Graduates Blog

From Dubai, to Aarhus, to Beijing – insights into the 2nd F15® year

Since my 1st rotation in Dubai I have had the opportunity to spend my 2nd rotation in our Corporate Strategy Execution Office in Viby, working with some of Arla’s top leaders & brightest strategists. It's time for an update, incl. a sneak peek into my 3rd rotation – so you know what awaits you!

Published: December 8, 2016 by Bob den Hartog

I. Wrapping up my Middle Eastern Adventures (Rotation #1)

Before I go into my 2nd rotation I just wanted to give you a brief update on how it was like to wrap-up my 1st rotation. As you may have noticed from my 1st blog post: life in Dubai was great – Arla has a fantastic & diverse team there, the projects my manager Henrik Due allocated to me were exciting & highly impactful and the region was very exciting to live & travel in. Since my initial project focused on Iran I worked predominantly on creating a compelling story & business case for local production in one of our MENA markets, several M&A commercial due diligences, organizational planning in Iraq together with our GM and other projects. Needless to say with all the excitement it was tough to leave but I was ready to challenge myself in a new setting – Denmark!

II. Life in the Corporate Strategy Execution Office (Rotation #2)

After a few introduction calls with my new host manager Jakob Maarbjerg I moved to Denmark on the 1st of May eager to deliver impact on my first project: Europe White Milk 2020. Once meeting the team & finding my desk I was ready to take lead in the project. I can say this is somewhat a typical mindset of an F15® – eager to drive impact. But soon I realized that in a corporate strategy function (especially initially) you are in a bit more of a supporting function – enabling the seniors in our team & working together on project. This was challenging for me at first as I was used to taking a leading role in Dubai, but after some adjustment I got used to this and actually felt this was a great learning experience – the opportunity to shadow & work together with an extremely qualified team of ex-consultants & driven people! Needless to say there are ALWAYS opportunities to take lead, start up own initiatives to strengthen our business/better enable the team, and pursue your passions – a big goal of our Vice President, Rasmus Calmann-Hinke.

Since the first weeks with Jakob on Europe White Milk a lot had happened. Firstly, I switched managers to the legendairy Martin Falch who was recently in the Top 100 Danish Business Leaders (pressure much?!?!) – this does sometimes happen during rotations. Martin had a different style to Jakob and also was in a different part of our strategy team; more focused on Strategy Execution. Initially I was again a bit worried of the implications but, as things often do, everything worked out great and I am leaving the rotation with a new mentor & friend .

Secondly, once I ‘proved myself’ I started to be increasingly involved in almost all elements of our CSEO team including our incubation entity. This meant a LOT of work and the hours were hard but I loved it and learnt from all elements. Notably, because I was reporting to ~6 managers I truly learnt different skills, got to know them and fine-tuned my time management abilities. With our VP Rasmus opportunities opened up to take a strong enabling-role in activities involving our C-level executives and getting an overview of all our priorities in our business & decision making processes; amazing insights I will take with me in my career. Concurrently, I supported our incubation team where, together with Maria & Oliver, I was able to really get my hands dirty with innovation and starting up new ventures – really exciting stuff! Other projects included becoming a key part of our LOTS© business global planning process, working on several international strategy & expansion projects (together with our International BD head Soren), our monthly strategy execution follow-ups, and presentations for our CEO. Ultimately, the experience you can receive from being in a corporate function are endless & now I understand why Arla requires a rotation in Viby!

Thirdly, one of the key projects that deserves a special mention is Project Digital – which I was dragged into halfway. A non-typical project focused predominantly on creating ‘sprints’ for our business to make headway in the Digital future this project was the ‘cherry on the cake’ for this rotation. It was very quick, very tough, and the hours were long but the impact of such a mission-critical project was exhilarating. Not only did it enable me to work directly with my manager Martin on a key project and create urgency for me to rapidly get myself integrated within a project, but also give me opportunity to present to our entire C-level executives including our CEO…. 2 times! Of course for a company of 19,000+ employees this was a pinnacle in my rotation & a prime indication of what’s possible for F15s given the right drive & motivation ;-).

Ultimately, through the 2nd rotation I gained exposure to several key functions & Arla’s most senior people, learnt from a multitude of leaders, experienced the best of a feedback culture, and gotten the chance to work with an incredible team. Characterized by our values of Passion, Pace, Leadership, Impact (and between-the-lines Fun) I will again miss the team & especially my manager Martin, going forward!

III. Next stop – Tactical Sales in Beijing, China (Rotation #3)

But with an eye on the horizon I thought it’s good for you to know where I’m going next – so you know where YOU could end up as a F15! Whilst the project specifics are still TBD I will soon be moving to Beijing, China to join our Tactical Sales team under the guidance of my new manager Allan Hansen. This is another example of how with the right motivation & hard work much is possible at Arla – not many companies would send a non-mandarin speaking graduate to China; but they believe I will do my best to drive impact in our business there!

I hope the above gave you some more clarify into the possibilities with Arla’s F15® Graduate Programme as a 2nd year graduate and I wish you the best of luck with the applications! Remember: Deadline January 8th!


Bob den Hartog

Position: F15® 2015 Team 
Period: 2015
Location: United Arab Emirates/Denmark/China
Department: 1st Rotation: Project Manager (Business Development), Arla Foods Middle East & Africa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.2nd Rotation: Strategy Project, Corporate Strategy Execution Office, Aarhus, Denmark. 3rd Rotation: Sales, China