Julia Fentem interview Application Tips

Senior leader interview: Julia Fentem, Vice President SEAC

Julia is Head of Unilever’s Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) and has spanned a career within Unilever since 1998. With an academic background in biochemistry and a PhD in toxicology, she has also played a key role in shaping the R&D UFLP and so read about her career so far, tips for being successful on the scheme and maintaining that vital work-life balance: Read more “Senior leader interview: Julia Fentem, Vice President SEAC”

Marta profile pic Business areas

My first 3 months as a Customer Replenishment Specialist:…

Hello everyone,

After some pushing from my friend Diana, here I am writing a blog post on my experience as a ULFP in Supply Chain!

I joined the scheme in September 2015 and I’m about half way through my first rotation as a Customer Replenishment Specialist for Tesco, Dunnes and Musgrave. Never heard about the last two? Well, that’s because I was lucky enough to be put up in our office in Citywest Dublin!

Read more “My first 3 months as a Customer Replenishment Specialist: Marta Perricone, Supply Chain UFLP”

Laura Allsopp profile2 Human Resources

Living and breathing the USLP: Laura Allsopp, HR UFLP

So it’s been just 3 months since I embarked on my UFLP journey, and what a blast it has been so far! For those out there that think HR isn’t a strategic part of the business I compel you to keep reading, as my first placement has seen my working on exciting projects that directly contribute to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. I am part of a team that looks after programmes that we run nationally, from diversity and inclusion to mental health and wellbeing, and in my case youth employability.

Read more “Living and breathing the USLP: Laura Allsopp, HR UFLP”

Application Tips

Why did I even apply?

I’m currently a Finance graduate on the Unilever Future Leaders Program (UFLP). At Imperial I studied Physics (MSci) which isn’t necessarily the most intuitive career fit. Not really having any financial background hasn’t been a hindrance though, where the view is you can learn finance, but your attitude and approach is something you as an individual bring to the table. As I’m sure a lot of students find, when it comes to making your first career choice, it’s incredibly tempting to go and work for a big city bank or continue into further study. I personally wanted to work in an interesting sector that made a real tangible impact on peoples everyday lives. Not many companies can say over 2 billion people use one of their products on any given day. Unilever could, and that’s something I wanted to be a part of.

My first role on the UFLP is business partnering for Brand Building in Ice Cream. I’m going to say right now that this is literally the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I work with brand managers every day to make sure that the decisions we make together have the greatest impact they can, as if we were spending our own money. When you consider we own brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Walls, Magnum etc you begin to realise that the responsibility you’re given from day one effects how well we do in such a competitive and large category. I cannot stress enough how much this job is basically the win win scenario of corporate finance but has lots more to offer.

When applying for the job, like any job, it’s important to highlight your strengths as a rounded individual. It’s hard to come across arrogant when you simply talk through a experience or story which you know like the back of your hand. It’s also important to relate these narratives to the core competencies of the company you’re applying for. Unilever has 5 and in every answer to a question I thought about not only how to answer the competency they’re asking for, but the other 4 as well. Many people are well rounded, especially if you’ve been active outside of academia, and it’s just as important to demonstrate this as it is to align with a company’s core competencies. As always it’s also a wise idea to read as much about the company as possible. I had google alerts set up just on the word “Unilever” for example. What’s also important is how you highlight that as a student you had a strong analytical reasoning and logical approach. In fact I’d say that this is the strongest thing my degree gave me, so be sure to draw from it.

In the future I look forward to working in different parts of the organisation, working on both a global and national level. There’s also potential to work abroad, which in itself bring a new challenge and breadth of experience. I’d highly recommend applying now if you’re interested in working on something different yet career building. Unilever invest a lot in you (for example paying for you to qualify in CIMA) and this in turn really helps place you in a great position by the end of the scheme, where you’re placed in a management position.

Customer Management (Sales)

My First 5 Weeks at Unilever

Hey! I’m Catrin and I recently joined Unilever working in Customer Management (Sales). So why Unilever? And why Customer Management? Read on to find out why I’m working here and what I’m working on…

So what made Unilever stand out for me? I think the fact that the Unilever graduate programme is held in high regard and the vast portfolio of the products (including my favourite Ben & Jerrys!) are the main reasons why I chose Unilever. An important factor for me was also where the ethics of the company in environment issues lie, meaning learning about the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan which aims to reach 2 billion people, making a big impact through small everyday actions gave me reassurance.

I decided to apply to Customer Management (Sales), because my background is in sales and marketing, so for me it was an obvious choice. It combines both working with lots of people to create and maintain relationships, as well as getting down to the nitty gritty to maximise sales. Every day in customer management is not the same, it deals with every other busienss area in Unilever to break or make deals with customers.

So what have I been up to so far? I’m currently completing a 6 week field sales placement which every Marketing and Customer Management graduate does. Day-to-day we visit stores to look at anything from checking stock and promotions to helping smaller retailers with the layout of their store. The placement has given me instant exposure to retailers that sell our products every day. The insight I have gained has been invaluable and will now provide a strong foundation as I move to the Leatherhead office.

 I am very excited for my next placement when I’ll be working on creating new routes to market across all categories. The first meeting I’m attending is a top to top which is a meeting with all of the high level people in both Unilever and one of our customers, so straight away I am being thrown in at the deep end.

Being given as many opportunities as challenges means I’m always going to be developing and at Unilever it really feels like I can take my career in any direction, but one of my main priorities is to get as much experience as possible. I also love to travel, so exploring Unilever’s international business will be something I will be working towards. Wish me luck! The main advice I’d give applicants, as cheesy as it sounds, is to just be yourself.

You being a perfect fit for Unilever is as important as Unilever being a perfect fit for you. Even though the selection day is tough, I also had a really fun day and it made me realise that Unilever was a place I truly wanted to work. Unilever places high regard on our 5 core competencies(which you’ll find on our website) with everybody in the business, so having strong examples of each one is really important.

msvg Business & Technology Management (BTM)

2 Months In

msvg

I joined the Business and Technology Management graduate programme in September 2012 and, as someone who has just recently gone through the process, I am excited by the opportunity to provide some insight into my experiences with Unilever so far.

I think I speak for most when I say that all grads felt some trepidation at what lay ahead prior to starting, even up to the point when we all clambered onto a bus to travel to the hotel for our induction week at the start of September. Within a couple of hours, however, I was strapped to another graduate as part of the 3-legged race in the “Unilever Olympics” and, by that point, it’s safe to say any existing barriers had dissipated!

Various social events ensued throughout the week in conjunction with the presentations and activities that had been planned to further our understanding of Unilever. I was surprised by the number of senior leaders who were prepared to give up precious time to welcome us to the company. A personal highlight involved visiting one of our distribution centres in Cannock, before continuing our journey onto Port Sunlight. Perhaps embarrassingly, I had always been intrigued by how they make the Persil tablets so this was a welcome discovery! This was followed by two days spent within our specific business areas – a mix of work and fun – which provided further clarity around our roles and expectations.

My first placement has involved working with global teams in a business partnering role on a project called “Workplace”. This has entailed working on three sub projects; namely around reporting strategy, Master Data and the implementation of an energy monitoring solution for all non-manufacturing workplaces.

I’ve spent the first two months of my placement based out of our global office (100  Victoria Embankment) in central London, which has been great; aside from being an impressive building in a prime location, it has allowed me to gain close proximity to the business, our customers and consumers. There has been a real buzz here and it’s a gentle reminder of why what we’re all doing is so important.

Having said that, along with hundreds of other colleagues, my team will be relocating to Kingston as part of an exciting office move over the next couple of weeks. There has been a huge initiative to refurbish the office in recent months – in line with Unilever’s commitment to agile working – and I feel privileged to be one of the first to enjoy all of their hard work (needless to say, the Unilever shop has been well stocked in anticipation of our arrival!).

Working across three projects, I have been fortunate to meet three times as many people and I have been humbled by the amount of time and effort colleagues are prepared to give up to facilitate my learning and development. My manager is supportive (and patient!) but also encourages me to take ownership for my work – every day brings welcome challenges.

My experience at Unilever so far has surpassed expectations. The wealth of opportunity on offer soon becomes apparent and it’s refreshing to experience this as part of an established and supportive graduate network. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead!

(Thanks to MSVG on Flickr for the photo)

Research & Development

1 Month In

Hi, my name is Jiaxiang (Cherry) Zhang, originally from China.  Prior to Unilever, I obtained my MEng Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London. There were lots of discussions going on between me and my parents regarding my future plans. Unilever’s R&D China Programme just provided us with a perfect solution – spend the first 1-2 years in the UK, and then complete the programme in Unilever China.

It has been four weeks sincer I started my first placement in the Global Hair CTI (Consumer Technical Insight) team in Port Sunlight Research Centre.  My first two weeks were spent on meeting with my team and learning about my role. All my colleagues are very friendly and they are good at taking care of new starters. I never felt uncomfortable to ask questions, and even the personal ones like “Which restaurants in Liverpool do you recommend?” “What products do you suggest me to use for my hair?”

I started my projects on the third week. Rather than doing lab or pilot plant work, my role is all about consumer studies – understand what consumers want and need. I work very closely with consumers, hair salon specialists and research agencies, as well as the formulation and packaging teams. This is totally different from my previous understanding about R&D, but I have to say I am really enjoying it. It is always good to try different options before goes into a final decision – that’s the best thing I like about Unilever’s Future Leaders Programme (UFLP). I have already been asked to think about what I want to do, and where I want to be for my next placement. Changing every six months is very challenging, but it is always the challenge that makes people motivated.

There is one more thing I have noticed during my first four weeks. As a global team, most of our projects are collaborated with our colleagues from all over the world. This is another thing I like about Unilever. Even though I am an overseas graduate in the UK, I am not a foreigner to the global company. I was wrong to think that I will be exposed to a totally different world when I am transferred to Unilever China. It’s probably the same people and will be the same company culture , just my physical location will be changed to somewhere closer to my family. –  How lovely is that!