Danone UK is the fresh dairy business behind Britain’s brands such as Activia and Shape as well as the probiotic drinking yogurt, Actimel.
Globally, Danone is a leading producer of Fresh Dairy Products with a presence in forty countries. In 2009 the Fresh Dairy Products division sold 5.1 million tons, posting sales turnover amounting to €8.6 billion and representing a global market share of 27%.
Two years running Danone have been voted within the top two ‘Great Places to work’.
Finding my graduate career
I graduated from the University of Manchester with a 2.1 in Economics degree a few years ago. Afterwards I decided to do a bit of travelling but returned to face the question ‘what to do next?’. My first thought was a career in the financial services. This seemed a logical next step and one with numerous opportunities that drew on my skills and academic qualifications.
My application to Danone UK was an unconventional one. A friend who was working for Danone Waters UK & Ireland passed on my CV to the HR team, and I was asked to attend an interview. Having never given a thought to working in a Supply Chain – I arrived for my interview expecting to be considered for opportunities in Finance department.
After completing two interviews I was offered a short term contract working in Danone Waters’ Order to Cash team, focussing on clearing aged debt on customer ledgers. This gave me the opportunity to familiarise with the operations of a Supply Chain and Danone as a business while applying for full time opportunities elsewhere in the company. After three months I was recruited as a Key Account Demand Planner for Danone UK.
After my short experience working in Supply Chain, I knew that it was an environment that suited my competencies, requiring strong analytical, communication skills, and dealing closely with internal and external stakeholders.
Planning for a quick turnaround
There are two parts to my role. The first of these is producing the volume forecast for the Activia brand and involves planning the daily demand for each product in the range for each of our customers. This forecast is used by our factories when planning production, and in an industry where tight planning is so imperative (dairy products don’t last long!), the accuracy of my forecast is crucial to avoid costly wastages.
My second main area of responsibility is leading the Supply Chain relationship with one of our Key customers. This makes me the main Supply Chain point of contact with a customer that represents around 20% of our business, driving efficiency improvements and shaping the way we work collaboratively.
Rapid career progression
I’ve been handed a large amount of responsibility at an early stage in my career, which I really enjoy. I have complete control over the forecast I produce that contributes so integrally to the business’ success; if I don’t get it right and we can’t supply our customers the impact on our credibility and the financial implications are huge.
The structure of Danone UK is conducive of this. Despite it’s stance as a global FMCG giant, Danone’s operations in the UK are comparatively more modest, employing around 100 people in the entire UK dairy business.
This means you are working very closely with experienced industry professionals and if you display commitment, talent and initiative there is the scope to progress rapidly.
Striking the work/life balance
A career in Supply Chain can be stressful at times; the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Industry is exactly that, fast moving. There is a huge need to be reactive and adaptable to changing market activity whilst being organised enough to fit this around other deadlines and responsibilities.
Inevitably these pressures can result in the occasional late night, but if you’re work’s completed and you need to leave the office early for commitments outside of work, you’re encouraged to do so.
What does the future hold?
I’m not sure where my career might lead me to in the long term. The challenges and development opportunities I enjoy in my current role mean that my focus is on achieving all I can in this capacity. I expect that in time, my experiences and successes will guide me to the next rung on the ladder.
My only advice for the interview process is to research the company thoroughly and be equally prepared to sell your personality as your work experience and qualifications.
Danone are like many other companies in that they place great importance on the working culture in their offices seeking to recruit enthusiastic, energetic and outgoing employees to complement the company values.
So make sure you’re as ready to talk about what makes you tick outside of work as what you can offer to the role you’re applying for.