An Interview With Paulo Peereboom – A Career Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
We had a chance to speak to Paulo Peereboom, the CEO of Makro Netherlands. During his 25-year-long career in FMCG, retail, and food retail, Paulo learned quite a lot about career development. Find out what helped him in his career and what his advice is when it comes to making important career decisions.
‘The best advice I can possibly give is: If this is a race, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Many people come to a company straight out of university or other higher education and believe that because they have a certificate, the business community is waiting for them with open arms. Only to realize that, for I would say the third time in their life, they have to start at the bottom of the pyramid. The first time you have to start at the bottom of the pyramid is when you go from primary to secondary school, and the second time is when you go from secondary school to university. Then you start working at a company and believe you add a lot of value to the team because you are in possession of a piece of paper that says you have some knowledge. I believe that academic knowledge is not actually always relevant in a business context. We don’t want to have doctors who don’t have the proper diplomas and we don’t want people building planes that don’t understand engineering. But if we are talking about a more general role in a company, I would say you need to be prepared to accept that you don’t know that much and that you’re actually going to start learning again.
‘The most important thing in a career is finding your real passion. In the first 4-5 years of your career, you should try as many things as you possibly can. You might search for a function that you believe you like, but you also might find out you’re passionate about something else. What works for me is that I’m a jack-of-all trades, and I understand enough about different functions to have an informed opinion, and I have enough knowledge to know when I should stop talking and start listening to the real experts. You should go slow in the beginning, do many side steps, to go faster later. In the beginning of my career, I was blessed to enter a company as a Management Trainee, which allowed me to do a lot of different functions and truly find my passion. Now that’s a very good way of starting a career. Important also is to pick a manager that believes in You and acts as an active coach helping you a long the way.
‘Last, but not least, agility and adaptability are priceless. You can’t predict the future. If you look at what’s happening in retail in both advanced and emerging markets, you’ll see Amazon and Alibaba are transforming retail. It’s not about knowing how to run a retail operation, it’s about knowing how to future-proof the business. It’s about knowing how to deal with unexpected events. Sometimes it’s not the fastest, the smartest, or the strongest one that wins, it’s the one who is able to adapt the fastest. Because the world really is changing at a very fast pace.’
It is when someone says something that gets you out of your comfort zone that you actually need to actively start listening.