October 26, 2015
Three weeks after graduating from Susquehanna University in 1983, Mark Dieffenbach was working in Louisville, Ky., as a sales representative selling Hershey products to retailers in his assigned territory. That was 31 years ago, and he's never looked back.
The management and marketing grad has been in sales-and at The Hershey Co.-his entire career. Working for one company that long may sound "old school" in an age when experts predict that today's college students will hold as many as 29 jobs in their lifetime. But Dieffenbach's career has been anything but flat.
His trajectory in what he calls "a fabulous company" has been straight up. From selling Hershey in his territory, he moved into a variety of key account and sales management roles and worked his way up through the ranks. He returned to corporate headquarters in Hershey, Pa., the self-proclaimed "Sweetest Place on Earth," nine years ago to lead the company's specialty sales channels division.
Dieffenbach and his team are responsible for national sales to venues such as movie theaters and sports stadiums, vending machine operations, and nontraditional candy retailers like Best Buy, Michael's, Kohl's and Auto Zone. In addition to his "day job," he served on the NAMA (National Automatic Merchandising Association) Board of Directors for seven years and as their chair from 2012-13. He is currently chair of the NAMA Foundation Board of Trustees. In 2015, he was named Industry Person of the Year by the organization.
Although he says the award "came completely out of left field," what hasn't been a surprise is the adaptability and entrepreneurial spirit he brings to his career-traits he attributes to his Susquehanna education.
"The liberal arts experience provides you with a lot of diversity in your curriculum," he said. "Obviously, you have your major but you also get exposure to a lot of other things in a liberal arts program that serve you well in life, not just your career."