Simon Miles enrolled at Melbourne Business School to boost his leadership prospects, and surprised himself in the process – by discovering he likes financial accounting.
“I thought finance would be the big challenge for me before the program started, but financial accounting turned out to be my strongest subject,” says the Executive MBA student.
“It was taught in a way that I could functionally understand. I’m a lot more confident on the financial side now.”
Simon is a senior manager at Mondelez International, which makes some of Australia’s favourite snacks – such as Cadbury, Oreo and The Natural Confectionery Co. sweets. His challenge is to make sure the company keeps pace with changing consumer trends to grow.
“People are happy to eat our products when they want a special treat. We need to ensure we continue to work hard to offer them a range of products, from treats and indulgences, to healthy snacking alternatives that are made the right way,” he says.
Simon’s job is to keep the confectionery and snack aisles in supermarkets full of the Mondelez products we love.
“Coles and Woolworths are the major players in the Australian supermarket landscape, and about a third of our business goes through Coles, so we’re constantly linking in with them to understand what consumers are wanting and the role Mondelez products can play,” he says.
Simon has worked in sales management positions at Mondelez – and before that Colgate Palmolive – for more than a decade, but wanted to get broader knowledge and experience to improve his chances of securing more senior leadership roles.
“The realisation for me is that as roles start to escalate in terms of not only managing bigger sales teams but having full commercial conversations with marketing, finance and even legal teams, I need to step up to get a broader understanding of the total organisation,” he says.
With three months to go on the 18-month, part-time program, Simon is already applying what he has learned on his Executive MBA in the workplace.
“It is a very broad program which opened my eyes to a lot more of the functions that I didn’t understand previously. It also exposed me to a greater network of people, and how they operate in the world outside of fast-moving consumer goods,” he says.
“In terms of business strategy and marketing, we were provided some simple frameworks to bring back into the organisation as potentially better ways of working and developing. Those two subjects were highlights.”
Simon also valued what he learned on the Industry Studies in Asia unit, which took his class for an eye-opening study tour of Malaysia over 10 days.
“There are over 3000 businesses from Australia operating in Malaysia, and the opportunity to operate in that economy was fascinating to see. It changed my view of Malaysia as an economy. I hadn’t realised the extent of prosperity there, and the huge scope for growth.”
Late last year, Mondelez announced its new purpose – Snacking Made Right – and long-term strategy, which is all about offering consumers the right snack for the right moment, made in the right way.
Simon has already found his new skills useful in helping Mondelez realise its purpose and address its biggest long-term challenge – ensuring its brands remain high up among the snack foods of choice for Australians.
“The biggest challenge for us is to ensure we can move fast enough to identify and leverage opportunities. That’s what the culture is about right now, and shifting that culture will determine how fast we can move to adapt,” he says.
“We know if we do the same thing over and over, we’re not going to win. It’s about shifting and shifting fast.”