Shopper Marketing Executive : Inspire Me
By UCL Careers, on 20 May 2015
As part of our #UCLInspireMe series, Kirsty MacDonald, Shopper Marketing Executive for Personal Care at Unilever talks to us about how she got this role and shares some tips for UCL students who want to get into the Marketing sector.
How did you get into your role?
I’m Kirsty and I am on the Unilever graduate scheme in the marketing stream. My current placement is within shopper marketing personal care so I look after all in-store activity within our customers for Unilever’s male grooming brands including Lynx, Dove Men+Care and Sure. This is a local market placement where you concentrate on running brands as if they were an almost self-contained business. The next role will be more long term and strategic looking at the global direction of Unilever’s brands.
I studied Economics and Management at Oxford University before doing an MSc in Global Politics at LSE. Throughout my degrees, I became very interested in global businesses run in a sustainable way and Unilever came up time and time again as an example. I also wanted broad business exposure that taught solid principles that could be applied across industries and cultures. The FMCG industry particularly appealed as the end user you are aiming to reach is one of us, not another company like in banking or consulting, and there are numerous functions you work incredibly closely with such as marketing, sales, finance and supply chain. It was a real chance to learn ‘business’ (if you can be that broad) in a solid and varied way.
What are the best things about working in your role?
My role, as with any job, has its positives and negatives and they are often linked. I love having real responsibility – as soon as I joined I was given a very important project where I was the lead. I looked after all the budgets, forecasting, implementation, coordination of different parties, external communication to customers and much more. Although responsibility is fantastic it does come with some slightly stressful times. However you are given support and training throughout and the company’s culture is fantastic. We are one of the main advocates of agile working so I work from home at least once a week – as long as you get your work done and to a high standard you are given the freedom to work how you want. Other benefits include a salary raise every six months you are on the graduate scheme, a fantastic and industry-renowned training programme and the chance of a management position after you finish. The rotational nature is great for gaining experience especially within the marketing stream as you have a local and global market placement looking at more short term P&L management in the former and more long-term strategic decisions in the latter.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
As I said, there are positives and negatives to every job. My most serious challenge would be coordinating all the different parties to reach an end goal. As mentioned before Unilever is incredibly cross-functional and everyone needs to contribute to drive our brands forward – you cannot isolate yourself and perform individually as you can when doing an essay or problem sheet at university. Often what is top of your list is at the bottom of someone else’s so it can be a struggle to manage even small projects and deadlines. Secondly, as the name suggests, the industry is incredibly fast moving and sales, plans, projects can change extremely quickly so you have to be willing to adapt, come up with solutions and leave sunk costs rapidly. Finally, at times it can be stressful however this is only really within working hours. As you depend so much on other people and functions for your work there is no real advantage of working late and this is not in our culture. My working hours are typically 830-6pm but within that time your brain works hard.
What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?
Unilever, and many of the other industrial or retail companies, put huge weight on their competencies and it is always about demonstrating them in your applications, interviews and assessment centres. Do make sure that you tailor your application to each company however if I was to summarise what they all seemed to be looking for it would be ‘doers’. That is, people that don’t just concentrate on their studies but have interests outside of this, from sport to music to debating – it doesn’t really matter exactly what it is as long as you have a variety of passions. Relevant work experience is a plus but it is not a deal breaker so don’t get too hung up on this.
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