Graduates Blog

The value of having a sponsor

I am now in the middle of my first rotation, working with the Marketing and Innovation team for Lurpak, located in our amazing Aarhus head office. I want to use this blogpost to highlight what is to me an unexpected highlight of my F15® journey so far – the sponsor programme.

Published: January 26, 2017 by Elias Grindheim

Each F15® gets a sponsor at the start of the programme, which acts as your mentor throughout. It really is up to each individual how much you would like to get out of the sponsor programme and how often you would like to catch up. In my personal life, I am not one who likes to talk too much about myself and how I am getting on. Therefore, I was a bit sceptical to this, but decided to give it my best go anyway. The sponsor programme turned out to be a lot more useful than I imagined! My sponsor is Cecilia Sundqvist, director for Cheese and BSM in Sweden. It is completely up to me what I would like to discuss in our monthly one-hour sessions, but I normally bring up any particular challenges I have encountered or am about to face. What makes the sponsor programme work for me is that I have a senior person in the organisation who is detached from the work I am doing, and who I feel I can be completely honest with. Cecilia offers a listening ear, an alternative perspective and is also challenging me!

Cecilia has been with Arla for 9 years, and have previously worked for companies like Colgate-Palmolive and Valora. She started in her current role 5 years ago, and is going to share her motivation for joining Arla and her thoughts on the sponsorship programme.

Why did you decide to join Arla?

I always had a strong connection to the Arla brand. We had Arla products on the breakfast table when I was a child, and I later on learned to cook by following the instructions in the Arla’s receipe booklets. When I was a student, commercial TV was new in Sweden. Arla was the main player in media at the time, and I remember watching all these fantastic advertisements, that in some cases actually still is successfully used, e.g. Bregott. Since then, I knew I wanted to work within marketing and Arla was my dream company. What I really like about Arla today, is the possibility to make a difference and to influence the business results by developing our categories and brands. I love the values that we have in Arla and I feel strongly about working for a company that is owned by farmers and that is such a big part of consumer’s life both here in Sweden, but also in many other parts of the world.

You have a long experience within FMCG, can you tell me a bit about your career?

Arla was a dream company to me when I was studying, but it would turn out to take 10 years of work within other FMCG companies before I joined Arla. After graduation I started my FMCG journey at Valora, looking after a hair & body care brand. After a couple of years, I went on to Colgate-Palmolive where I spent 8 very nice years learning the basics within Category Management, Customer and Trade Marketing. I reached a point where I was looking for new career opportunities, and at that point, I took time to really consider what originally attracted me to the industry. An opening came up with Arla, and even though I would not be directly working with the advertising I admired so much when I was a student, I was very excited. After a couple of years, I got the chance to move into my current role and now I am also responsible for the consumer marketing part that originally attracted me to the industry.

What was your motivation for becoming a sponsor for an F15?

I was offered to become a sponsor as part of the TAP programme (Arla’s internal Talent Acceleration Programme). I viewed it as an opportunity to take on a new role, and was curious to see what would come out of it. I now realise that I learn a lot from listening to where the person I am sponsoring is at, how that person is approaching challenges, and also by the questions I ask to offer reflection and guidance. In my everyday role as leader for my team, it can be easy to get stuck on a business agenda. A great advantage of being a sponsor is that you do not have a specific job related connection, and can therefore, just focus on the personal development. I can apply the learnings from being a sponsor into my current role and also relate to other interpersonal relationships. Listening to my mentee’s thoughts broadens my insights.

How can early-stage professionals benefit from a sponsor?

When I first started in my career, I remember feeling a bit alone in my thoughts, wondering whether I am the only who is facing certain challenges. As a sponsor, I can share my 20 years of experience with someone who is just starting out on their career journey. When someone shares a particular work challenge or development area with me, I have most likely either been in similar situations myself or seen colleagues that have been. Having a sponsor offers someone at the start of their career a shortcut to that experience.

What advice would you give to graduates who are about to start their career? 

Take the chance to listen and learn both from you more experienced colleagues, but also from the daily tasks that you do and that will build up your experience. Never be afraid of asking questions to learn more. Work hard and do your best. Remember to be yourself and to make sure to listen to your heart when it comes to personal development and value related areas.

Elias Grindheim

Position: F15® 2016 Team 
Period: 2016
Location: Denmark/Nigeria
Department: 1st Rotation: Marketing & Innovation, Aarhus, Denmark. 2nd Rotation: M&I, Lagos, Nigeria