Judith Sprieser

CEO, Transora

Judith Sprieser turned a lot of heads when she decided last summer to take on the role of chief executive of Transora, a marketplace formed by 50 of the worlds largest consumer products companies.

Sprieser was a leading contender to eventually take the top job at Sara Lee, a Chicago-based consumer products powerhouse with more than $20 billion in annual sales. At 46, she was CEO of Sara Lees food division and one of the highest-profile female executives in the U.S.

"The bottom line is I felt this was too great an opportunity, and too important to our industry to pass up," she says. "It would have to be that important to derail me from the track I was on."

Six months into her job, Sprieser says she has been continually surprised by the level of cooperation she gets from members of the exchange. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble — fierce competitors for more than a century — regularly send top executives and strategists to Transoras main offices to collaborate on the project.

More challenging has been the task of evaluating technology to deploy on the exchange. "Based on the sales presentations, youre led to believe the technology is a lot further along," she says. "Its been a constant surprise and frustration to discover just how young the technology is."

The companies backing the exchange are confident, however, in Spriesers ability to not only see through the smoke and mirrors, but to ensure Transora is a financial success. "Shes jumped into (the job) with supreme confidence," says Stephen David, chief information officer at Procter & Gamble, who was part of the CEO selection committee. "Thats going to spread down to everyone working with her."