There's no denying that Christopher Librie's life and career have been shaped by Edinburgh - both the city and the University. As an exchange student he met his future wife here before returning to complete his MBA in 1985. He tells us what he's been doing since graduation and how his career has taken an environmental and socially conscious track.
|Year of leaving
At the moment
I'm currently Director - ESG at Applied Materials. We manufacture tools that create the semiconductors and displays found in high-tech devices. ESG - environmental, social and governance – is the current term for corporate sustainability. I love this work – it enables me to help the company make possible a better future through our operations and technologies.
Your time at the University
Prior to my MBA at Edinburgh, I was familiar with the University from spending my third undergraduate year there as an exchange student from the University of Pennsylvania. It was my first time living abroad, and a wonderful experience – even if it did introduce me to “horizontal rain” and the haar. As an undergraduate, I majored in British history, and valued receiving Scottish perspectives on that subject while at the University.
After graduating Penn, I worked for a year at The Wall Street Journal in New York and began thinking about grad school. The prospect of returning to Edinburgh was a positive – not only because of my fond memories of the city but because of a young woman I’d met there, who later became my wife, Felicity.
I knew I’d made a great choice academically. The Edinburgh MBA program was a relatively small group (40 or so students) but highly diverse. We worked in numerous multinational teams on subjects such as international business, finance, and marketing. I realised that marketing was a great match for my skills – in fact, it was somewhat like history in the way that conclusions are drawn by synthesising disparate information. After graduation, Felicity and I soon moved back to New York, where we each began our careers.
Your experiences since leaving the University
The first 20 or so years of my career were in marketing positions at packaged goods companies – mainly Unilever and SC Johnson. I led brands and portfolios of brands in the US, Europe, and Asia. Felicity and I raised three kids and moved several times internationally to the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The experience of living and studying in Edinburgh, and the international nature of my MBA cohort, inspired our openness to new things – a series of great adventures for my family and me.
About 12 years ago, I was offered the opportunity to lead sustainability at SC Johnson, and that career change has been transformational. I enjoyed the chance to chart the company’s longer-term strategy, and its impact in the world. Since SCJ, I’ve led sustainability teams at HP, HPE, eBay and now Applied Materials. That shift from packaged goods to technology has been energising, enabling me to learn new products and sustainability issues, while still improving each company’s environmental and social impacts. The San Francisco area is also a great place to live.
Felicity died seven years ago, which was sad not only for my family but our many friends in so many places. Edinburgh will always be special as the place where we first met.
In thinking about my 35+ years since my MBA, I believe that continuous learning is essential to keep your career fresh and current. And I’ve seen sustainability move from being on the fringe of the enterprise to being much more central to strategy now, due to the seriousness of climate issues, and the advent of ESG-oriented investing.
It always pays to embrace the opportunities life and your career present. My family and I profoundly benefitted from living abroad, traveling, and knowing so many international friends and colleagues.
It’s made the world a much smaller place to us. I also rejuvenated my career by taking on the new challenge of corporate sustainability, and that’s also led to many positive experiences and renewed passion for my work. The best way from one place to another is not always obvious at first nor a direct line!