Zaid Al- Qassab is Director of Heath and Beauty
Products for the UK and Ireland at Procter & Gamble. He tells us why you should not overlook a career in the FMCG
What does Procter & Gamble do?
Procter & Gamble operates in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Sector. It acts as brand manager for some of the biggest household names in the world, like Coke, Gillette, Pampers and Hugo Boss.
Why did you join Procter & Gamble?
Like all my friends in Oxford, I was interviewing for investment banks and strategic consultancies at the time, but there were things about them that didn't quite seem like me. Most importantly, I knew that despite paying well they didn't offer high levels of responsibility until you became quite senior. I'd always been really active in running clubs and societies at Oxford, and I fancied a job that offered the same leadership from day one.
Tell us about your career so far.
I read PPE at Oxford between 1990 and 1993. I started at P&G in 1993. Since then, I've spent most of my career working on famous health and beauty brands like Pantene, Wella, Gillette, Olay and Max Factor. I've been lucky enough to have international assignments in Geneva (where I was the Marketing Director of Hair Products for Western Europe) and Athens (where I was the Business Director of Health and Beauty Products for Greece).
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I love the daily interaction with such a diverse group of people, doing such diverse jobs. One moment I'm in a financial planning meeting with sales people, supply chain managers and financial analysts; the next moment I'm at the advertising agency talking with creatives about the latest trends from Milan Fashion Week.
What is brand management?
A brand manager is effectively a mini-general manager for a brand. You have complete business ownership, from analysis to strategy to execution. You'll work on up-stream new product development, generating demand via marketing and analysing in-market performance.
What do you think Procter & Gamble can offer graduates above and beyond other graduate employers?
An education in leadership. Our training and coaching on the job is very well known and respected. What's less well known is that so many of the world's CEOs and business leaders started at Procter & Gamble. From eBay to Gucci to Saatchi & Saatchi, P&G gives you skills that are really transferable to other sectors. More Dow Jones CEOs started at P&G than at any other company.
What kind of graduates are suited to a career in brand management at P&G?
Anyone who loves working with teams of people and likes high levels of responsibility. Anyone naturally drifting into investment banking or strategic consultancy but not really sure why, ought to consider other options too. Many Oxford graduates end up in those professions simply because they are the default option today.
What are the biggest challenges currently facing the FMCG sector?
FMCG is so dynamic that it faces a different challenge every day. It's always been necessary to constantly improve products and marketing simply to stand still. Today the world moves so fast that it's a bigger challenge than ever just to keep innovating at such a fast pace.
Do you have any final words of advice for students?
When I was in my final year in Oxford no-one ever talked to me about careers in business. I ended up at Procter & Gamble almost by accident having gone to a presentation with a friend. It's a great shame because many Oxford graduates would love the daily challenges of running a company. My advice is simply to encourage people to broaden their horizons and find out about jobs in sectors that they never thought they'd consider before making a decision.