Tell us who you are!
My name is Claudia, I am 36 years old and German from Munich. I would describe myself as a passionate person with a zest to understand people and circumstances. This has always helped me – in my private and professional life – to make a difference. Real interest and curiosity into what is happening around me has made me a person that travelled more than I had ever planned. And it has turned me into a consumer and brand understanding marketer that loves her job. But more about that later!
Tell us more about your career steps and other projects you were part of!
I started my career 10 years ago in Unilever Germany as a marketing & sales trainee. During my 1st year I was working in the German Magnum & Cornetto Ice Cream team. Not so hard to imagine how much I loved it! International brands loaded with passion. I was given a good amount of responsibility from the beginning onwards and I truly loved it: organizing sales conferences, setting up instore promotions, developing a tracking tool for sales etc. The full marketing experience in an operational job in a country! As part of my traineeship I was sent to Rome, Italy in my 2nd year. The European strategic marketing team was located in the country of ice cream! I was part of the European strategy and innovation development and had my first international experience in Unilever. Being part of a truly international team taught me lessons I had only learned in university so far. How to cope with colleagues from other countries that argue differently and understanding why they act like they act was sometimes a challenge that seemed to be more difficult to overcome than the business issue itself!
To make this experience a complete one, Unilever sent me into the sales team for a couple of months. This was a tough but very insightful period and I got to know what it means to have full shelf distribution, an innovation seamlessly executed in store, having a packaging relaunch on shelf. I had a car and 70 clients and spent my time in supermarkets rearranging shelves, having discussion with super market stuff and arguing about sales promotions. But all this paid off and I became a brand manager, followed by several brand manager jobs in different product categories in the coming years: from diverse margarine brands (I can’t believe it’s not butter – yes, this is the brand name!, Ligeresa, LATTA) to to ketchup and mayonnaise (Calve, Hellmann’s). Unilever expatriated me to Rotterdam when I had just become a brand manager and again this was an unplanned but in the end very rewarding move. In my time in the Netherlands one European job followed the next and I learned a lot about different taste in different countries with different cultural background. ‘Think global, act local’ was Unilever’s mantra and it translated in a dynamic exchange with the European countries on a daily base. I was lucky to see all the interesting sides of classic brand development work: design relaunches, product innovations, packaging & recipe relaunches, TV advertising, digital roadmaps, market development. It was always fun to get to know the brand and check what would be the right way to prepare the future!
Last year, I decided it was time for a change. A change of category, a change of business, a change from marketing to pure innovation. I joined AkzoNobel and work in the Global Innovation team of so-called Decorative Paints. My team is part of the Global Marketing team located in Amsterdam. I love the way innovation is done there: truly understanding consumer and professional insights (from the DIY person who wants to renovate the house up to a professional painter who is looking into higher performing paints) and translating them into product innovations. And the new scope of global makes it especially interesting!
What does “Social Capital” mean to you?
To be honest, I had not known the expression before but reading its definition I can say in a convinced way that I truly believe in the power of it. Network and the ability to maintain it, grow it and use it is my passion, both privately and professionally. During my last 10 years of work I met amazing people that shaped my thinking, helped me taking better decisions and let me reflect on things I do or don’t do. Many of these persons became friends! And the power of a network is amazing. Friends and colleagues move on and so do I but there is always a connection once you had a good relation in time when working more intensely together. I enjoy being a sparingspartner as much as I love to seek advice from my network!
What makes you successful in life/current job?
Curiosity and passion for the detail I would say. There are marketers who do a good job out of the book and there are marketers that listen to their heart. The latter is not always possible and being rational can also help to take a more elaborated decision. However, I truly believe that one needs a good portion of curiosity and passion to lead brands. Brands are precious, brand are vulnerable, brands are personalities and if a brand manager is not curious to understand and breathe his or her brand and wants to go deeper the chance of enjoying a job in marketing is definitely limited.
I also believe in the love for detail and I am fully aware that this sounds like a surprise because no one wants to hear about details especially when you grow more senior. Nevertheless, out of experience I believe that a detailed thinking turns a good launch into a brilliant launch. A detailed consumer understanding makes an innovation survive. And a detailed observation of my teams develops greater talent!
What is/has been your biggest achievement professionally and personally?
Personally, I can give a very recent example I am still proud of. I crossed the Alps with my mountain bike this summer. A project that I had dreamed of for a while but I made it come true this year. I bought a new bike, I trained over summer and beginning September I started the trip together with my husband. We started in Munich and crossed the Alps to Italy. Physically but also mentally one of the toughest things I ever did but also one of the most rewardings things I have ever done. But going through the pictures and having many moments in my mind I am extremely happy I did it!
On a professional note, a moment that I will not forget easily is when in 2013 I won an Effie Award for LATTA, the lifestyle margarine brand from Sweden. After a couple of years of no real news in the so-called yellow fat business we launched an airy-light margarine with an airy-light fluffy texture. The mousy texture was – for the first time – a visible innovation in this market and combined with a very indulgent ‘food-porn’ TV communication this innovation got the Effie award. A moment that made me proud! And still every time I stand infront of the margarine shelf in the supermarket a good reminder.
What skills, experiences or incidences helped you to get you to where you are today? What hindered?
I take energy out of investigating in my team. In the last 10 years, I had the luxury to work in young and passionate teams full of energy. And in recent years I had teams to manage full of energized young talents. It is amazing to see how happy young people are when they feel you invest. And I could feel right away if people love to learn or if they only do their job. A permanent give and take is what really drives me. Empowering is another pillar I value high. Give people the responsibility and they will run. There is always a bit of risk in it but compared to how people run with what they are asked to do has made me achieve goals I would have never been capable when doing alone.
What hindered me when looking back is the fact that I always have a first feel about things. But then discussions start. And in many discussions, esp. in huge companies, there are just too many people involved and it is very hard to come to a good decision. A few times my initial opinion got overshadowed by other perspectives and I should have sticked to how I felt about it at the very beginning!
What are your aspirations as a 1World Mentor for the 1World Social Capital Program?
I believe that companies are the mirror of people. And it is so easy for more experienced senior people to share their view, give an advice, exchange on a challenge with young talents. My aspiration is to share my experiences and add value to decisions that other still feel stuck in. Sometimes, it needs this little sparkle from outside that ignites an idea. Or this little bit of reassurance that is lacking in the decision path of someone less experienced. I could benefit a lot from more seniors in my career… and I still do. Why not me now being the person who shares with younger ones?
What can you offer your 1World Mentee?
Marketing knowledge from A to Z, on a local / European and Global scale. In different companies, working with different nationalities. Being a foreigner in a country and work in truly international teams. Brand love, brand passion, brand personality. Innovation management, 6P knowledge… or simply an ear for career decisions.
What does your ideal 1World Mentee look like?
Willing to learn. Willing to listen. Willing to make an own judgement as a result from different levels of input.
What are your aspirations for your 1World Mentee?
See the mentee grow. See the mentee taking all the learnings into consideration and create an own vision. See the mentee curious. See the mentee show interest in what you explain. See him or her asking more questions once the first answer is there.
Do you believe there is a glass ceiling for young female professionals? If yes, how can we break it?
I have participated in a female leadership in Germany last year and I was shocked how much of an issue this (still) is in Germany. Women fighting for their rights in the office, women feeling deprioritized once they come back after 1 year of maternity leave.Luckily, I live in the Netherlands where all this does not exist. And I have professionally and personally grown here in the last 7 years. I have never seen a glass ceiling and I would like to share this spirit!