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At one time, employees worked for the same company for their entire professional lives; where they began is where they ended. There has been a trend in recent years, however, to only work for a company for a couple years and then move on in an effort to climb the professional ladder. Some women, like Tracey Johnson at Brown-Forman Corp., have been with the same company for many years but have changed positions within the firm in order to learn new skills and thrive. 

Tracey began her career in banking in Louisville but realized that she didn’t want to spend her life in finance, so she applied to business school. While getting her MBA at the University of Michigan, Tracey says, “My eyes were opened up to marketing jobs and opportunities. That’s when I decided that I loved working on different brands.”

She spent time at Johnson & Johnson, KFC, and Sara Lee Foods in different parts of the country, but eventually made her way back to Louisville due to her husband’s job move. Tracey set her sights on Brown-Forman and made a concentrated effort to get hired: “Once I started doing my research I said, ‘This is the place I really want to work.’” 

In her 15 years at Brown-Forman, Tracey has developed a wide range of skills from working in different positions. She first worked in digital marketing and then moved into multicultural marketing across a number of brands. She is now the U.S. Director on Woodford Reserve bourbon. 

Longevity with one company brings with it the benefit of long-term relationships with colleagues, but it also has the potential to feel stodgy. “You have to balance both of those by keeping things fresh, whether that’s looking at different opportunities, working on different brands or projects outside of your main job, or even with [volunteer] organizations outside of the company,” Tracey says. Brown-Forman is one of many companies that has resource or “affinity” groups, which are meant to foster diversity within the company and provide learning and leadership opportunities to employees. 

Just because Tracey has been with Brown-Forman long-term doesn’t mean she hasn’t grown, changed, or taken risks. “If there is something you think, ‘I kinda might be interested in that,’ that’s something worth pursuing,” she says. “The job that I’m in right now was that kind of opportunity. This role became available, and I thought, ‘Man, I would really love that,’ but the job I was in I really liked as well, and I hadn’t been in it a year.” She struggled with whether or not to apply for the position (which is a risk in itself), but eventually decided to go for it. 

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