Al Ryan learned to lead people from a young age, and he worked his way up in a supermarket chain in the Philippines. In 2011, he moved to Saudi Arabia to join Arla as a Key Account Merchandiser. Learn about Al Ryan’s experiences in moving countries and back to the Philippines to lead 22 Foodservice sales representatives.
During his college years, Al Ryan was part of a youth council in his hometown Nueva Ecija in the Philippines. He conducted activities for young people in the community, such as dancing, music, battle of the bands and projects for the church. Now, Al Ryan lives in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. His wife lives in Nueva Ecija together with their 9-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.
New opportunities in Saudi Arabia
Al Ryan was managing 60-80 merchandisers in one of the leading supermarkets in the Philippines before he moved to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to join Arla in 2011. First as a as Key Account Merchandiser and one year later as Merchandiser Supervisor.
“As I lived in a small town in the rural region of the Philippines, I didn't earn much money. So, I wanted to go somewhere else to provide for my children. I was familiar with Lurpak and Puck, and they were looking for merchandisers to sell it in Saudi Arabia. I applied online and was called for an interview. HR helped me with my visa, work permission and a place to stay,” Al Ryan says.
“First, I was the one coordinating with the supermarket, responsible for placing orders, achieving sales targets every month and complying with legal procedures in the store, such as contracts for promotions and pallets displays. When I got promoted to Merchandiser Supervisor, I made delivery route plans, created displays in the stores, checked expiration dates and made inventory reports,” he explains.
Far away from home
During his time in Saudi Arabia, Al Ryan enjoyed encountering both colleagues and customers with different nationalities. But it was also challenging to adapt to a new culture and being away from his family.
“When I first came to Jeddah, I actively joined recreational events for employees, such as basketball tournaments to get to know colleagues better. I also joined communities for people who moved abroad to Saudi Arabia. Whether you are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt or the Philippines, we are talking one language when food is being served. It brings people together,” Al Ryan says and continues:
“But it was also difficult at times as Filipinos are known for our hospitality and when you are working abroad, you work alone. My wife and daughter didn’t come with me to Jeddah until 2016. Arla provided me with a family visa, but I didn’t use it until two years into my role because I needed to prepare for them to come.”
Back to the Philippines
After 7 years with Arla Saudi Arabia, Al Ryan moved back to the Philippines with his family to take up a Sales Supervisor role in Foodservice. He oversees that Arla Pro products, such as mozzarella, cream cheese and wiping cream, are available in 22 stores in three regions in the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
“We have 22 merchandises in each store called Arla Pro Consultants, whom I coach and support in reaching the monthly sales targets. If they don’t reach the targets, I will ask about the main reason for this and support them in how we can improve their performance. In addition, I’m implementing promotion in the stores from the marketing support, to help us increase our sales based on the needs of our customers,” Al Ryan explains and elaborates:
“Foodservice also includes technical applications. For example, we need to explain to our customers how mozzarella is used. We also deal with different professionals, like chefs and restaurant owners, so we need to create a pipeline of products and coordinate with stores when we have a new product to showcase how it can be used for cooking or baking.”