P&G lifer positive about a working life spent abroad
WILD GEESE: Briain de Buitleir, CEO, PGT Healthcare, Geneva:A graduate fair in 1980s London was the start of a richly rewarding career for one Cork BComm graduate
FOR BRIAIN de Buitleir, emigrating to London in 1985 was all about “getting a good job”. The BComm graduate, voted UCC Students’ Union president aged just 19, describes the job prospects here at the time as “probably terrible” – a college career service survey showed just two people from his class of 300 remained in Ireland after graduation he recalls.
Rather than resenting emigration, he says it was just part of the psyche. “At the time, it was more about where you could get a good job. If you could get a good job with a highly reputable company in New York or London, it didn’t matter so much.”
Taking “the bus and the boat”, de Buitleir’s job hunt brought him to a graduate fair in London, where one employer stood out.
“I’d come across Procter & Gamble in some of the case studies we’d done in college and I thought, ‘this would be a really good company’.”
Scoring an interview, de Buitleir was hired into the firm’s brand management team, based at its UK and Ireland head office in Newcastle. Open your cupboard and you’ll probably find a brand he worked on in his early years – Bold 3, Flash, Lenor, Fairy Liquid and Ariel. “It was at a time when responsibility for P&L [profit & loss] sat with the brand manager, so you could be running quite a large business two years out of university.”
The Corkman was ultimately promoted to marketing director for P&G’s fabric and homecare division. In 2000 came the first of several country moves when he took up the post of general manager of P&G’s Nordic operations, based in Stockholm. The Swedish capital was a great place: “You really feel everybody is treated equally despite position, money, gender or background . . . and there is a strong separation between work and private life.”
There were cultural differences in how P&G marketed its products too. “You can’t be derogatory about your competition; you have to be seen to be treating people fairly. So American-style advertising where you can attack your competitor is not at all acceptable.”
Another difference was around gender equality. “The advertising you see in the UK, you would not see in Nordic countries as it might paint women in the wrong light. The view is that the man should have equal responsibility in bringing up the baby, so an ad that shows only the woman playing that role is reinforcing a stereotype that they don’t want to see.”
De Buitleir’s next move was to Geneva as vice-president of pet care for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a division that he says was growing faster than the rest of P&G’s business. The snacks division, which includes Pringles, was added to his role.