The Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector is thriving in Ireland and offers fantastic career choices for graduates interested in global marketing, business strategy and brand management. Kelloggs’ Senior Brand Manager David Bell talks us through his experiences at DCU Business School, motivation to enter the sector and how others can follow suit.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today – your background sounds really interesting. When you applied to DCU Business School you already had a Masters qualification under your belt. Why did you decide to study again?
Well, I hadn’t worked in a business setting before and went in as a relatively mature student at 29. I had been moving in a very different direction in terms of a career before that, having completed an undergraduate degree in English and Media Studies, and then a Masters in Edinburgh in Cultural Studies. I moved to South Korea to teach English for a while, but while over there, I lucked out and got into a university where I was able to teach other courses, such as Media, Film Studies and Business. I was really interested in Humanities and Critical Theory at this point, and assumed I’d go on to do a PhD, however I found the Business classes, modules like Introduction to Marketing and International Marketing, really interesting.
I also found living abroad exposed me to very different styles of marketing that I had been previously unaware of. I got perspective on, for instance, how Guinness is so differently positioned in South Korea versus Ireland. Those kinds of things really started to play on my mind. I especially liked the storytelling aspect of marketing, but I didn’t want to apply for jobs back in Ireland without any foundation in the industry. I knew it would help having some credentials in the form of a marketing degree to make that shift.
And why did you specifically decide to go to DCU Business School?
My motivation was really two-fold – explore different areas of marketing and get a good business foundation, having never studied business or worked in a business setting before. I chose DCU Business School because the course was very open and suitable for non-business graduates. I also felt like it was very connected to industry and I knew I wouldn’t just get a theoretical education there.
Do you feel like you were able to do that during the year?
Yes, I feel like I was able to do both things on the course. There were certain key modules which really helped me to explore the areas of business that I found most interesting and which I was most excited to work in. The main one was Marketing Strategy, taught by Joanne Lynch, a very case-study based course. The way Joanne delivered it really challenged us to think through everything and present our solutions to different situations. It was in that course that I realised I was quite interested in products and things that were consumer-facing, more than other areas like PR of B2B. I really enjoyed the focus on innovation, strategy and how you can position brands, and so came out with a very clear realisation that FMCG was a very interesting area for me. Michael Gannon’s course in Global Marketing was also brilliant and reinforced that this was the area I wanted to work in.
How did it compare to studying Humanities?
Well, I think what made me a decent student at DCU Business School was actually my background in English – being able to write, argue clearly and research well. But the Masters at DCU Business School really pushed me to understand what skills and competencies I had. I don’t think the same can be said of a lot of Humanities courses. DCU Business School takes pride in that, it’s training people for a workforce. It makes students think about what they want to do afterwards. In my opinion, within Humanities courses those broader career questions are not always tackled head-on as lecturers are predominantly academics, and may not have significant professional experience beyond that specific industry.
Did you walk straight into the role at Kelloggs then?
It took about three and a half months before I had a job. A lot of people on the course jumped into things very quickly – some people even had jobs before they finished the summer semester – but I was pretty selective about what I applied for, so it took me a bit longer to get going. A graduate role at Kelloggs came up that I decided to go for. I was a good bit older than other applicants but Kelloggs was exactly the type of company that I knew I’d find interesting. It was also cool to find an FCMG company that had its headquarters in Ireland. Besides Diageo and Kelloggs, most of them have headquarters elsewhere.
Luckily for me, Kelloggs took on board my previous experience and suggested I interview for a Brand Manager role, which was the kind of job I hoped to get in another two or three years. The year in DCU really helped me in that way. Through the NGM (Next Generation Management) module in particular, I learned how to put shape on my previous experience and sell it as relevant in a business context. It helped me understand competencies I’m not so strong on, and how I could work on them, and competencies that I am strong on and what I could do to leverage them.
And that’s so important isn’t it?
It is. It makes you realise that if things don’t work out, it doesn’t mean that the experience wasn’t relevant. You’re still learning.
Can you tell me a bit about your Kelloggs’ journey? What does your role there entail?
First off, I started as a Brand Manager in the Innovation team for a year and a half, which was working across different brands on new products that were coming to market and managing these projects. I moved into an in-between Brand/Innovation role for about six months. Kelloggs have a relationship with Disney and do licensed cereal packs, like Frozen, The Incredibles and Cars. I really wanted to move into one of our main equities so I moved into a role in the Brand team working on Crunchy Nut, massive in the UK and Ireland, and Extra, a Granola brand that’s big in France and Italy. I now lead the EMEA Crunchy Nut and Extra team so my job is very different to when I started 3 years ago in Kelloggs.
That sounds very exciting.
It’s such a great brand to work on because there’s a lot of fun storytelling. It’s well-known, it’s household and it’s been growing for the last two or three years. There’s a lot of momentum and it’s definitely exciting to be part of that. At the moment I do the work I was learning about in Joanne’s Marketing Strategy class – planning for the brand, identifying challenges and opportunities and trying to link that into the bigger company strategy.
It’s great that you had that opportunity to move around in Kelloggs and got to put yourself outside your comfort zone. Usually when people crave change they have to look for jobs elsewhere.
That’s the attraction of a big company like Kelloggs. They always want people to step up and take on new roles, and are very happy for people to move around the company into different functions.
When I first started, the people I worked with were so far ahead of me that it was quite daunting, especially when I was going in at a Brand Manager level having never worked in Marketing before. They were so good at their jobs, but that was also brilliant as I learned so much from everyone around me. That’s an important thing that you get from doing a course like the one in DCU. You learn that the better the people you’re around, the better you are also going to be. They really push that you learn from the people around you, not just from a book.
And the big question – Do you get lots of free cereal?
Ha, indeed I do…trying the new cereal innovations is probably the best perk. I’ve always been a big cereal consumer actually, so it’s quite fun to work in a marketing function for products where you are also the end consumer.
Interested in following in David’s footsteps? DCU Business School has postgraduate courses in Digital Marketing, International Management and Management (Strategy) that can help you get a foot in the FMCG ladder. Check out the DCU Business School website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.