Tess Caputo Outthinker Networks

Strategist Spotlight: Tess Caputo

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Combining her unique blend of experience and insight, the Zoetis executive is shaping the future of strategy and business.

Tess Caputo is Chief Operations Officer, US at Zoetis. In this role, she charts the mid-to-long term US strategy, leads cross-functional strategic and transformation programs, and manages operations for the US Leadership Team.  Tess previously served as VP of US Strategy, Digital, and Analytics, where she led a broad set of strategic insights functions, and served as Head of Corporate Strategy where she was responsible developing strategies to create long-term value for the company. Prior to Zoetis, Tess spent seven years at the Boston Consulting Group. As a core member of BCG’s Healthcare team serving biopharma and biotech clients, Tess gained experience in corporate strategy, transactions, brand strategy and transformation topics. Tess has an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Duke University. 

Tess spoke with us about her favorite moments from her career up to this point, what she’s most excited about working on right now, and how she sees the role of strategy evolving in the future. 

Could you share one of your favorite moments in your career so far? 

When I was still relatively new to Zoetis, I was working on a strategic evaluation of a business line. It was an animal health product that was the type of thing that was fun to talk about at cocktail parties; it was exciting and interesting –you could rally behind as a cool offering that was different from the core, and we could see the value creation potential for customers and the animals they care for. Yet it was terribly underperforming. So, I did a very thorough strategic evaluation with my team. And ultimately, our recommendation, after digging deep, was to divest the business. 

I met with the executive team and the CEO to present our analysis. After much discussion, the CEO said to me, “Tess, I regretfully accept your recommendation.” It was a defining moment of my career because I thought, “Is that bad? Or is it good?” It was uncomfortable. But as I’ve reflected on it, I’m proud of that moment. I told the CEO something she didn’t want to hear, but I did it in a fact-based and thorough way. There was no other option, and so she trusted me and listened to me. 

I like that story because in the moment I felt very odd and slightly disappointed. But when I look back, it was a very positive moment in my career of standing up for what I believe in and doing the hard work to prove that the strategy isn’t working. Just because something is has potential for value creation, it’s not always a business we should continue to invest in. 

What are you most excited to be working on right now? 

I have a two-part answer, but both parts are related. Our industry is evolving rapidly. Our US President, Ester Banque, jokes that it’s mutating, not even evolving. Because of that, we’re undergoing a restructuring, and I’m working on standing up the new organization. She announced the leadership team level, and I’m building out the organizational design and operating model from top to bottom underneath that. 

It’s an opportunity for us to change how we work together and how we’re structured. We can be much more forward-looking to what we need in the future and where we see the industry going. 

The second part of what I’m working on is classic strategy. I have a strategy offsite with the leadership team in a few weeks. It will really get into looking at where we see the future of the industry going and how we want to shape that future given our market prowess. It will further help me with my operating model work and determining what capabilities we need to build into the organization to better meet customer needs – pet owner needs – and to stay ahead in the industry.  

How do you see the future of the strategy role evolving? 

The evolution of strategy for me has been very aligned with what Outthinker is doing around AI. As a CSO or strategy executive, you still need your core strategy skillset. That is a foundation that you will always need. But you also need to build digital capabilities because of AI and because of the way industries are evolving to be more ecosystem-based and collaborative. You need the skills to think big enough to consider new business models and opportunities and to think differently about how to achieve what you used to in the past. 

When I was in my consulting career, it still felt like digital was on the side. We had the digital team and the core, traditional consulting team. They were separate. I was always on the traditional side, so I didn’t really dabble much in digital. But once I joined Zoetis, I realized in order to be effective, I needed to develop much stronger digital capabilities to think differently about how to tackle problems while still leveraging my core strategy skillset.

“As a CSO or strategy executive, you will always need your core strategy skillset. But you also need to build digital capabilities because of AI and because of the way industries are evolving to be more ecosystem-based and collaborative."

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