A day in the work shoes of a Unilever brand manager

At NUS Business School, learning takes place inside and outside of the classroom. A group of year one BBA marketing undergraduates went for a behind-the-scenes tour at Unilever. The students caught a glimpse of how classroom theories are being implemented in businesses. They also get to hear from their Bizad senior, Minh Nguyen, on his personal experiences from what’s it like working in such FMCG organisations. 

BBA year 1 marketing students getting a treat at Unilever’s famed free flow Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

Minh also recounts his days at NUS Business School and shares some tips on the transition from student life to the corporate work place.

Q: How long have you been working with Unilever?
MN: It’s been 3.5 years. I started with Unilever since I graduated from Uni back in 2013. I took leave for 6 months to do an internship, also with Unilever, in my last semester.

Q: And what exactly do you do at Unilever?
MN: My name card says Brand Manager. People might think of that as something glamorous, but I really see myself more as a bouillon-making boy.

Q: What does that entail really?
MN: Every day is different. One, you can meeting all your third party agencies brainstorming on ideas, another day, you’re just caught up with administrative work. Or you just need some quiet time to prepare for a presentation to present to your team. I’m happy to say, I still learn something new every day here.

 

An exclusive peek into Unilever’s Customer Insight and Innovation Centre – mock up of a supermarket

Using technology to gather data and insights to make good brand-related decisions

Leveraging augmented reality to test out brand solutions

Inside the Unilever Food Solutions kitchen – where the chefs innovate and test out food flavours

Q: Did you always know you’d end up a marketer?
MN: My course of study was Marketing. Back in Biz School, students were given very solid frameworks to think strategically for work. You’d see these frameworks in practice when you eventually start working. So it’s important we (as students) had a chance to experience them during school – makes you grounded and systematic when approaching problems. It’s like a prelude to the corporate world.

Q: Any favourite memories from back in Biz School?
MN: It’s the place where opportunities happen! I really loved attending Prof Ang Swee Hoon’s classes. She provided students with the “sweet spot” between solid theory and practical examples. I also enjoyed working on my Consulting Project in my final year. We had to work on a real challenge for a company – that really excited my team. Our recommendations were eventually implemented by the client company, and resulted in good outcomes for them. Couldn’t have gotten any more real and satisfying!

Q: What other activities were you involved in Biz School?
MN: I went on a student exchange programme (SEP) in Lund, Sweden. That is definitely one of my most memorable – being able to live and study in another country. I also got the opportunity to travel around. There’s nothing better than being able to immerse in new culture and meet new people.

Q: Can you share your journey of job hunting leading up to graduation?
MN: Take up internships – the more the better. Choose different ones that allow you to work on different scopes. Follow your passion, or at least something you think you’d enjoy if you’re still uncertain. Be yourself when filling in applications. Don’t put in what you think employers what to hear, rather, make them understand who you really are. I’m sure employers all prefer authentic individuals these days.

Q: How did you eventually end up at Unilever?
MN: I was lucky to be offered an internship at Unilever. With a good performance, I was fast-tracked to the final assessment of their management trainee programme. Fortunately, I passed again! That was also during my last semester, so I didn’t have to worry much thereafter. I was also offered several other positions at Rolls-Royce and VISA. In the end, I chose Unilever as I was comfortable with the work culture at Unilever.

Q: Now that you’re on the other side of the (working) fence. What would you tell students still trying to figure out the corporate world?
MN: Be open to learning new things outside of School. Leave room for failure. Straight A performers with no experience are not as appealing and exciting to meet. Even after you begin work, you need to make time for yourself – work and learn hard. Those who work better are the ones who know how to enjoy life too.

Minh celebrating National Day in the office

Playing hard, working hard. Minh (centre) with his teammates giving back on World Food Day

Q: Indeed, work does not entirely define us. So tell us 3 things about yourself outside of work.
MN: I’m originally from Vietnam but I’ve been studying and working in Singapore for the last 8 years. So Singapore pretty much is my second home. I own a boutique wine shop called Ugly Wine. And I enjoy cooking, especially Italian food, besides running and travelling when I’m free.

Q: What was it like speaking to BBA freshmen?
MN: I like speaking to the freshmen because it gives them interesting insights on what we, marketers, really do at work. Hopefully this little nugget of information will help them in their career choices later. My only advice to students are to keep exploring and follow their passion. They may not be well-paid in the first place but in the long-run they’ll be happy.

Top 5 Job-Search Tips After Graduation

A guest post from Jonathan Kwan, an external career consultant to NUS Business School & an expert career coach:

If you have finished your MBA or undergraduate degree and haven’t yet secured a job, there’s probably a good reason for that. You were focused on your studies and getting good grades.  You were leading a club and wanted the handover to your juniors to be smooth.  Or you were just having too good of a time and never wanted to leave…Right?

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  And the reality is that you may have simply been too picky during campus recruiting, didn’t know what you wanted, or weren’t as focused as your peers in the job search process.  So, here are a few tips to get you going.

1. Know What You Want

There are many people you will meet along the way that genuinely would love to help you, but if you simply “just want a job, any job”, you’re not making it easy for them.  Having a specific goal in mind, or even a few options, and being able to articulate why (i.e. your motivation), are extremely important steps in the job search process.  Not only will friends, family and acquaintance be better equipped to point you in the right direction, when you do meet someone in your target field, you will be able to make a great first impression. Continue reading