Corporate Insights: Julia Experton with Groupe SEB

In a global business landscape that’s constantly changing, the most valuable skill a person can have is the ability to adapt. CEMS coursework is given real-world application through our close alliance with corporate and social partners — creating invaluable connections, collaborations and experiences. Many CEMS alumni have chosen to build their careers with CEMS Corporate Partners. In this interview series, we explore the diverse career paths CEMS alumni have embarked upon within CEMS Corporate Partners. Today we meet Julia Experton, Brand Manager at Groupe SEB, who shares the inside track on what it’s like to work for one of the world’s leading domestic appliances and cookware multinationals.
Julia Experton

Landing a dream job

What do you get if you combine a passion for constant learning and exposure to the diverse elements of your business with a fascination for a certain country – and a chance to focus on an activity you have pursued with love your entire life?

Ask Julia Experton and she’ll tell you it’s a dream job. And in her case, the dream job is Brand Manager with market-leading small domestic appliances group, Groupe SEB, based in Barcelona, Spain.

Experton leads brand activities for WMF, one of the brands acquired by the group five years ago, focusing on cookware and appliances for the Spanish and Portuguese markets. It is a role that brings together a lifelong interest in cooking, a chance to work in Barcelona where she began her CEMS journey and the opportunity to work with diverse teams and coordinate with a broad variety of departments; giving her privileged visibility, she says, of the different areas of the organisation. She also enjoys the versatility of being able to speak multiple languages at work, including English, Spanish and French.

“Like a lot of CEMS students, my background is pretty international. I’m French-American, but I’ve always been fascinated by Spanish culture as my father’s work took him to Latin America regularly. I seized the chance to do the Master’s in Management at ESADE, and later, when the chance arose to work for CEMS’ partner Groupe SEB based out of Barcelona, it felt like the stars had aligned. Cooking has always been a great passion of mine and my family’s so it really was a perfect role.”

Put in the work first, and good things will follow

The role itself very much integrates the “four Ps of marketing,” says Experton. Her time is divided between product, price, place and promotion

“My purview spans all the activities that form part of brand development, from optimising the product assortment to selecting the right pricing strategies and distribution channels with the objective of increasing overall brand  awareness. A lot of the promotional activities we do focus on different collaborations with partners on the one hand and working on digital campaigns with support from social media influencers on the other. All in all, there’s a lot of dynamism and variety to the work that keeps you on an upward learning curve.”

Groupe SEB is one of the leading multinationals in cookware and domestic appliances, with more than 30 different brands worldwide, including household names like Tefal and Rowenta. This international reach means that Experton routinely works with different country managers within the group; an additional benefit to working for the company, she says.

“I actually started out with Groupe SEB in the UK as part of their marketing graduate programme, so that gave me a taste of how things are done in that market. In 2017, there was an opportunity to move back to Barcelona and take up a role with WMF, which is a German brand. As my role has developed over the years, I’ve had the chance to work with senior executives all over Europe and it’s fascinating to see how each country manages the brand according to the exigencies and peculiarities of the individual market. You get a real lens on the diversity of the global business arena.”

Finding the right fit

There is a “peculiarity” to working for Groupe SEB, says Experton, that means that you are not limited in exposure to your own specific business function. The nature of her job means that she also routinely works with planning, sales and operations in-country; an opportunity to broaden her understanding of the business from a general management perspective that she describes as “great exposure, particularly at the start of your career.”

Yet despite its complexity and multinational scope, Groupe SEB remains very much a family business, she stresses, maintaining a set of core values and a culture that has remained steady since its inception.

“I’ve been with this company for five years now, and I have stayed because of its culture. This is a company that gives you the opportunity to grow, to evolve and to move if you wish. In fact, I’d say that SEB positively encourages employees to relocate around the business and geographically if you are willing and you have the flexibility.”

Moving, growing and pursuing international opportunities: all of these things are very much part of what Experton wants out of her career. And it is these expectations that drew her to CEMS originally, she says.

The launchpad to a global career

“When I was starting out and looking for the right Masters programme, ESADE came recommended to me because of CEMS. There was this opportunity to get into a truly international study body and be part of something that transcended cultures.”

The diversity inherent in the CEMS experience, she says, set her up well for a career that spans borders.

“CEMS gave me an appetite for working in different environments and building the tools to adapt to new settings or teams of people and to be curious about the world, about our impact on others and on the planet – to keep on asking questions.”

Staying curious is a huge part of the success that Experton has experienced during her tenure, and it is a key learning that she would pass on to other young people starting out in their careers.

“Getting your degree or your diploma from CEMS doesn’t mean you have come to the end of your learning; it’s just the beginning. I think that to be successful in anything you should constantly look for opportunities to keep learning. In my job, we’ve just opened up a new e-commerce project which is an area I’m not overly familiar with, so I’m experiencing that kind of learning again first-hand and it’s great.”

Staying curious is one thing. But being patient is also critical, she says.

“If I had to say one thing to other young people, I’d say it’s that. Don’t expect to get leadership right off the bat. Like most CEMS students, when I started out, I was very ambitious and impatient; I wanted it all and I wanted it fast. But in my few years of professional experience I learned to be patient and to focus on the journey rather than on the outcome. So, when you find something you love to do put in the work with your boss and with your teams to prove to them – and to yourself – that you have the skills to take on bigger roles. Don’t get frustrated when you don’t get certain opportunities put in the work first, the good things will come.”