Heineken is by no means a small brand. However, in the Philippines, where a single brand of local beer has long dominated the market, Heineken somehow feels like a start-up. Aileen, who joined the team earlier this year after an illustrious 14-year career with Unilever, brims with excitement and relishes the opportunity to be part of “making a small brand great” in her country.
“Heineken’s mission in Philippines is like a story of David in a Goliath marketplace,” says Aileen. However, it is a marketplace that’s keen on alternatives, as well as new and unique experiences.
Her mandate is therefore obvious: to help set the business up for growth. “The company’s key priority is to make sure it is built for the future,” says Aileen.
This is a task that Aileen would be familiar with, having seen her previous employer come through a similar trajectory. “There was a brand --- a small player in a market dominated by another brand at that time. I saw how the business stayed resilient, and finally made the brand relevant to the consumers. Now, it enjoys a big share of the market — that same possibility is indeed there for Heineken.”
Building people leaders
Aileen recognises the importance of developing people when positioning the organisation for the future.
"We are always experimenting as a company and that’s very exciting. We say here: fail fast, learn fast!"
“Building an organisation that is poised for growth isn’t just about the business aspects but very much about the people. My personal goal here is to build people leaders for the Philippines and beyond,” she says.
She is keen to showcase Filipino talent and how they can create impact, not just in the Philippines but around the world, as well. And in Heineken Philippines, Aileen says making an impact can happen quickly.
“What is attractive about us is the offer of making an immediate impact. We continually build, test and learn. We are always experimenting as a company and that’s very exciting. We say here: fail fast, learn fast!” Aileen quips. “This is the type of dynamic environment we provide at Heineken,” she adds.
"When I engage with the young, they often tell me they want to make a difference"
“When I engage with the young, they often tell me they want to make a difference. But you can’t do that just by taking instructions from bosses and implementing them. To me, making a difference is about putting your ideas to the test.” Aileen posits.
The pros of diversity
Having worked in a large established company for more than a decade, one thing Aileen appreciates now is having a diversity of people, mind sets and disciplines that a new company affords.
“The good thing about being in a place where almost everyone is new, and everyone comes from different places is that no one feels excluded. In a mature organisation where most people might have been there for a long time, new employees may feel out of place, and may not be their authentic self as they try to blend in with the existing culture. Here, however, we have such a high level of authenticity, which I truly enjoy,” says Aileen.
She recognises, though, that as the company matures, she would need to do more to protect this value and ensure that authenticity remains and gets embedded in the organisation. “I will always advocate respect for individuality. Respect is earned when one can be his/her most authentic self,” Aileen adds.
When asked to articulate a philosophy that will drive her leadership at Heineken, Aileen offers her life statement: brewing bright moments and possibilities. “I use the word ‘brewing’ because it represents a process --- one that does not happen overnight. As we are often told, great things take time — it is always a process.”