Dirk van der Heijden, Director Digital Technology & Analytics

I joined FrieslandCampina -a large FMCG dairy multinational- almost 7 years ago, after working 10 years as a freelance project- and interim manager in ICT and operations. One of my first tasks was to recover an 8000+ workplace rollout project that faced strong headwinds, and bring it to the finish line.

Before FrieslandCampina, I basically learnt how to rely on my own. After all, I was hired based on my capabilities, and I was highly driven to demonstrate these skills in my new company as well. So I engaged this problem child project head on, put in a tremendous amount of effort and hours, and worked with the team at hand. For sure, we strengthened the team a bit in some areas, but not at length. As such, the program completely dominated my agenda that first year. I only realised afterwards that I had to reinvent my role and contribution as a manager.

Out of the many things I learnt in these years, one thing stands out: people truly make the difference, and our people are the biggest asset in this company. It is our duty -and privilege- as managers to build and grow that asset base to the max. Every hour we spend on attracting, selecting, and growing our talent is a valuable hour well spend. Instead of ‘trying to manage it all yourself’, a good manager is primarily shaping and building his or her team, actively seeking for the right exposure for each team member, and stretching them via new challenges. One of our primary reasons to exist is to help our people learn & grow, of course with some air cover where needed. Sure, there is strategy & planning, decision making, managing to budget, and issue solving to do as well. But a manager’s impact -by far- is highest if he or she takes talent management close to heart.

I also learnt that personal growth only comes from accepting challenges, often with an uncertain outcome. You can only improve yourself if you put in some perseverance and ‘sweat’ to make a next step. Personal growth is not offered to you on a silver plate. It does not knock on your door, it does not come from an expensive external training or a good coaching session. Growth comes from stepping forward. It depends on if and how you grab opportunities and new roles your company seeks for. It comes from the trust senior management puts in you, based on how you demonstrate your capabilities & learnings in your current role.

7 years later, our teams are better set than ever to lead our company into the digital era. Still, we need some of you to help in the journey to shape FrieslandCampina into the most digitally enhanced dairy company in the world. If you feel inspired by this article, and you have a relevant track record in Digital, either in FMCG or B2B, have a look at our vacancies here or simply connect to me online.