This week we speak with Mike Sukitch a global Sales Executive with a distinguished Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods/Mondelēz International career, which includes sixteen years in key emerging markets assignments and sixteen years in the developed markets of US and Europe.
He has a consistent and proven track record with extensive operational, P&L and strategic management experience performing as the highest-ranking sales officer or department head in several locations. His experience includes executive leadership on multi-functional country, regional and Commercial Board’s for the past seventeen years. He is currently the Vice President Global Sales Planning & Activation for Mondelez International.
Lauren: Hi, I am Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the career success podcast. Today we will be joined by Mike Sukitch a global Sales Executive with a distinguished Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods/Mondelēz International career which includes sixteen years in key Emerging Markets assignments and sixteen in the developed markets of US and Europe. He has a consistent and proven track record with extensive operational, P&L and strategic management experience performing as the highest-ranking sales officer or department head in several locations. His experience includes executive leadership on multi-functional Country, Regional and Commercial Board’s for the past seventeen years. He is currently the Vice President Global Sales Planning & Activation for Mondelez International. Welcome Mike.Mike: Thanks Lauren. It’s great to be here.Lauren: So, I know you have worked for many years in the consumer goods industry and I am sure you have seen many changes, right now everyone is talking about Amazon and how their acquisition of Whole foods may change the retail industry? What changes do you believe this will bring about to the retail industry? Mike: Yeah, I think the biggest change that I see you know coming up right now is really what would happen in retail and with regards to maybe what we're calling the store of the future and the role of fulfillment locations. You know that I think Amazon picks up as a result of the acquisition you know through a whole foods and obviously you know it accelerates their needs on, you know, the ease through click and collect and the ability for pickup and delivery from those locations, and I think for retailers it’s going to be a need for them, who already have the ability to be local for you know consumers is on that side is the need to probably up there E-Comm game.In a way I think you'll see more of an impact probably for retailers trying to get much better on their e-commerce portion and then obviously as that business evolves, how the dynamics in the stores themselves will start to look as you know the need for fulfillment in locations takes on a bigger role, how retailers will start to and you know allocate or reallocate their space to address those needs.Lauren: Sure, and I know that you work as well at a Global level and have before for other positions as well, how do you think that e-commerce compares in the US to the rest of the world and what's going on even outside of the US?Mike: I think what I've seen since I've come back to the US obviously, is it's at the you know the high end of the curve as far as development and evolution with regards to you know other markets that would be similar would be markets like UK where I'd seen that evolution. However, if I think about it from an industry standpoint and given my experience in emerging markets where what I think will happen is as e-commerce evolves, is it will go in a much more rapid pace. The urbanization in emerging markets, people moving more and more to the cities and access to you know to smartphones, right, that in essence that makes the evolution that's happening in some of the ahead of the curve markets, you know is something that will happen on a much faster basis in places like Africa and Eastern Europe and the like in Asia.Lauren: Okay, and if we look at, you know and automation, and how it’s accelerating the food and grocery sector. Do you believe that AI or artificial intelligence is going to transform the business world as we know it and if it would be different from other previous waves of technology?Mike: I think it will in and it feels like it may happen even more quickly as a someone on the manufacturing side, I mean one of the biggest challenges we've always had is the ability to manage the reams of information, master data, things that we have, and the ability through AI is providing information at a much more rapid pace, and you know the use of predictive analytics as a result of that, is really helping us better understand more rapidly, you know things like personalized marketing content, particular to a more and more fragmented consumer base, providing assistance and inventory management and demand planning, you know and even home for me on some of the work that I'm doing today and have as part of my responsibility around that revenue management and leveraging as we look at pricing and promotion optimization.You know trying to better understand, you know, through all of the data we have and can access you know how to improve our ROI from our trade spend investments on the promotion side, but not only that, looking also through our consumption trends to better understand in places we can get consumers buying more regular price, so, looking at both ends of the spectrum where we can optimize revenue for the volumes that were selling. Its having you know, a big impact on us right now. You know the downside of what I see in the impact of you know how that might be different than you know what I've seen in the past. Is you know what we've experienced right now many of us, is you know how we off shored a lot of the work and gone to bond to lower cost countries to do audible work that's happening and you know with AI accelerating you know, in many ways it's beginning to eliminate the need even for lower cost work to be done, as you know the ability to use predictive analytics and leverage predictive analytics. You know through automation is starting to potentially, I think you know have even faster and bigger impact I think on the human side of it that maybe previous forms of technology have had.Lauren: Well, sure but I mean in this really rapidly changing environment that we're in today that will probably only increase and accelerate in the future, what skills do you believe leaders will be to develop in order to manage this rapidly changing environment?Mike: For me you know one of the things at Mondelez that we look at you know in the ability of our leaders, is the ability to be able to manage change, and I think change agility and the ability to understand and adapt on an environment in the industry that feels like it's more rapidly expanding and changing than we've ever seen before is going to be something that you know as a quality that we would be able to look for and you know in people that we hire, people that we want to bring on board. You know consumption habits whether it be shopper behaviors you know the impact in store and what it takes to drive consumption there, as well as just customer and channel dynamics and with the speed that they're changing, you know really is going to, is going to require the ability for people not only to change but also to be ahead of the curve and you know and adapt you know to adopt to it or lead even. You know some of the other skills we look at I mean, we get one of the dynamics that I see happening for us is the ability to have what I would call more commercial acumen verse function acumen. And so you know historically the you know, the lines of evolution on the commercial functions of marketing and sales of been separate, and I think today the you know, the ability to be able to understand and run a business as a general manager and understand the consumer and shopper. You know the customer channel dynamics being able to leverage and understand routes to market with you know emerging Channels. As we have for example on e-commerce are going to require having a greater number of people who have what I would call that commercial acumen most maybe what historically we would've thought as general management tendencies. In only because the lines are bleading in the abilities to be able to work across those are really at a premium. So, yeah I would say from an external perspective beyond people's ability to problem solve, and looking for leadership qualities you know, change agility and commercial acumen would be ones that would be really important.Lauren: And also there was a question that I’m asked very regularly, and I would like to get your opinion on as well, which is how important do you think it is for individuals to have an MBA to get to a Senior executive level?Mike: You know as one who hasn't, doesn't have an MBA himself it's hard for me to answer but I would say that that's not something that we look for necessarily as we're hiring I mean. The premium is on experiences and what people can bring through the experiences they've had, you know I think MBAs tend to be more important maybe early on to be a leg up on those you know we don't have a parallel experience maybe coming out of university, but I think as far as those who you know are in the marketing or where I'm more comfortable and more knowledgeable on the sales side, we look for you know the range of experiences both you know from within the function those who have the cross industry, digital capabilities you know obviously having experiences that would have taken you to multiple markets are probably more at a premium than you know potentially what the education but provide at least as far as what we're looking at.Lauren: And I think that organizations as a whole I'm you know sometimes you can get Learning experience from within an organization are going outside and getting an MBA but how do you think organizations get insure they have a right succession plan in place to really develop leaders and top talents in their businesses?Lauren: Well, you know I think the ability to you know to attract and find top talents it's a lot easier than it is to retain them and I think you know one of the areas that we've been looking at from our retention standpoint doing what I've just said which is as we look and put a premium on the types of experiences that people have you know when we bring people into the company it's just as important to make sure that from a retention standpoint we're providing those experiences through their career path inside the company. You know as far as you know managing people set roles and thinking about what they may be two roles ahead not just this next job but the one after. Sharing that in being and having you know the employee be part of that decision making so that you know they're genuinely going after experiences and things that they find exciting, is really a way that from a talent perspective we create the breadth of talent that's required for the future, but we're also making sure that for each and every one of us within the company, wr’re continually challenged, we’re broadening our skill base and were you know having facilitated you know from the company the ability to you know, go after things that we really like and develop ourselves in a way that you know will provide value to both the company as well as to ourselves and you know make us stronger for the future.Lauren: And I guess you can get your own experiences in that sense by all of the different opportunities that you've been given both in the US and abroad?Mike: Yes! I certainly can I mean it's been a terrific set of experiences for me in my career and you know having lived and worked in five or six countries now, and worked across both marketing, general management and sales, I've been very fortunate to it and managers and had a number of companies I work with who've been able to help facilitate that for me. As you know as I was chasing those experiences and looking to get myself out of my comfort zone, to broaden my skill base and then ultimately settle in an area that I really had the most passion for and you know I think as we all know that any day, any time we come to work and we've got a smile on her face we tend to perform better and we feel better about ourselves and the more we’re feeling better about ourselves, the more challenged we want to be and that's kind of how I felt.You know through getting the you know the number of experiences that I've been fortunate enough to have in my career, and I guess if I were to, you know share anything with anybody who is looking for the same thing it would be make sure that your boss knows and your boss's boss knows all the time of the types of things that you want to do. Don't assume that they know and really make them part of the solution for you because it took me a little while to learn that for myself but once I did it really help open some doors that otherwise may not open for me. Lauren: Well, great Mike, thank you so much for joining us today on the career success podcast.Mike: Lauren thank you very much it's been my pleasure.