Melissa Yorke named in Management Today’s 35 Under 35 list of 2018

Melissa Yorke, On Trade Sales Director for Diageo GB, has been named as one of Management Today’s 35 Under 35 females for 2018.


Appointed into role at just 30 years old Melissa Yorke is the youngest On Trade Sales Director for Diageo GB and the youngest ever member of Diageo GB’s Executive leadership team. Melissa is also the first female to take on this role. Following her inclusion in Management Today’s list of 35 Under 35 women in business, we sat down with Melissa to find out about her role as On Trade Sales Director and hear what has inspired her to succeed in her career.

Melissa Yorke

Tell us about your role as On Trade Sales Director for Diageo GB?

“I joined Diageo as On Trade Sales Director in GB in January 2018 – a role that sees me leading Diageo’s ambition to create transformational growth in this channel.

Upon joining I was tasked with refining and rolling out a new national selling model for the independent free trade – which predominantly includes independent pubs in Great Britain.

I am responsible for and manage a 215 strong team, spanning Diageo’s vast on trade network. It’s a real honour to lead the sales and route to market agenda for some of Britain’s most iconic brands, including Guinness and Smirnoff. I think I have one of the best jobs you could ever imagine!”

How did you end up in the industry?

“Having graduated with a Law degree from Cambridge I made the decision that I wanted a commercial career and so I joined the commercial graduate scheme at Asda in 2009. On my first day I was randomly assigned a buying category – which was Beers, Wines and Spirits so I suppose I ‘fell’ into the beverage alcohol industry by chance, but it’s a category I have been immensely passionate about ever since. 

Asda was a fantastic environment in which to cut my teeth within the FMCG world and I was quickly promoted into buying my own range within four months and in 2011 I was awarded Target Jobs UK Graduate employee of the year.” 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

“I get to lead an immensely talented team selling some of the world’s most iconic brands in the diverse GB on trade universe so I feel very lucky that every day is rewarding….and fun!

I would say the most rewarding thing for me is leading that team to create a legacy of change and being given the autonomy and freedom to do so which is a hallmark of the Diageo culture. That legacy of change applies to both the commercial performance for the Diageo GB business and equally for leading the way for diverse talent to thrive within the sector.”

How do you champion diversity within your job?

“Championing and harnessing the diversity that exists within the organisation is one of the key enablers that helps our business to grow and I fundamentally believe this. Most recently in the GB on trade team we have reformatted our key decision making forum to encompass all roles within the team in addition to our leadership team, to ensure diversity and breadth of ideas. The positive results have been dramatic and this is driving the performance of our team. In my opinion, the best way to champion diversity is to take action and see the results – that is what will inspire those around us.

My role also sees me work collaboratively with industry organisations such the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and MCA to drive greater change for both talent recruitment and development, while also fostering a more inclusive environment particularly within field sales and on trade outlets.”

What advice would you have given to your sixteen year old self?

“‘Know yourself and be kind to yourself’

Getting to know who you are, what you bring in terms of your key strengths and being clear on what drives you (something you will later know as ‘leadership purpose’ and authenticity). They are some of the most powerful points of clarity I wish I had cracked sooner. I spent so much time and energy on being my own worst critic, focusing on the things I needed to better rather than reflecting on what I bring, what drives me and how use that for good.”

Commenting on Melissa’s inclusion in the list, Charles Ireland, General Manager for Diageo GB, Ireland and France:

“I am delighted to see Melissa included in Management Today’s 35 under 35 list for 2018.

In just a short space of time Melissa has made an astonishing contribution to Diageo’s GB business and to the on trade sector more broadly. Her tenacity and ambitious character has propelled her to early success in her career and I have no doubt it will continue to carry her onto even greater things. In a sector that is still heavily male dominated, this is no mean feat.

As well as excelling in her role, Melissa is also an inspiration to her peers. She plays an active role in the personal development and mentoring of many junior members of staff and she has embraced technology to promote a more inclusive environment for all field sales team members, enabling them to thrive.”

See the full 35 Under 35 list here

Earlier this month Diageo celebrated its commitment to championing gender diversity as its strong credentials on diverse leadership were recognised in the 2018 Female FTSE Board Report by Cranfield School of Management.

More details here