Throughout our lives there are often special dates which are circled on our calendars. Typically, these poor and unsuspecting calendars are pinned to the wall and besmirched with red ink for the sole purpose of highlighting a paradigm of sequentially predictable celebrations. This perennial practice of encircling a range of statutory holidays and loved ones birthdays on 4 x 7 and 5 x 7 monthly matrices can often lead to a great deal of habitual monotony. In 2016, this mundane routine may have held true for most people around the world, but for 15 extraordinary young men and women the narrative has been flipped. Each and every single one of these 15 could now enshrine July 11th in a red circle on their calendar, a circle which now holds unique importance relative to each of whom was holding a pen. These people are your new Kraft Heinz Corporate Management Trainees.
After ambling through the hurdles of a very demanding recruitment and selection process, an amazing and diverse group of individuals has emerged from the smokescreens of the HR department’s master plan. Don’t believe me? That’s fine. One of us has 3 degrees spanning 2 different countries (An undergraduate degree along with two Master’s degrees). Almost a quarter of our cohort is engineers. One person has lived in 7 countries…Incredible, right? We all thought so too, until another told us they had lived in 8 countries; both are under the age of 25 by the way. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. Nevertheless, if you do for some reason find a flaw in my reasoning, we have someone in our cohort with a Master’s degree in philosophy from McGill that will be more than glad to clear things up.
All kidding aside, despite the fact that every individual in my cohort has a storied and prolific background, the 2 most strikingly shared features I’ve witnessed in our group of trainees for this year is the humility and respect that I have seen all 15 members show to each other and to those around them. This truly is a testament to the HR department at Kraft Heinz who did a fabulous job sorting through thousands of applications to make very difficult selection decisions. It has become very clear to me that although intelligence was a pre-requisite for this program, a person’s moral character is held to an even higher premium.
It’s also important to understand that in today’s global marketplace that things have changed. Companies now have to be progressive, flexible and adaptive, but that’s only if you want to remain competitive. Kraft Heinz strives to be and currently is an industry leader in almost every category of their business. If the industry is moving fast, Kraft Heinz moves faster. In order to keep pace with competitors, a workforce that is able to handle the demands of a volatile marketplace is not only needed, but critical to adjusting and progressing in this fast-paced environment.
Nervousness. Ambiguity. Uncertainty. These types of feelings, effects and emotions are felt by all of us. They are often specific drivers of how we feel, speak, and act during the moments at which they are experienced. This becomes no more apparent than on the forefront of starting a new job. Although these uncomfortable feelings are often seen through a pessimistic lens, this program at Kraft Heinz has challenged us as a group to develop a new kind of optics.
At Kraft Heinz it’s okay to feel uneasy. Actually, it’s exactly how things are supposed to be. If you really think about it, is there honestly any better way to stimulate and accelerate your own personal growth than by facing things that make you feel uncomfortable? Probably not, and that’s why this program is intended to produce the leaders of the company going forward. Therefore we have been tasked with turning things such as nervousness to excitement, transforming uncertainty to certainty, and exploring how ambiguity can morph into curious opportunity.
The Kraft Heinz Corporate Management Trainee program is a 7-week rotational program with a 6 – 8 week project in a functional area of the company followed by a permanent placement based on your own interests and the needs of the business. The first 7-weeks are explained as a training boot camp throughout all functional areas of the business in order to give us as trainees a hands-on taste of how the company works on a day-to-day basis.
During the first week of the program we were immersed in the company’s history and its subsequent transformation over into 3G’s culture. Discussions placed a heavy focus on how to act ethically and how to conduct yourself professionally within the 5 core values of the company: Consumer first, Innovation, Integrity, Ownership, and Quality. Employees are empowered through the concept of ownership of their work at Kraft Heinz. They are rewarded through the concept of meritocracy by how they are adding value to the company. Promotions and raises are not done through seniority, politics, or cost-cutting but earned through dedication, hard work and most importantly by delivering real results to the bottom-line.
Throughout the course of the week, we were also extremely lucky enough to have high level executives take time out of their day and busy schedules to present and answer questions on their backgrounds, career paths, and current positions at the company. This group of people ranged from our head of Corporate Affairs to our General Counsel and even all the way up to the President of our organization (And this is just the first week!). There were many valuable insights drawn from listening to every single one of our leaders, but despite all their amazing personal accomplishments the message which was clear and consistent from every single one of them was that in order to be successful you must stay hungry and humble. This was something that made a lasting impression on our group.
From the start of the program the HR department at Kraft Heinz has done a fantastic job at slowly introducing all 15 of us into the company’s culture and most importantly to each other. There were a myriad of activities that allowed us to break the proverbial “ice” while also allowing us avenues to creatively show our personality. One of my favourite exercises of the week was an ice-breaker which consisted of the group construction of a Lego tower.
During this activity, each block was labelled with a mix of professional qualities and personality characteristics in order to help design a tower that exemplified the ideal candidate for the company. Although every group eliminated the undesirable characteristics such as “entitled”, the most interesting part of the exercise for me was to see how each group’s tower had been constructed differently from the base all the way to the precipice. I believe that this is due to the way that tasks have been assigned to our group of trainees. The exercises have general instructions that are direct enough to allow an understanding of the task with 80% clarity, but vague and subjective enough to leave us about 20% of room for interpretation. This is what brings out the high level of diversity and ubiquitous creativity within our cohort.
All-in-all it was a whirlwind of a week at Kraft Heinz as we were immersed from 8AM – 5PM in a brand new culture, with brand new people, in a brand new job. As someone who was very unsure of what my career path would and should look like as I graduated university, all I can say is that I don’t think I’d rather be with any other company right now. I have been thoroughly impressed with the structure and rigour of the Corporate Management Trainee program, the growth opportunities that have been presented, and more importantly the real passion and belief of the people who work at the company. My fellow trainees and I have been presented with an amazing opportunity to progress with an astonishingly transformative company in a very competitive globalized business landscape, and it’s up to us to take it and run with it.