Name: Hermann S.
Title: Country Lead Germany
Career Area: Strategy & Development
Location: Salzgitter, Germany
Education: Degree in Economics
“The growth of the company and the company philosophy offers every employee the chance to work to their strengths and develop.”
Here is an example of a long-term, trusting relationship I’ve experienced at Cargill: A good customer from the compound feed area had an exciting innovative idea and I was the first and only person they spoke to about developing this idea. Together, our companies are now implementing this idea and building a plant in which we mix the husks of sunflower seeds with plastic to make granules. These can be used in turn to produce high-quality plastic products which are only half based on mineral oil and the rest is a renewable resource. In this way, we can help to save valuable resources and have at the same time developed a worthwhile market for one of our by-products.
Describe your work responsibilities and the importance of your role.
As “Country Lead” for the Business Unit (BU) GOSCE (Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain Europe), I am in charge of implementing the BU strategy in Germany, keeping my eyes and ears open in the German market and submitting proposals to the BU on business ideas as well as reporting potential risks. Locally, I also have to ensure that our production plants are well utilized, that their production is cost-effective and they are competitive, that we appoint the right people who also enjoy and are committed to their work. We also ensure that occupational safety is guaranteed at all times and that everyone adheres to our "Guiding Principles," our ethical principles. I also represent our company externally with numerous presentations and events.
Describe your day-to-day activities and the skills needed to perform well.
The business plan is usually implemented in small stages that are measurable and with time frames which are also feasible for the employees at the site. Then all staff know how we can achieve our goals together. In addition I regularly talk to strategic customers about developing new ideas for the partnership generally. I also need to conduct good appraisal interviews in order to develop our colleagues according to their inclinations and desires. The work of associations for our external representation also requires my commitment. For these activities you have to be a good listener, open to change, bring social and intercultural skills, be goal-oriented and entrepreneurial in your thinking, and operate reliably and credibly.
Describe your career path. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
After graduating in economics, I started as a Commercial Management Trainee (CMT) at Cargill in Hamburg. After just six months I was offered the chance to go to to Antwerp (Belgium) for a year to learn the oil business. I was then able to apply this knowledge in rape purchasing in our new oil mill in Salzgitter. This was followed by two exciting years at our company headquarters in Minneapolis/USA where I was able to learn a lot as an Assistant to the world oilseed coordinator, before I moved to Amsterdam where I was in charge of an oil mill for a year as Commercial Manager. Today, as Country Lead, I look after three oil mills, a biodiesel plant and a very active trade in grain in Germany.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
What I like most is the versatility that you need to be successful in my job. In this role, you have to have analytical skills, be entrepreneurial and goal-oriented, have a good rapport with customers and employees and navigate complex, fast-changing, dynamic markets. Sometimes I have to deal with logistical matters, as well as technical issues for matters involving investment decisions or improvements in the production plant. I am enthusiastic about the global connections with interesting people that I have built up at Cargill, the high ethical standard practised by our company and the long-term vision that we can have as a family business.
Why did you choose to join Cargill and what keeps you here? In other words, how has a career at Cargill helped you to thrive?
When I applied to Cargill there was still no Internet and I had no idea what Cargill did. Commodity trading and the production of food ingredients immediately fascinated me. I have found great dynamics in an international and multicultural environment with many different everyday products very exciting. The growth of the company and the company philosophy offers every employee the chance to work to their strengths and develop. The ethical principles, the family corporate culture with a long-term outlook and concern for its employees and the communities in which we work, were just as important to me.
What advice would you give someone interested in a career at Cargill like yours?
The diversity of the work, the dynamics and complexity of international markets require a highly developed communication skills. You are often dependent on an efficient exchange of information with colleagues and customers – good networking is therefore crucial, often also involving different cultures. Lone wolves have an uphill battle here. In numerous interviews I have conducted with applicants, those who went on to be successful were those who were also genuine in interviews and the assessment centres and who did not put on an act just to to try to become a trainee with us. Staff who are successful and happy are those who are team players and make a unique contribution.
Share an interesting tidbit about yourself such as hobbies, volunteerism, favorite foods or activities, accomplishments inside or outside of work.
I discovered my interest in cultural diversity and philosophy, as it is practiced at Cargill, during three cycling trips lasting several months while I was a student. I cycled a total of 10,000 km through Africa, South-East Asia and South America, long before there were mountain bikes and Internet cafés. Cycling is simply the ideal way to get to know a country and its people. It is fast enough, you can stop or travel on at any time, and slip in silently. When you are travelling alone, like I was, people have no inhibition about talking to the sweaty blond chap. I have had many unforgettable experiences and gained impressions that have shaped me and which I will never forget.