What’s the secret to happiness in your career? Ask Paula Garcia, and she will tell you it’s finding a company to work for that shares your values, and your pace of work. Happiness can be found, she says, in being encouraged to bring your best self to the workplace, to take risks and to step up to the challenges and the rewards of autonomy.
Paula has found all of this and more at Anheuser Busch in-Bev (AB InBev), one of the world’s foremost beverage and brewing companies and a CEMS Corporate Partner. Since 2021, she has held critical, decision-making roles within the company’s Chilean operations, based out of capital, Santiago. Currently AB InBev Chile’s in RTM and Strategy, she previously spear-headed efforts in route to market and contact strategy, having first completed the company’s Global Management Trainee Program –a 10 month rotation giving graduates full exposure to business operations and global projects. While the promise of fast-track training was a major draw-card, Paula says, it was what AB InBev clearly stands for that first attracted her to the company.
"I always wanted to work for a company that made sense to me; one that mirrors the values that I hold and that models that kind of corporate responsibility that matters to me. I’d had direct contact with AB InBev here in Chile as a CEMS student, via seminars and open invitations the company issues to students at Chilean universities, so I knew that as an organisation they were committed to ESG goals and to being a driving force for positive change. What I didn’t know was just how deep that commitment went."
A Harvard Business Review podcast published with former CEO, Carlos Brito in June 2020 caught Paula’s attention. In this short interview, Brito laid out the organisation’s position vis à vis the Covid-19 pandemic, articulating certain cultural and leadership principles that resonated deeply, she says. First, he expressed the company’s concern for the wellbeing of its collaborators –its employees, suppliers and diverse stakeholders, whose physical and psychological safety were to be prioritised. This concern extended to the community of local entrepreneurs and smallholder farms who formed part of the organisation’s broader ecosystem, who would receive support during the crisis. Maintaining operations and supply chains, while critical, came in second file to the human priorities outlined by former CEO Brito, Paula says.
“This really aligned with the things that matter to me. As a CEMSie I had the opportunity to look at things like the Science of Happiness at Work –cases around companies and countries struggling to find purpose in what they do. This helped me identify and define what I found important, and what would bring me satisfaction in my own working life. Hearing our former CEO talk about responsible corporate leadership in this way and seeing current CEO Michel Doukeris keeping this line of work really helped me decide that AB In Bev was the right company for me.”
And it’s a decision that Paula continues to stand by in her day-to-day work. Real Time Monitoring (RTM) and strategy leadership within an organisation that prioritises human beings, environment and the circular economy, she says, is a role that brings you close to the people you work with every day –be they distributors, clients or co-workers. It falls to Paula to ensure that collaborator and customer feedback and insight is continuously captured and that contracts and agreements are delivered with consistent quality control.
“Coca-Cola Chile signed a deal with AB InBev Chile in 2020 to distribute some of our best-known products, such as Corona, Budweiser, Stella Artois and Cusqueña beer in this region. My job is to collaborate with Coca Cola to ensure a high-quality customer-centric service for the general trade and on premise channelswithin route to market; and at a service level; and at a service level, it’s to collect and then share valuable feedbackaround customer satisfaction. It’s a role that keeps me deeply connected to multiple and diverse stakeholders with different needs and interests. So there’s a strong emphasis on being able to manage multi-culturally and multi-disciplinarily.”
There is also a strong emphasis on connecting with colleagues –both to share customer feedback for business intelligence, and to open up multilateral information-sharing opportunities. Something that distinguishes AB InBev as a culture and an organisation, says Paula, is a learning orientation that runs up, down and across its workforce structures. She shared she had the opportunity to ask Luis Vives, country manager of Chile and current President of BU Andina (Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia), his vision of sustainability for the operations in his country. "It's exciting from a manager's perspective to see where the company is going and what it can accomplish. I learned a lot from his experience".Managers and teams are encouraged –empowered, says Paula –to exchange experience and knowledge with each other, as a function of their daily work. This has the dual effect of flattening hierarchy and building both agility and autonomy inside the organisation. In meetings, during lunch and after work, it’s common to find diverse people from different functions and teams getting together to brainstorm. And being a “beer company,” after work get-togethers are also good fun, she adds laughing. CEMS was a perfect preparation for this kind of organisational culture, Paula believes.
“During your time at CEMS you get that multicultural, multi-disciplinary 360-degree exposure that prepares you for the kind of risk-taking and the learning from mistakes that characterises working in an exciting, multinational company like AB InBev Chile. CEMS set me up perfectly to explore, to try new ideas and approaches and to adapt quickly to change, all of which are the kinds of demands and challenges that I face in my real-worldrole on a daily basis. As a learning experience prior to work, I think CEMS was amazing. I love it and I miss it.”
Paula has kept an enduring attachment to the global CEMS community and remains in contact with the corporate team, particularly in Chile where she advises freshly-graduated CEMSies about to take their first steps in the world of work. A good tip that she regularly shares with other young people is this: take time to investigate the values, the cultural fit and the pace of work expected by any company that offers you a job. Be sure, she says, that you will enjoy the experience of working there.“It really does boil down to happiness and to doing something that you can enjoy every day. I took my time to find a company that I could really love. And in AB InBev
Chile,I found a culture that is multicultural, fast-paced and hugely productive. But working here is also all about having the passion to grow and to do your best as a person. It’s about ethical and responsible leadership, and it’s really about changing the way of doing business. Mine is a role and an organisation that challenges me in every sense, every day.”