Neal Yang, Graduate Scheme, China.
Thirteen years after starting my graduate course on the Mars China Campus Recruitment Team – where I was, in fact, recruiting and screening other graduates joining the program – I became Director (MyP&O Director) of our HR Shared Service centre for China, Australia, and New Zealand.
Something that took me by surprise – apart from being asked at all – was how natural and easy the transition felt. I now realize, at least in part, that this promotion was down to recommendations from those who were Associates I’d known from years ago during my graduate trainee rotations. Now, they too were Senior Managers or Directors, and had the experiences of working with me in the past, and were willing to support me succeed on the new role.
Let me give you a snapshot from those early times I remember fondly on Mars Campus and illustrate why I feel they were so important down the line.
First: Recruitment and Employer Reputation
In my first rotation, I was enrolled as Project Leader for the Campus Recruitment Project in Beijing. I jumped straight into a management role, organizing the whole recruitment selection and fine-tuning its operations, as well as screening candidates, offering them roles, and enhancing our overall graduate trainee program.
I didn’t expect to have so much responsibility from the outset: I had little experience and was unfamiliar with HR and Employer Reputation functions. Thankfully, my line manager was nurturing and encouraged me to address challenges in my own way, step-by-step. That immediate trust was empowering. A few weeks in, I represented Mars China in front of thousands of graduates all over the country, where I developed a repertoire with other graduates and Associate peers. Eventually, several years on, I’d come back to the HR function on a permanent basis.
Second: Managing Regional Sales
Going into sales for my second rotation was the last thing I expected – and it was pretty unfamiliar territory. At that time, I led the sales promotions in nine provinces in China, planning all our activities alongside our approximately 1.2 million USD budget, which felt a little overwhelming but also exciting. The team solely looked to me for advice and steps to follow, which meant I had to think quickly and be resourceful, especially in an area like sales, which I hadn’t studied. Even though this stage was demanding, I recognized that my impact reflected on the business in a palpable way – it made me think: if I can do this well, I can actually help the business grow.
Third: Going For Gold
My final rotation took place during the 2008 Olympics, where I continued to develop my sales contacts and expertise, applying it to the Chinese market where we were looking to expand into new markets. Here, my main task was to boost our Snickers sales in China during the Games with a 2 million RMB budget (approx 292,500 USD). As a member of the Olympic Project Team, I worked with the Supply, Marketing and Sales Associates to produce, transport and sell the product at venues, using the face of Mars as a key Olympic sponsor and effectively doubling our Snickers turnover in two years. I also purchased over one thousand Olympic Games tickets for Mars, most of which were used in the Snickers promotion campaign; which again gives testament to the beneficial and unexpected relationships that are built throughout the rotational scheme.
The Final Word
Having a sense of the ‘unexpected’ in those early rotations was actually really important. It compelled me to think quickly on my feet, even with business functions I wasn’t familiar with, and tackle problems more shrewdly and rationally. I learnt how to be a better Manager by being attentive and resourceful; I got to know other departments well – especially in sales – which helped me establish confidence and gain a better understanding of Mars’ different functions. This has all mattered greatly in my journey to becoming MyP&O Director. So, as a final affirmation, I’d say welcome those unexpected challenges and get to know other new starters. If they’re not your own seniors one day, they could well be recommending you next for a high-level role.