Be ready — A great opportunity is on its way!
More than 15 years ago, I did a Marketing internship at Beiersdorf (Nivea, Eucerin and other brands). Marketing was my passion and I felt lucky to work for such strong brands in Argentina. After graduating from college, I did another type of internship at a local food and beverage company for a year until I found a full time job at Bayer. I still remember talking to the head of HR of that food and beverage company (Gancia) about my new job and his reaction: “I am very happy for you, you are going to a company where you don’t have to explain to anybody what they do”. That company was Bayer. I joined in January of 2008 as an Assistant Brand Manager for Aspirin. When I entered the building the first day, I was so proud of myself that I almost did not fit through the door. To put it in perspective, Bayer’s equity in Argentina ranks second or third worldwide after Germany, the country of origin. When we conduct focus groups in Argentina, people think Bayer is a local company, that is how popular the company is. Si es Bayer, es Bueno (If it is from Bayer, it is good) is a slogan we all grew up with and something that is passed generation after generation. I was passionate about the company, its brands and everything related to my Marketing role, consumer insights, advertising, media, promotions, etc. I worked hard surrounded by very smart people and managers and I was able to grow fast. In seven years, I worked for most of the categories and brands and I climbed up to Senior Manager reporting to the Country Head. At that point I knew I had to be creative about my next role since I wasn’t ready for a country head and there wasn’t anything in between. I decided to expand globally and with lots of support from my wife, my manager and a little bit of a network, I was able to find a job and move to the US with Bayer. I spent three and a half years in global and after our second daughter was born, we decided to go back to Argentina. And we did it with Bayer, I moved as the country head for the Animal Health business. It was such a rich leadership experience with outstanding business results. But, unfortunately, the frequency of devaluations, +40% annual inflation, safety issues and lots of economic uncertainty made us want to come back to the US. And once again, Bayer brought us back, this time to the US business as a senior brand manager for Dermatology. After a little bit over a year in the role, I was promoted to Marketing Director.
Today, 16 months after that last promotion and 15+ years after my first Marketing job, I decided to make a big career transition. I decided to stop my Marketing career and shift to a PEOPLE career. I could call it HR but I like to call it PEOPLE. And guess what, Bayer did it again. The company is for the fourth time, supporting me with a big, probably not very traditional move. And I would like to share how did all these happen. How did I ended up in this new role and what is it about. If I can inspire 1 person, I am happy. Only one will do it! And by no means, this is the absolute truth. This is my story and my desire to share in case somebody can find it useful, enlightening, inspirational….
In January of 2021, I listened to a Podcast about happiness. The interviewee was a guy name Neil Pasricha. He also hosts a Podcast called 3 books. That podcast introduced me to some authors that have inspired me a lot since then, Seth Godin, Adam Grant and Brene Brown among others. And when you think of those three, you think of self-help, organizational psychology and vulnerability. Although Seth Godin was a Marketing writer, he is not anymore and none of the other authors, podcasts, books I started reading were Marketing related. Not even the websites, news or LinkedIn posts that I was reading or the people I was following were connected to Marketing. Everything I was paying attention to was connected to People, Leadership, Culture, Organizational psychology, Vulnerability and other topics that in terms of an organization belong to leadership and HR. I started the blog, where I am posting this article. I couldn’t generate a lot of content but I was happy just about writing. At the same time, I was working with a coach and my career took all the attention of every session. During the next four months, until the end of April, we would only talk about my career and my desire to shift from Marketing to HR. The coach help me become aware of the things that I was enjoying more, those that brought energy to my day:
- Reading or listening to people related content
- Talking to people about their careers and what made them successful
- Coaching younger talent and helping them understand their career journeys
- Helping and supporting the “Next normal” or how I like to call it “The future of work”
- Writing about things that I have learnt by doing everything I mentioned before
With the help of the coach, I also put together a 3 page document about my goal to change my career, the reasons behind it, why I could be a valuable HR candidate, the connection between Marketing and HR and my expectations about this move.
It was May and there was an upcoming performance check in with my manager. I found the courage and I shared my feelings with her. I definitely did this with my heart. If you think about it, there was a lot of risk. If she wasn’t supportive, I would have already told her that I was not seeing myself continuing in a marketing role so what was next for me? But probably, my heart also knew there was a high chance that she would be supportive, and she was. She immediately shared her support and encouraged me to start networking to make this happen. And she definitely did her part as well, sponsoring and advocating for me.
After that first conversation with her, I talked to at least 26 people:
- The Head of HR for Bayer in the United States
- Two HR business VPs
- Six HR business Directors across businesses
- One retired HR senior executive outside Bayer
- Two former HR Heads of Bayer Argentina
- The former HR business VP of Bayer Consumer Health and Pharma
- One previous manager that is a mentor to me
- A Regional HR head outside of Bayer
- A former Bayer Marketing Director that became a C-suite executive coach
- The Head of Bayer US Talent Management
- A Talent Management Director
- The Global Head of HR Digital Transformation at Bayer
- Two GMs
- The CMO
- The CCO
- The current head of HR in Argentina who had also done part of her career in Marketing
- A global HR Digital transformation manager
- A former Bayer GM, now an entrepreneur and C-suite executive coach.
If you made it all the way here, you are probably thinking, what a long story. To me, this is the pure reflection of what it takes to get what you want. What it gets to follow your passion and your dreams. This was definitely not easy, but all of the effort was totally worth it.
While building my HR network and talking to all those people, I also applied to two roles at Bayer, one in HR and one in Learning and Development. I interviewed for the first one but I did not for the second one, my profile was not a good fit. And I am convinced none of those roles happened because they were not meant for me. But this is part of the process, raising your hand, preparing for the interviews, learning and listening to feedback and different points of view.
I also joined different teams working on topics I felt passion for: Diversity and Inclusion, Talent acquisition and development, Decision making and Next Normal (Post pandemic) and MBA / internship recruiting. This last project is one that I felt a lot of passion for, it combines three things that really interest me: emerging talent acquisition and development, relationships with schools and helping the business grow long term building winning teams from the bottom of the pyramid. At one point of the process, I was able to share feedback about the opportunities I saw to improve the program with the CCO. I shared the feedback openly and genuinely since I felt strong about it. One of the main recommendations was to have someone dedicated to the program to be able to be more strategic and to spend enough time to orchestrate all efforts, internally and externally. At that point it was just about that, sharing my thoughts…. A few months after, I was called by the HR business partner for a quick meeting. I thought they wanted to talk about progress for the program but it wasn’t. The goal of the meeting was to offer me to lead a project to define the strategy and execution of the Emerging talent program for Consumer Health as well as the onboarding of those candidates that come back as full time employees in the first 12 months with the company. It was 10 months after I had my first conversation with my manager, it was right on time, it was a project for me, I was ready!
After 15 years, this is probably the biggest change in my career. But I have never felt more confident about it. I know what I want, I know what is my destination and in order to enjoy the journey I needed this change. The project will last 18 months and it means to me that the company is giving me the opportunity to build a bridge with the project. A bridge that takes me from the Marketing origin to the PEOPLE destination. I am very grateful for this new opportunity and excited to make an impact for the people and the organization.
As I said before, this is not meant to be the absolute truth or a fixed guidance to a career change. This is just my experience and I am writing about it with the hope that some or all of it can inspire somebody to go pursue the change that they want for them.
And in case you didn’t want to read it all, I came up with 10 key learnings and recommendations as a summary of my career change process:
- Listen to your inner self
- Become aware of your new interests and passions
- Understand what gives you energy and what drains it
- Journal about 1, 2 & 3
- Work with a coach
- Be courageous
- Network -> Listen -> Gather insights -> Repeat
- Work hard & Be patient. People are looking and trying to help you behind the scenes
- Make sure key leaders see and feel your passion
- Be ready — A great opportunity is on its way
If you felt inspired, I would love to know! Thank you.