Name: Marisol Saona
Job title: Brand Manager
Company: Tesco, Welwyn Garden City
Education: BSc International Business, Warwick Business School
You didn’t really set out wanting to work in food. So how did you end up working for Tesco?
Working in B2B and pharmaceuticals (business-to-doctors) before graduation made me realise I wanted to work in a company that connected more with customers. Tesco not only creates great food with its own brands, we then serve it to customers in store or even deliver it to their door.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job at Tesco. How many stages were there, what did you have to do? Any particularly tough questions?
I think a tough question that probably comes up in a lot of jobs is “When have you seen a project through from beginning to completion?”
I started at Tesco three years ago on the marketing graduate scheme. There were a lot of stages such as an online application, a telephone interview and, lastly, an assessment day which involved a presentation and case study, group business discussion, interview and a fun group challenge. I think a tough question that probably comes up in a lot of jobs, and did when I later applied to be a brand manager, was “When have you seen a project through from beginning to completion?”. That can feel tricky for a young person to answer with their internship or short rotational experience. I used the example of a “Tesco grad project”, an extra-curricular piece of work I led for a year in addition to my rotations.
Explain your current job to us in a sentence (or two)
I am a brand manager for our own brand foods, focusing on Tesco brand grocery. In the food & drink industry people might call it “ambient” or “packaged” food, but to mum and dad I just say it’s “what you keep in the cupboard”.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It sounds like a cliché, but it really does depend on my priorities for the day. Examples include briefing propositions for new product development, writing copy for packaging, listening to customer focus groups, reviewing creative or designs, and reporting on the performance of the brand against the market.
What’s the best part about working in food & drink?
I’m always hungry so I have to admit it’s the near constant flow of food. Munchies aside, I do enjoy learning about where food comes from and being able to share those stories with my friends and family.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about working for a big retailer like Tesco?
Some people think we’re not passionate about the food we sell, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, we’ve got loads of experts behind the scenes. The people that work here love and care about food: I genuinely have colleagues that keep photos on their phone of pineapple harvesting or get a little bit too excited about recyclable packaging materials.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry?
Fresh thinking and competition is in the atmosphere, so embrace your youth and sell them a new perspective!
Start researching if you haven’t already got experience in the field and think about how the industry is going to change in the next five to 10 years and what role you want to play in that. From my experience, fresh thinking and competition is in the atmosphere, so embrace your youth and sell them a new perspective!
What’s your ultimate career dream?
I want to create a food brand that people adore and completely shakes up the category (or maybe create a new one). On a much smaller scale, I would selfishly want to launch a Tesco Brand Aji Amarillo so I can cook more delicious spicy food, and so that my Mum can stop asking everyone (and their mother) to bring her packs of it from Peru.