After 30 years in a fast-paced, high-pressure career at Target Corp., Kathee Tesija last summer stepped down as chief merchandiser, the company’s No. 2 job, and thought she was heading into an early retirement.
But then she found a second act that allows her to slow down, meet her college-age sons for dinner and stay involved in consumer retailing.
“I really thought I wasn’t going to work,” she said in an interview Friday. “I wanted more time with my family.”
Tesija recently joined Simpactful, a year-old retail and consumer packaged goods consulting firm, as a senior adviser and consultant. While the company is based in San Francisco, the company’s consultants, who have recently worked at places like Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble, live all over the country. Tesija will continue to live in the Twin Cities.
“I decided this was a fun way to continue to the do the things I love to do, but not at the same pace,” said Tesija. Of Minneapolis, she added: “This is our home. We wanted to stay here.”
A few years ago, Tesija was considered to be a contender to become Target’s next chief executive after serving as chief merchant for many years, responsible for everything from Target’s cheap-chic style sensibility in product design and development to global sourcing and inventory management.
But Brian Cornell was picked for the top job instead, becoming the first CEO to be hired from outside the company.
Nearly a year after he arrived, Target announced in June 2015 that Tesija was relinquishing her position and would move into a strategic advisory role until April.
“It was one of those things where I was coming up on my 30-year mark, I spent my whole career at Target and loved every minute of it,” she said. “As I began to think about the next chapter of my life, I wasn’t sure that 35 years [at Target] would feel that much more fulfilling.”
She added that she and Cornell decided on the timing of her departure together. She continued to work at Target through the end of March, working on projects such as the retailer’s reprioritization of category roles and localization of its assortment.
“I left on great terms,” she added. “I thoroughly loved working with Brian.”
Tesija had to sign a noncompete clause as part of her severance agreement, but she declined to discuss how that might limit her new role at Simpactful.
While she hadn’t initially considered consulting, she knew the founder of Simpactful and ended up finding the job to be a good fit.
“A big part of our focus is trying to build a group of experts who have recently done the type of work our clients would hire us for,” said David Friedler, a managing partner for Simpactful. He added that Tesija’s experience at Target was a big draw to the company.
Tesija currently serves on the board of Verizon Wireless and is joining a second board, which will be announced soon.
Meanwhile, Target has still not found a replacement for her. A couple of other top executives who left Target after Tesija were quickly replaced by promoting people from within.
Earlier this year, Cornell told the Star Tribune that he was actively searching for someone to fill that role, but that he didn’t want to rush into it. “We’re going to be patient,” he said. “I’m going to wait to make sure it’s absolutely the right person to step into that role.”