Jitka Carolin is the Director Sourcing Direct Materials MEU at Mondelez International in Zurich, Switzerland. She has worked for the business for over 13 years, in countries such as the UAE, South Africa and the Czech Republic. She started her Procurement career at Kraft Foods in 2005.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for a) your business, and b) your own role over the next 12 months?
As many other businesses, our business was battling with supply chain disruptions and enormous inflation. The challenge for the business that I see is to get more resilient – both from the supply chain perspective, but - more importantly - taking care of our people and focus on the mental health of our employees.
We also need to find the right value equation for our consumers, and make sure that our brands keep growing and we have the right product offering.
I am responsible for raw and pack supplies for our factories in Europe. With the challenge our Procurement team had to battle, on many fronts, people feel exhausted. My biggest challenge is to keep our people motivated and in good spirits.
Continue building on strategic relationships with our suppliers that have been key for the success of Mondelez during this volatile time. Take learnings we had over last two years (there have been many) and transform them into new, more resilient Procurement strategies.
Managing raw materials and packaging at Mondelez, I would imagine that ESG (environmental, social and governance) is a strong focus and driver. What do you/your team do to drive sustainability and the sustainable sourcing agenda?
Absolutely. Sustainability become the fourth strategic pillar of Mondelez, and it’s a testimony that sustainability is top of our agenda. In raw and pack materials, we focus on working closely with our suppliers and farmers on our signature programs in cocoa (Cocoa Life), wheat (Harmony), and also building a strong sustainability program in dairy, as it is one of the biggest contributors to our supply chain CO2 footprint.
In packaging, we focus on packing our products in the “Light and Right” way, using the right pack material and using less, as well as recyclability of our whole pack portfolio.
We also have a strong program on supporting women and minority-owned businesses as part of our Economic Inclusion & Supplier Diversity program, and this agenda has really picked up nicely in the last few years.
You have a broad international exposure and moved across multiple countries and continents. Is there any advice that you would offer candidates looking at expat opportunities?
Yes, I had an opportunity to work in different countries and continents, and it has been invaluable. I have learnt a lot about business in developing countries, learned about different cultures, and also about myself. I hope it made me a better, more inclusive and more resilient leader.
My advice would be: embrace the opportunity! It is not always easy to make a decision to move to a different country - especially if someone in the family needs to pause their career – but, if you find the right balance, you decide as a family it’s worth it.
It is also the best you can give to your kids in terms of broadening their horizon, learning different languages; it’s just a cherry on top.
Is Switzerland a good place to live and why?
Switzerland is an amazing place to live; it’s safe, clean, stable, and - despite some biased opinions - also very full of friendly people.
What is a personal highlight of your career so far?
I would say it is my assignment in South Africa, where I was in charge of south, east and central Africa procurement. I came from the environment of Europe, with a mature market, mature processes, and established supply chains in an environment where day-to-day management of issues and smaller or bigger crises became a daily reality.
I still consider this period as the best and most intense learning period in terms of soft skills development, leadership and problem-solving. In the light of the current supply chain crisis and the high inflationary environment, I often go back to those days, thinking that the experience prepared me well for current challenges.
What is the biggest myth about your profession that you want to debunk?
I don’t know if there is a myth about Procurement as such. I think, often, people outside of Procurement might consider that Procurement is all about negotiation with suppliers. It’s a big part of it, but there are so many other elements of our work that are important; starting with creating the right sourcing strategy to executing it, addressing both what we buy and how we buy.
Especially in the last few years, the Procurement function proved that - if the right strategy is in place - it can become a key competitive advantage for the company.
Who did you most admire when you were a child and why?
I did not have a specific person of character to admire. I got lots of inspiration from my parents, who always put education as a key pillar and both were working parents. I have three siblings, so my mum raised four kids while still managing to have quite successful career. That is a model that I want my kids to see, as well - to see that anything is possible if one has big dreams and goes after them.
What is the future of Procurement & Supply Chain?
Only bright! Margin pressure in many areas will not go away, macroeconomic and political situations will not become less volatile in the near future, and there will be a high need for Procurement professionals.
We, as a function, however, need to make sure we evolve in line with the needs of the current business environment; we develop new capabilities and knowledge, and take learnings from the past few challenging years.
How can leaders create diverse teams?
By starting with ourselves – creating the right vision and demonstrating the right, inclusive leadership behaviours, from the way we recruit to identifying and eliminating biases. Simply practicing empathetic leadership.
I think that, by now, most leaders know that having a diverse team is essential for the company success. How to get there might still be challenge for many of us, however, I am confident that we are on the right track. The fact that many companies have Diversity & Inclusion on top of their People agenda is encouraging.
Views and opinions contained within our Executive Interviews are those of the interviewee and not views shared by EMEA Recruitment.