Dawn turns to technology at new Boston digital hub, hires tech vets

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

Dawn chose Boston, Massachusetts, for its large pool of skilled workers and its growing tech scene, as well as its proximity to B2B commerce. Pic: Dawn Foods
Dawn chose Boston, Massachusetts, for its large pool of skilled workers and its growing tech scene, as well as its proximity to B2B commerce. Pic: Dawn Foods

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At its first Digital Innovation Hub, Dawn hopes the new space and pool of tech-forward talent will guide the 100-year-old company into a more digitally connected future.

The innovation center, which opened in Boston, Masschusetts, in early September, is in the midst of putting together a team of up to 10 professionals who will focus on building digital tools to connect its wide-reaching customer base. They will ‘play a critical role’ over the next year in creating a digital system and implementing it across the company and beyond.

Ultimately, Dawn wants to modernize its workflow and allow customers to track inventory and shipments in real time. They will also have the opportunity to order online – a ‘game-changer for the artisanal baking community,’ the company said.

“These critical investments will drive added enhancements for the baking industry as a whole – from cost and time savings to a wider array of products, offerings and inspirational recipes,”​ said Bob Howland, chief digital officer.

Dawn hired Howland in February from Blueport Commerce, an online furniture wholesaler. He has experience in other CPG, too, having worked for General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and American Express.

"Our digital ambitions include building digital tools and services to help bakers better navigate today's digital world, as well as take advantage of opportunities enabled by the online channel,"​ Howland told BakeryandSnacks.

For example, the forthcoming tools could allow customers to view every Dawn product, or transfer each ingredient of a shared recipe into a ready-to-purchase order in just one click.

Bakers aren't necessarily in the same place as tech geeks

Dawn chose Boston for its proximity to B2B commerce and its ‘skilled talent pool,' Howland told us. (Dawn's headquarters are located in Jackson, Michigan.)

Boston has also made a name for itself as a technology hub alongside the likes of San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, Texas, according to the Hiring Lab, the nonprofit arm of job site Indeed.com filled with data and insights from economists on the global labor market.

"As a company, we have serious digital ambitions and want to hire top talent [who] have deep ecommerce and digital backgrounds,"​ Howland added.  

These workers are attracted to urban centers, he said, and the the above cities (plus New York) tend to lead that pack. Digital teams also work quite differently than the rest of their organization, leading many companies to form these divisions outside of their home base.

Howland jump-started the hiring process in May, but the openings are far from the standard commercial baking gig. Roles include UX designers, quality assurance testers, engineers and software developers – all of whom will nurture a vision from the ground up, the company said.

Kristin Pados joins the team as a product manager after two decades in the tech sector, including at TripAdvisor and Apple. She will focus on daily website operation while finding the right people to lead software development.

Gireesh Sahukar will take the digital technology lead, ensuring the tech this new team develops works seamlessly and efficiently. He previously headed up digital enterprise architecture at Dr. Pepper.

“Dawn Foods has a rich heritage and a bright future ahead,” ​said Howland. The innovation hub – and personnel required to build and sustain the project – will help the bakery supplier build “the right infrastructure [and] the right digital solutions”​ for both itself and its customers, he added.

In 2020, the digital team will expand ordering capabilities for Dawn's artisanal segment, as well as other online offerings.

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