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Meet Mia: From Student Assistant to Director of Supply Chain Sustainability

Meet Mia: From Student Assistant to Director of Supply Chain Sustainability Mia Høj Bredal | Director of Supply Chain Sustainability | Aarhus

Career development is not always about moving from a junior to a senior position in the same department. At Arla, cross-functional movements can be your steppingstone to a future promotion. Meet Mia who began her career in planning, made a sideways move to supply chain production and is now Director of Supply Chain Sustainability.

Mia lives in Aarhus, Denmark, where she grew up and has played handball most of her life. She even met her husband playing handball. And now, every Saturday, Mia is a handball coach for children between the ages of 2-4 years, including her two sons.

From raw milk to end products

Mia joined Arla in 2011 as a Student Assistant and became a full-time Planner in Planning and Allocation, Global Categories and Operations a year later.

“It was a perfect starting point for me because I got the end-to-end perspective from raw milk to end products. In the planning function, I was talking to sites, but also the commercial organization as I was monitoring forecasting as well as the procurement team because I was buying packaging for the sites,” Mia says.

“I got an understanding of the farmers because planning depends on the milk intake. Also, I was in touch with suppliers outside Arla about how the packaging was being produced etc. The complexity of the supply chain with ownership from raw material to finished product was super inspiring for me and one of the reasons I chose Arla as my workplace.”

From planning to stakeholder management

In 2014, Mia moved to the Global Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) team to become a Global S&OP Manager. She describes the transition in her career:

“In my previous role, I was making the plan, coordinating with the sites, following up on forecasting, and doing specific tools for the sites. The new role was more strategic as I was investigating the outputs or issues we were experiencing and presenting them to top management. I learned how we make the best decisions for Arla by taking multiple perspectives into consideration.”

“Specifically, I was driving the monthly executive S&OP meeting with top management from sales, supply chain, trading, and marketing from all markets. I presented them with multiple different dilemmas, for example how we prioritize if we have too much milk or lack of milk, a capacity constraint on a specific site or packaging line.”

Learning to drive a team

After five years in Global Sales and Operations Planning, Mia moved into a completely different function to take a Senior Production Development Manager role in Supply Chain Production.

“I wanted to become a people manager but not all people manager roles were within an area that was inspiring to me. So, I was looking for a role where I could combine an interesting area with learning what it is like to drive a team,” Mia explains and continues:

“Part of my role in Supply Chain Production was to support the Vice President ensuring that people from different sites came together as one team with one agenda. I didn’t have people management responsibility, but it was a good way to gain insights into driving a team and getting them to perform together.”

“Also, I studied Logistics & Supply Chain Management and I wanted to understand the supply chain in Arla. I had a curiosity to experience if it is different to work solely in supply chain than for example working with supply chain as I did in my planning role."

"To be honest, it felt like entering a completely different company. It was tougher than I expected but it was a great learning experience.”

Most skills can be learned if you have passion

Today, Mia is Director of Supply Chain Sustainability, which requires her to align with different stakeholders, set the direction, create engagement and give input on Arla’s sustainability strategy. Looking back at her career journey, she can draw on experiences from her different roles:

“I have learned a lot about how we can make fast decisions and transformation by having aligned global processes and motivate sites to implement the same processes across countries. It is key for my Supply Chain Sustainability role today: How do we make sustainability become part of our DNA in supply chain, change people’s ways of working and embed sustainability into exciting processes?”

“Also, I love it when you can look back and say to yourself, wow I had no experience with energy optimizations or any idea on how much solar or windmill parks can help Arla on our sustainability journey. You learn quickly within the new area when you change roles horizontally within Arla.”

“That’s why you should never hold yourself back, even if it is something you don’t think you have the competence to do. If you find a role that motivates you, most skills can be learned. The most important thing is to have passion, the right attitude, and to be honest about what you can and what you can’t do,“ Mia says.

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