Cargill’s new managing director for cocoa talks about his new role and career high and lows.
Philippe Huet has been with Cargill since 1995 and last week took over from Harold Poelma as managing director for cocoa for the firm’s cocoa & chocolate business
What does your job involve? What skills do you need?
I suppose the shortest way to describe my job is having the responsibility for the results and performance of our cocoa activities. The scope is quite broad, ranging from labour relations to risk management, from supply chain to sourcing and from factories to innovation – all of which play an important part in providing great service to our customers. A large portion of the job is ensuring alignment throughout the very varied and sometimes quite physically distant parts of the business. A definite requirement is leadership skills!
How did you get into it?
I have risen through the ranks at Cargill, with a strong background in merchandising built up during years with our world trading group in Geneva, our grain and oilseed activities in Benelux and, since 2005, our Cocoa & Chocolate Business Unit close to Amsterdam. About three or four years ago I decided on a slight change of direction and chose a path leading towards general management. Cargill values career development highly and I was strongly supported in this choice; with in-house training and challenging assignments, (such as the acquisition and integration of chocolate manufacturer KVB in Berlin), providing ample opportunities to progress in my chosen direction.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There are many aspects to this job which are enjoyable! Above all, I think, it is working with great people. In addition, having an oversight of all parts of our business and seeing them fit together is very satisfying. Finally the breadth and pace are very exciting, necessitating the ability to move quickly, for example, from discussions concerning political developments in origin countries, to investment decisions in factories, to customer visits and trading gameplans.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Finding enough time to do it all!
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
The integration of KVB, the company in Berlin we bought last year, was definitely a highlight. As an integration team we ended up ahead of just about all our targets and without any disruption to our customers. Enlisting the enthusiasm and support of our new colleagues was obviously instrumental in achieving all this. Other major highlight is talent development; participating in the hiring of both promising trainees, and experienced people, who have grown and gone on to fill important jobs with Cargill.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in Cargill’s cocoa & chocolate business?
Be careful of becoming addicted to the world of cocoa and chocolate!
How do you see yourself in five years?
I hope that I have managed to perform successfully at this level, and that further personal growth is possible.