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A global citizen: How Philippa Purser’s life has led to her crucial new role on Cargill’s Executive Team

Read Time: 4 minutes

May 05, 2023


Joe leans back on the railing, his right arm resting on the leg that bends up to meet it. His woolen-gloved hands are clasped, a scarf neatly wrapped around his neck. His eyes look straight at you, intense in their focus, as Antarctica spreads out behind him.

Philippa leans forward, her right arm extending to light a pair of offering candles. Her left hand clasps an umbrella shading herself and three Buddhist nuns. Her eyes look down, intense in their focus, as the people and culture of Myanmar spread behind her.

Philippa lights a pair of offering candles

The parallels between Philippa Purser and her grandfather, Joe, go much deeper than this initial glimpse. Both bring to these captured moments all the travel experiences their jobs have afforded them: Joe as an explorer, whose career carried him across the globe. Philippa as a Cargill leader, whose three decades have taken her from Europe to South America, Asia, Australia, and the United States. 

When you consider the depth and breadth of those roles across Cargill and the world, it’s clear why Chief Executive Officer Brian Sikes tapped Philippa as Head of Strategy and Global Process Leader.

As our CEO said when he announced Philippa’s appointment on March 1, the role acts as an ultimate connector, identifying “new ways to strengthen our offerings to customers and expand into adjacent spaces that will fuel our long-term growth” and driving “end-to-end  process opportunities across Cargill and leveraging technology to increase our competitiveness.”

Philippa says she thinks of her job as finding “the golden thread” throughout work across Cargill.

“This job is not something I’ll do on my own,” Philippa adds. “This is a team sport. It helps enable us to have a common vision and bring out the best of the company in the best possible way around the world.”

A position that requires someone to partner around the globe, synthesize information, make connections and find opportunities in our commonalities and uniqueness … it’s a unique set of responsibilities. But Philippa has been preparing for it her whole life.  


A new perspective

across the globe - Philippa’s childhood was filled with travels When Philippa was younger, she wanted to travel space as an astronaut. 

Philippa wanted to be an astronaut. 

Her grandpa Joe wasn’t the only family member who saw a lot of the world. With extended family spread across the globe, Philippa’s childhood was filled with travels. So, it’s perhaps no surprise the precocious youngster had her eyes set on space and the most distant destination possible. 

“I didn’t quite have the qualifications,” she says with a laugh.

Instead, Philippa got an earthly start on being a global citizen, aided in part by her undergraduate degree in history from Cambridge University in the UK, which provided tickets to far-flung places and times. 

“When you study history at university it’s about analyzing the factors that contribute to something happening or not happening,” Philippa says. “That mental capability stands you in good stead for a lot of careers; the ability to analyze and find important factors in what you’re seeing can be applied anywhere.”

It has made for an incredibly effective pairing with Philippa’s lifelong habit of living around the world, most recently in Switzerland as group leader for Cargill’s agricultural supply chain business covering Europe, and before that heading Cargill’s animal nutrition and health business in the Asia-Pacific region.


Each time I make a change I consciously think, ‘What is the same and what is different? What are the skills I have that I can learn from here, and what can I apply from what I’ve learned elsewhere?’ Philippa says.

Perhaps no visits have been more important than Philippa’s repeated travels to Myanmar, home of her husband, Tun. The pair met in Switzerland and were married in Geneva.

“We have a lot of connection to Myanmar; it’s a very important part of our lives,” Philippa says. “It’s an amazing country, but … there are a lot of people in need. One of our interests is working with people there. It’s an important part of who I am, who he is.”

Regardless of the country in which she finds herself — including the many she visits for pleasure — some of Philippa’s favorite activities include skiing and hiking. It’s perhaps not surprising two of her favorite hobbies involve changing elevation.

“I think I like that both those things offer you a new perspective,” Philippa shares. 


On the move once more

Philippa with her husband in Myanmar Philippa and her husband, Tun, in Myanmar.

“A new perspective” is a fitting term for Cargill these days. Philippa’s new role will help engage customers around the globe on the value Cargill, with its recently refreshed strategy, can bring.


We have clear strategic choices. The clearer you can be about the choices you’re making and the metrics to measure them, the better. We have all the elements to win regardless of the outside circumstances. I’m very optimistic.”

Concludes Philippa, “It’s certainly an honor to get the chance to work across the company and do something that — if we do right — will make us a better company to work for and partner with.”


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