Vault Q&A: Field Operations Executive, Nestli
Title: Field operations executive, which involves supporting the field operations manager for Impulse by actively contributing to the production of world-class execution planning tools. I also enable the field sales cash-and-carry team to achieve more at the retail points. In addition, I provide the communications for the cash-and-carry sales force, telling them what to do and organizing their activities.
Number of years at firm: 11 months
Number of years in current role: One week. Before my current role, I was a business development executive. I was responsible for managing my own territory, and the accounts within it, which range from small Somerfields to massive Tesco Extras. Each call involves ensuring the store is compliant with activity agreed upon at head office, that all products are readily available and well presented to potential shoppers, processing additional orders and negotiating discretionary space for incremental displays. It was my job to call in figures from supermarkets and to be involved in the promotion of products. I would also negotiate further sales that hadn't been agreed by head office.
Degree (s): Marketing from Lancaster University, 2.1
How did you first decide to enter your industry? What first attracted you?
I was always interested in consumer goods, as it is an environment that is always changing in terms of people's needs and choices. At university, I started looking round for jobs and went to various careers fairs. It was here that I noticed Nestle. What attracted me most is that their graduate scheme is tailor-made to your specific requirements and abilities. In addition, if you are willing to relocate, they provide a role that is best suited to what you want to do.
What are the typical education requirements? What skills and/or experience are important for success?
To work in sales, it is valuable to have a business related degree at a minimum of 2.1. However, Nestle are not just looking for someone who has a good degree. As part of a sales team, you will be going out and meeting people, building up and maintaining contacts in many different areas.
Nestle look for people who have done additional activities at university. In addition to my degree, I was involved in numerous societies and also had a part-time job as a business consultant that provided me with good experience in the business sector.
What is the typical career path in your industry?
The Nestle graduate scheme lasts three years. The first year you are put in field sales, which is the business development Executive position that I have just finished. In your second year in the company, there are a number of positions that you can go into. The position I moved into is within field operations. A colleague on the same scheme will be spending his second placement at head office as a junior account manager, which involves gaining experience of a specific account. In the third of the graduate scheme, you can continue in sales or move into customer marketing. After the scheme has finished, you choose what you want to do. The next steps in my department after I finish the scheme are brand manager and then category manager.
What is the best part of your job?
I would definitely say having a lot of responsibility at an early stage. After only four weeks of training, you are given your own territory that consists of approximately 100 stores. It is up to you to manage these stores, which is definitely very challenging.
What is your least favourite part of your job?
At the beginning, I did find the role of business development executive to be a bit isolating. You're actually working from home, not office-based, which means that you don't have the opportunity to form the friendships you might do in other lines of work. I also found the relocating I had to do to be quite stressful. My first year, I was based in Sheffield and as I didn't know anyone there, it got a bit lonely at times.
How relevant is your education to what you are doing today?
It is very relevant. A marketing degree really sets a solid foundation for what I do in my everyday job. My role is more of a business-to-business rather than business-to-consumer, but the principles still remain the same.
Can you offer any advice to graduates seeking a career in your industry?
My advice would be that if you are looking for a career in consumer goods, you should start early. I was looking at graduate jobs in my second year. Also, don't rely on your degree as there are bound to be lots of people with a good degree at a 2.1 or a First. Also try to get ahead of others by promoting yourself. The way to do this is to get involved in team activities at university and to take on roles that demand leadership. Sports and student politics are a good way of doing this.
What is something unusual that they might not know?
With sales, people also presume that you have to be ruthless and be really committed to the hard sell. This is not really the case. In my experience, it is more about negotiating how you are going to sell the particular products.
What is your best perk?
Nestle train you a lot and give you lots of ways of negotiating with buyers. Also, if you are struggling in a particular area, Nestle will ensure that a trainer comes out with you. Within Nestle, there is a very good support network, which helps you through any bad times that might come along.