Pierre Lampe wears a couple of different hats with Procter & Gamble (P&G). He is Vice President for Sub Saharan Africa, and Fabric Care in India, Middle East, and Africa. He is also Country Manager for Africa Whitespace. As such, he shoulders plenty of responsibility. P&G is one of the world’s largest and best-known players in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, with a portfolio of 10 categories and operations in approximately 70 countries. Pierre leads a team of 50 dispersed across a breadth of countries, from India to South Africa via the Levant. He has a lot of responsibility, he acknowledges, but it is the work that fulfils him and that he loves.
Pierre has been with P&G his entire career. He started with the company straight out of CEMS, 15 years ago, having interned in its UK headquarters as a student in 2007. He has stayed with P&G and across a variety of different roles for one overriding reason: the company's culture.
P&G's motto is “Meaningful work from Day 1.” New hires aren't eased slowly into different roles at P&G; incoming talent is encouraged to handle serious scope and responsibility, and to make decisions straight off the bat. Skills and knowledge are fast-tracked with continuous support from peers and senior management. As a result, professional growth and promotions typically come from within the company. During his time at P&G, all of Pierre’s managers have started their careers here, benefitting from a culture that rewards and invests in its talent.
“From the beginning, you get exposure to senior leadership, to real challenges and to the opportunities to have real impact. It’s both challenging and deeply empowering. Over my career, I’ve met and networked with so many people across this organisation, it really feels like one huge family. And you feel that as soon as you start.”
Another major draw for Pierre was the opportunity to experience a truly international career. Over the past 15 years, he has lived in five different countries, spending no more than three years in any one location. He describes the experience as “plateau-busting;” as soon as he has felt the learning start to ease off, he had the chance to move on, embrace a new challenge and deliver even more impact.
And with so much variety in his career, there’s no room for anything overly routine, he says. The only “day-to-day” in his current role, the only constant, is the decision-making and the mentoring that he gives to his team members.
“As you work up the ranks, there’s more of an onus on you to support your team and build in the one-to-one time with the people you work with, both to monitor what’s going on with the work, and to help each individual develop. As I’ve progressed, I’ve found I spend less time behind a computer doing the analytics or writing. At this point, it’s more about receiving the information, challenging my team and making decisions.And really, no two days are alike. Apart from anything else, I travel a lot too in order to keep in touch with what’s happening in my markets.”
That said, work-life balance is a huge priority. And again, there is a focus within the organisation that enables staff to coordinate their working life around family and outside responsibilities—something that was accelerated by Covid-19, but that has taken deep root in the way that he and his colleagues work.
“This is a company where – depending on your role – you have the flexibility to adapt your day around what fits you best. You can work where you are most effective at getting the work done. There’s the option for you to really balance your life even as you face exhilarating tasks.”
Facing up to challenges, managing multi-cultural organisation, adapting to new cultures and ways of working; for Pierre, the CEMS experience prepared him very well for a life at P&G. As a MIM student, he feels he benefited equally from a curriculum rooted in “the global context” and the multicultural expertise he developed collaborating with peers from more than 85 nationalities. There's also the proximity to industry.
“As a "CEMSie", you’re required to take up an internship abroad. And I truly believe that this just gives you an edge in your career afterwards. You spend that time in practice in companies, and in different countries. By the time I started with P&G, I’d already experienced what it’s like to live and work somewhere totally new. That fear was broken.”
The secret to making it really work, to leverage the learning and the experience to the maximum, says Pierre, it to “be fully in the moment while you are in the programme.” This means stepping out of your comfort zone; going for stretch electives instead of safe choices; and looking for every opportunity to expand what he calls the “learning matrix”.
“CEMS will change your life in ways you can’t anticipate. But the effect will be multiplied if you take risks. As you grow as a person, you have a matrix where you develop skills in different axes. You should strive to expand that matrix of learning. Don’t rely on what you know to score credits. Take a risk, do a new course, go to a country you've never travelled to before.”
There’s one other piece of advice he would share, and it’s this: build human connections. Throughout his career at P&G, Pierre has been able to give back to different communities. During his tenure in Nigeria for instance, he had an opportunity to back local schools and sponsor children. These
experiences have helped him grow both professionally and personally, but they would not have been possible without the support of his network and his family.
“When you are starting your career, you don’t know where it will take you and what kinds of opportunities you will have to give back and to contribute. And I think it’s really important to know that you are not alone on this journey. So I’d say, give real importance to the support of your peers, your network and your friends. And above all, to the family that will support you in the things you dream of doing.”