Meet Maria Jose Pichardo, Revenue Growth Manager at The Kraft Heinz Company.
- How would you summarize your time as an IE student?
My time as an IE student was one of the happiest and most gratifying experiences of my life. From an academic standpoint, I believe the MIM curriculum was rigorous in equipping me with the necessary theoretical and problem-solving tools to apply in practice in any management field.
But most importantly, it was the opportunity of sharing with such a unique mix of people from multiple backgrounds in an environment that embraces diversity and encourages change. When I think of IE, I think of the IE Spirit. It is a feeling that gives me the sense that I belong to a greater community. I am proud to not only call IE my alma mater, but also my home.
- How did you land this opportunity at Kraft Heinz?
I landed my current position by doing the Kraft Heinz EMEA Graduate Program, which I heard of for the first time in the IE Fall Talent Forum. I went to the forum and had the chance to talk with recruiters and recent hires, some of which were IE alumni. They believed I was a good fit and encouraged me to apply to the graduate program. After five months of rotations across different countries and departments, I started as a full-time analyst in Revenue Growth Management in the Madrid office. One year later I was promoted to the position I currently hold as Revenue Growth Manager Iberia.
- What motivated you to work at this company?
There were a couple of factors that motived me to apply to Kraft Heinz. I was very drawn to Kraft Heinz’s culture of ownership, something that the representatives in the Talent Forum stressed several times when they talked to prospective applicants. They made it very clear that from day one, you were expected to take full responsibility for your projects, no matter your position. This was a key factor for me because I wanted a job where I felt that I could immediately add value and be held accountable for my actions without feeling constrained by a strict organizational hierarchy.
However, the real gamechanger was the graduate program itself. Quite frankly, after finishing the MIM, I was not sure in which position or department I saw myself and wanted the experience of exploring different options. The graduate program offered five months of rotational training across different offices in Europe and then guaranteed a full-time position at the end of the program (in most cases) in the location and area of the trainee’s choice.
- What’s your role? What is the next step in your professional career?
I am currently Revenue Growth Manager Iberia. I am responsible for price, promotions, and assortment strategy for retail and food service clients. I am at the forefront of balancing value generation to consumers to increase topline growth alongside identifying opportunities that optimize profitability for all Kraft Heinz categories in Spain and Portugal. As a next step, I would like to further develop my abilities in other areas, particularly in marketing and category-oriented roles to gain a more holistic view of how to win in the categories and markets we play in and capitalize on white space opportunities.
- What would you like to transmit to potential candidates that look up to you?
Work hard, but don’t be too hard on yourself. As a wise professor from IE used to say: “when you cannot do what you must do, you do what you can.”
- Which challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge I have faced, and that I still sometimes face, is knowing how to say no. When I first started working, I constantly felt the need to prove myself. I wanted to show my superiors and my colleagues that I could always support them, and I put myself in the position of being available for everything. It is not a bad thing to go out of your way in supporting your team and your manager. Quite the contrary, this can-do attitude shows ownership and a willingness to outperform.
However, by not limiting the number of extra tasks that go beyond the scope of your responsibilities, you might end up in a situation where you are running out of time and you lose sight of your priorities. I have learned in the past two years how to be transparent about when I cannot allow myself to take on additional responsibilities.
- How did your experience at IE during the MIM help you to be part of the company?
The MIM provides you with the invaluable experience of working in teams. The soft skills that I learned doing group assignments with people from different backgrounds, both culturally and academically, were essential in preparing me to be part of the company. Every strategic decision requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and this requires working in teams across departments. Companies thrive on high-performing teams, and at Kraft Heinz you cannot get far if your team is not aligned and you do not perform. The MIM helped me understand that at the end of the day you are a reflection of your team, and your team is a reflection of you.
- Any advice for current students?
The best way of traversing through your career journey is to first and foremost know yourself. Take time to really think about what motivates and drives you. Do not benchmark yourself with your peers and apply to certain types of jobs just because “everyone else is doing it”. Once you have an idea of what interests you, do your homework. Research the companies and industries you are applying to and always reach out to people that currently work there, especially IE alumni. The IE community will always be a reliable guidance in your job search journey. Finally, enjoy the process. Be prepared to be turned down, knowing that this will only help you gain valuable experience and that ultimately you will find the job where you belong.
- And for people thinking of applying to Kraft Heinz?
Kraft Heinz is a company that places significant focus on cultural fit and weighs it higher than previous work experience or technical skills. Before applying, research the company and make sure that you believe you are the right fit. If you believe this is the company for you, I would strongly advise going to the Talent Forums and talking with the representative team. Most entry level hires who have secured a position at Kraft Heinz have been to the talent forums. The safest bet is always to make good use of the IE alumni network, because we will always try to support our community.