a student environment to check out our internship opportunities, to visit the visitor center, to create opportunities to get them on site. Whether it's through some type of, I guess, career path. And if you're a student you come in, you know, rotate through programs. If you are--if it's just set up days to visit the facility from a visitor perspective. So definitely representation, in this, like--you know, connecting 01:35:00them with women within the industry and then also making sure that there is an ultimate, like--you know, we have a saying that says come as friends, leave as family. There has to be an ultimate invite to be a part of the industry, I think.
FERNHEIMER: So now that we've--you've been in the industry for seventeen years,we've talked a little bit about how things have changed for you personally. Just thinking back, imagine, you know, the industry has kind of grown up in a certain sense--
FERNHEIMER: --during that seventeen-year period, and you even mentioned ityourself, how we weren't quite in the boom yet when you started. And then, you know, you got your doctorate and were, like, peak boom and you can't get, you know--
FERNHEIMER: --all kinds of brands, all kinds of places. You know, thinking aboutthat, how would you describe the changes? Who did the most--this is going to be a terribly worded question, but, like, the most visible, high-up women that you encountered in those kind of first years and when did that begin to 01:36:00change? Like--
BANNER: --so when in my first years at Beam, our--what do you call--so it's alevel before the plant manager, operations manager was female but she was the only female, I think. All the other managers were male. And I don't--and I would be honest and say that that was not a positive experience.
BANNER: Because I think--
FERNHEIMER: --I appreciate your honestly.
BANNER: Because I think at that time, to feel like you're moving forward orsurviving--and I'm only projecting with it what I would think that person would--you have to be sort of male identified, I think, and maybe women think--felt that way. And so it wasn't a positive experience for me. I don't think it was something that helped me to advance my career, this person that was in the leadership role. But I would say--and it would be maybe once a year or every other year you would see the chief HR officer would visit the 01:37:00plant, and they would just walk through and then they would leave. And so there was--in my first years at Beam, there was no true, visible where you could interact or see women in their role and so that you could visibly say, okay, some day this is something that--so I would say it was probably around twenty--when maybe I transitioned to SAP, 2013, 2012 that there were more. Like, the IT chief when I went to the IT project, they hired. It was a female leading that team. Our--we had just transitioned another chief human resource officer as well that was female as well. And those were--I mean, and I guess because of my role you--it was more visible, but there still wasn't any because 01:38:00those were--like, we were in Kentucky. They were in Chicago. So there was no true--and of course--
FERNHEIMER: There was no Zoom.
BANNER: Yeah, I was going to say, and the technology wasn't where you could justlike, you know. We--and our internal site wasn't as developed as it as well, so they--now they could have videos. They have townhalls, all of that, so--because before I remember when we would even have, like, a major town hall where the CEO spoke, you would just listen to it on speakerphone whereas now you can see their picture. So I would say that transition--that visible of seeing and seeing someone walking down the hallways probably started in 2013 or a little bit later. And I would say for other females that were in the plants or, you know, probably later because they weren't in the offices to see. And now it's much more because now that there's a push to do that, there--it's much 01:39:00more. And then of course technology helps with that as well. But I think with the--with our overall slogan of saying people are our number one priority, I think it has pushed the organization to be more visible and to be more proactive and to be more intentional in ensuring that, you know, not only do we want to add--have more women in leadership, but how active are these women in the organization and are they truly being seen as a decision maker.
FERNHEIMER: And from your perspective, when would you say the industry began toreally recognize women from a consumer standpoint as part of the audience for product? In a responsible way, of course, but--
BANNER: I would say it probably started maybe 2015. It was, like, in themid--you know. And I would say--and that's because I think there was an understanding that more women --I think we had Mila Kunis that was on 01:40:00That '70s Show. That was our bourbon ambassador at the time, and that was--what--maybe 2015, 2016. So I would say that was, like, when there was an understanding that there is a segment of the market that we're not tapping into because bourbon is seen as a white male's drink. And I remember when I was at the Frankfort plant there was a commercial or a slogan that we had that says this isn't my daddy's drink, or something like that, which implied that it's a male drink and that there was a son drinking that drink. And there was--you didn't see any--well, you did saw a female in it, which I can't believe that we did that now looking back. But there was, like, a female on one side and a female on the other side, and I guess that was the representation of women that you were a man's side that was drink--that was drinking bourbon. And 01:41:00so--and that was what. I started in--what--2006. That was probably, yeah, 2010. So I would say 2015, 2016 was when that truly going out into the market and trying to understand and doing the market research to understand how do we tap into that segment of the market. And we did got--we bought Skinnygirl, which I think was a start of, like, tapping into the female market for me. I would say calorie, nutrition, still a--I think, a very superficial way of tapping into the female market, but it still wasn't bourbon, right. And so maybe from a bourbon perspective it was just recently, maybe 2018, 2019, 2020 that that true, hard push was there.
FERNHEIMER: And what about the Black community? I mean, not that it's onemonolithic community. I don't mean it like that. But, you know, Black consumer groups. 01:42:00
BANNER: I would say, because we'd--I mean, you still have a lot of--as far ascommercials and the way we market and advertise, I would say personally I never saw that. Not to say that there was probably from a marketing perspective that I'm not engaged in. But the commercials and the things that I saw were not representative of the Black community. The places that they would have these events if they had a commercial were not representative of the Black community. And so that was also a big segment as well. And if--and I would say that even within my friends that are of color, like, I've just gotten them maybe into, like, drinking bourbon or something because they didn't see it as a drink that was for them or for us or whatever. That was either--I had friends that would go with Scotch before they did bourbon, which I don't understand, but--(laughter)
FERNHEIMER: But it sounds like there's --you know, when you're talking01:43:00about advertising and seeing the--
FERNHEIMER: --ads and seeing yourself in that position.
BANNER: Yeah, and I would say--like, I had a cousin that drank Courvoisier. AndI was like, how did he get into Courvoisier? But you had all these commercials and stuff that would talk about your Henne, which is, you know, a cognac. Like, so I was like, oh, okay, that makes sense because there's representation. It's being talked about in a media stream that you would see or be interested in. Because I was like, why is he--like, he's like twenty-one or something. And I was like, why is he drinking--
FERNHEIMER: Yeah. It's interesting to think about that. I guess my question--mynext question is where do you see the industry going in the next five years, ten years?
BANNER: In the next five or ten years I--hopefully I want--would want it to bevery innovative and growing. And I would say from the work--from a 01:44:00diversity, equity, and inclusion perspective, that that drives some of the diversity internally. Even with the--with our suppliers and the decisions that we're making from a supplier standpoint or agricultural perspective. So I would definitely want to see the grow--continued growth and increase innovation due to our workplace practices, so connecting that workplace and marketplace.
FERNHEIMER: And what are some of the important trends that you think peopleshould be paying attention to?
BANNER: So trends people should be paying attention to. So I would say that Ithink people, like, younger and younger, even if beyond before drinking age, I know these kids are--they're--especially here in Kentucky, I don't know. Like, if you go, they know--they're becoming aware of the product from a story perspective, not necessarily--they're probably, you know, I don't know, but I'm going to keep it responsible. From a--they're being more engaged with 01:45:00the story, I think. And so that is definitely something that we want to pay attention to from a branding, marketing perspective. And not to just attract more consumers but also in our social responsibility perspective messaging. I see a lot of trends going into, like, people are becoming more social--like responsible. Responsibility is a thing, a part of drinking, so you see a lot of low, like, alcohol ABV. And you see a lot of, like, no-alcohol type conversations, having, like, mocktails and stuff. I do think that if we are truly talking about health, they're highly sugar-based, so I don't know how sustainable that would be as people become as--you know, as people 01:46:00become more aware of their health and stuff like that. But definitely the cocktail, you know, making bourbon a cocktail and not just, like, you know, a neat drink or something on the rocks. So more and more people are getting into that cocktail phase of it, so--
FERNHEIMER: What hopes, dreams, or aspirations do you wish will become realitywith the next generation entering the industry?
BANNER: That when we--I would hope that the next--when the generation enters theindustry, that when you walk into a meeting, that it's truly diverse. It's fifty percent female, fifty percent male, even from ethnicity, race. That's something that I truly hope. That we have students that are coming out that they know about the industry, they want to be a part of the industry. That we have different--even if it's not within Beam, that you have different --because there's so many aspects of the industry, I think, I--you 01:47:00don't feel--have to be in a distillery or a major--but being innovative and expanding the bourbon industry to define--you know, it might look different then. That's defined by the people that are within the industry, so--and I think that will only happen if we continue to build on that diversity.
FERNHEIMER: A good follow-up question to that is what advice do you have forcurrent students who are looking to enter the industry?
BANNER: I know this is cliché, but be open. Like, I could--like, one of thethings that I--always if, like--a couple weeks ago I was at Kentucky State University, and I always start off by--I'm very intentional about talking about my career path because it's not--it's not like I just applied and I went into, like, an eight--you know, like, make a traditional HR role, and then that made sense that I transitioned to a university relation role. It's really 01:48:00a diverse career path from--you know, and I think that the more experiences you get and the more you get to learn, the more successful you will be. Plus it gives you the opportunity to know what you don't like, so you could move on. But I would say be open. And I know that sometimes that's hard because, you know, one student is like, well, I majored in--I'm a horticulturist or whatever, and I--I'm going to be that, right? And I'm like, well, that's your education that you're pursuing, but you don't know if you're going to be that. And there's a lot of things that you could use that skillset for, right. Like, if you wanted to be, like, a farmer. You might go and farm for a season, and you might realize that, you know what? I'm farming, and I enjoy it, but what I really want to do is educate people about farming practices or the types of food or take foods into, like, different communities that don't have access to--so you know, be open-minded. Yes, this is your education path, but you could take 01:49:00it anywhere that you want to.
FERNHEIMER: Is there anything else you'd like to add or make sure is on theofficial record that I haven't had the opportunity to ask you about?
BANNER: I think we talked about everything from family, educational background,school, so I--not really. Just say thank you for the opportunity and I hope, you know, someone listening to it some day could, you know, get something out of it or the experience. Because, like, one of the takeaway is that you do see people in a leadership role or perceive them in that role and you don't understand what brought them there. And people go through things all the time. They have challenges. They have difficulties. And so if something that I said can support or help, that's the last takeaway.
FERNHEIMER: Thank you so much for taking--
BANNER: --thank you--
FERNHEIMER: --your time to be with me today. It was so wonderful to really learnso much from you.
BANNER: All right, thank you.
FERNHEIMER: I really appreciate it.01:50:00
BANNER: It was fun going all the way back to my childhood.
FERNHEIMER: I enjoyed learning very much about it.
[End of interview.]