Vuodi is Brand Manager for Eucerin in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a role that he has held for just short of two years, since he completed the Beiersdorf Sales and Marketing trainee programme, Beyond Borders, in Hamburg, Germany.
Pursuing the company’s graduate programme as a conduit to his current role was, he says, an “attractive” option, thanks to its integration of departments, role and a stint overseas.
“Beiersdorf is a CEMS Corporate Partner and the company routinely comes to CEMS Career forums to look for talent, so they understand the needs and goals of young graduates. The trainee programme is brilliantly calibrated to these needs in the sense that it gives you a chance to experience different functions of the company – from sales and trade to brand and beyond. That, and the opportunity to spend six months overseas.”
For Vuodi, training abroad was a huge draw. Half Italian, half German and fluent in six languages, he has always been intrinsically international in outlook. That Beiersdorf offered overseas exposure as a function of learning about the organisation and “exploring” before deciding on where to go within it “sealed the deal,” he says.
“For me, Beiersdorf was an obvious choice. There’s a huge flexibility for new recruits in the sense that it’s down to you whether you go in as a generalist or as someone looking to optimise a specific career path; either way, the company really encourages you to get out there and get to know the different parts of its business.”
Building this kind of holistic understanding, and the flexibility to shift gear and try out different roles is critical to working successfully in the FMCG context, says Vuodi; because things change quickly and constantly.
“However you start out in Beiersdorf, your role and responsibilities will evolve and change fast.”
No one day resembles another
New recruits are given “huge autonomy,” he says. And while a lot depends on the brand you end up working for, the geography and the size of the business, it’s not unreasonable to expect that you will be “doing a lot” from the word go.
“I started out with Eucerin with lots of responsibility in terms of brand and product management, which was challenging but exciting. The trainee programme set me up well to hit the deck running, and I could count on the support of my mentor who has also become a good friend. That said, I started out doing it all in a sense!”
Vuodi’s role is around 70% analytical, and 30% creative, he says. It integrates the classic marketing mix of product, price, place and promotion, as well as innovation management, sales prediction and assortment streamlining. He manages the Eucerin brand in 11 markets and no one day resembles another, he says.
“It’s constantly evolving and constantly challenging, and your day-to-day keeps changing over time. My remit extends to some of the creative pieces around things like refreshing the brand, new product development and digital campaigns, but I deal with a lot of the technical elements of brand management. There are a lot of numbers that come with a lot of responsibility,” he laughs.
Networking is key
His is an organisation and a role that would suit a lot of CEMSies very well, he adds.
“In a sense, Beiersdorf is a perfect destination for CEMS graduates because the organisation is really looking for the kind of international mindset and cultural diversity that CEMSies bring to the table. In exchange, we offer the kind of flexibility, autonomy and opportunity for international assignments that people of my generation are keen to have in their careers. It’s an incredibly rewarding place to work.”
For anyone at the start of their professional life, looking to thrive in an organisation like Beiersdorf, he has three clear pieces of advice.
“I’d say that the first thing you should do is your homework. Ensure that the companies you are interested in working for value the same things you do. So if you want a career with global exposure and diversity, make sure you are looking at firms that offer you international assignments. That is absolutely critical.”
Then it’s about setting the right tempo for growth. Vuodi recommends taking things slowly.
“There’s a tendency that we all have as young people to race for the highest salary or the fastest promotions. But I think it’s a real mistake to be in rush for money and recognition. Your career is going to last at least 40 years, so pacing yourself is a better long-term strategy I think, it’s a marathon and not a sprint."
"For me, taking the graduate programme route has paid huge dividends in terms of helping me understand myself better and make the right decisions around what I want to do in my career and my life,” he says. “It’s also been an invaluable resource in building out my network.”
And networking is key, he stresses.
“The third thing I would say is precisely that: prioritise your network. Every job I’ve ever had has been thanks to my network. It goes without saying that you need to be good at what you do, but having people talking about you in the right time and the right place is game-changing. So, build your connections and nurture them. Work on your soft skills, your people management and your communication. And make sure that wherever you go, you will always be a good addition to the team!”