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Andrea Di Paola is one of the youngest Vice Presidents in Essity at just 37 years old. And, since he joined the company 8 years ago, he has had an exciting career journey with us. Starting in December 2011 as Operational Excellence Manager EMEA in Gothenburg, he has had a variety of roles during since: Plant Manager and Operational Director in Slovakia,)Vice President of Global Operations based in Munich, and this July, he started a new chapter as Vice President Sales & Marketing Retail Brand Europe and Iberia. Andrea is a shining example that in Essity every career is as unique as the individual and a move from Manufacturing to Sales & Marketing is posible. He took some time to sit with us and tell us about his career and what does it mean to be a leader for Essity.
Hello.Yes I was Vice President Manufacturing EMEA and NA for 4 years, leading 12 production sites around the world and also 2 Joint Ventures. Leading a big Organization of around 3500 people it’s very challenging, you better think 2-3 times before acting because the consequences can be massive. You are not just contributing to the success of Essity but influencing the life of 3500 families and this is a responsibility you always need to have in mind. My biggest responsibility was to make sure that every employee in the organization was going back home in the same shape (or even better) they arrived that day at work: safety is and will always be the first priority when you’re in this position. My Team was composed of Production Site Directors, the Supply Chain Organization and all the Central Functions; everyone is responsible of producing and delivering the goods to the customers on time, with excellent quality and, of course, at the best cost. Continuous improvement is part of our everyday life and we also play a key role in delivering successful innovation to the market, bringing value to our customers and consumers, improving the every-day lives of millions of people.
Every day is different. Every week I visited a different production site, reviewing results with them, being on the shop floor, supporting in the understanding of main opportunities and planning together the next steps, and also celebrating successes together. Every site has its own “dream” objectives and different business needs. My role was to create the right environment where they could achieve success and to make sure that every employee could express her/himself. I also met with our commercial Teams to understand their different needs and how, with joint effort, we could create more value for the company. The key to be successful is to have a long-term strategy and objective but also to know how to “cut them” into small pieces and translate them into daily activities.
Technology is developing very quickly. With all of the digital possibilities within the next 10 years, we expect the same amount of changes that have happened over the past 200 years and we need to be ready. This is an opportunity. The challenges we face is to be ready and to make sure we continuously train our people on what is coming. If we don’t know what is going to happen, we must create the right environment where people understand what is functional today will be probably considered obsolete tomorrow, so we need continues change. This is the main challenge we all have at the moment; the old static mindset is obsolete. In the last 10 years agility (an agile mindset) has been a competitive advantage, in the next 10 years an agile mindset will be fundamental to stay in this business and it will allow us to leverage on the massive opportunities we will have.
I’m really excited about the new role. It is, for sure, a big challenge since my background is mainly Manufacturing. I think this shows how Essity is different than other companies, having the courage to make these types of changes and, more importantly, showing the commitment to developing different skills. It will be a different challenge. But in the end people always make the difference.I have already met a lot of great people in this new role that will help me in this beginning phase. I hope I can bring a different perspective, coming from the manufacturing world.
One key element is consistency. If you go to the gym you cannot expect results after 1-2 days, if you look in the mirror every day you will not see any difference. But, if you train consistently, one day you will look in the mirror and you will see the difference. Consistency is key to be a good leader. Then, of course, is also commitment in order to deliver superior results and courage to take unusual directions, to try new ways and to train new people in the organization.
There are lot of projects that will bring great value to our consumers, but I think Essity is well ahead on sustainability. We really want to make the difference here and the latest official commitment on plastic reduction is a key indicator that we, as Essity, want to play a big role in a creating a sustainable world for the next generations. My dream is to see Essity perceived as the paladin of sustainability in this industry and I think we are on the right path. Of course, all the different projects on digitalization we have in place are really exciting; from designing new digital products to new ways to do marketing and selling the products. We have a full funnel of projects for next 2 years that will bring Essity to the next level.
My way to relax is doing things where I need to be fully focused. So, skiing and sailing are two things that I usually do when I want to really disenage. I also share these passions with my girlfriend, so she helps to disconnect from work too.
Essity offers the right mix. It’s a corporate company with all the benefits associated (continuous training, challenging environment, international experience), but it’s also a start-up company (Essity was born 2 years ago, before it was “SCA”). As in any start-up you have the possibility to influence every-day decisions, to make the difference, to innovate and to contribute. So, my only advice is.. be yourself.We love honest people that have the courage to be themselves every day.
There is one thing that sticks in my mind, above everything else, where I think together (Essity and I), made something unbeatable. A few months after I started my job as Vice President Manufacturing, I got the most important challenge of my life, I discovered I had cancer. Something unpredictable that of course wasn’t in any of my plans. Since the first day, the full management of Essity (CEO, all the presidents, colleagues and my Team, of course) supported me during this time and decided to wait for me by not replacing me. This was a clear message: “Please Andrea, fight, we will wait for you”. I was 6 months out, doing chemotherapy, fighting like a tiger and I always felt Essity’s support. I truly believe that I can say that I beat it), thanks in part to the huge support I got from Essity. That’s also why Essity is special to me.
• Based in: Rome, but travelling every week 😊, so I would say based all around the world
• Age: 37
• Studies Background: Mechanical Engineer in Sicily and I’m now also doing an Executive Mba at Luiss Business School (Plan to finish on Nov 2019)
• Hidden talent: Sailing (also my biggest passion), cooking (not for me but for other people)
• If you could have a “superpower” what would it be?: I would say being in two places at the same time because it would save a lot of travelling time but this is only valid on short-term while having the power to re-utilize/recycle all the waste generated around the world would be for sure my dream on long-term
• Role Model: My mom for sure. She is the best Leadership example I had in my life, for consistency, passion for what she is doing, commitment and ability to drive changes
• Personal motto: not sure if it is a motto but all the people working with me know that I usually tell them: “Do something”. I like strategic discussions, reflections, meetings but in the very end … we need always to “do something”. Word documents and power points will not change the world, but actions will.
• Most unusual place you have seen an Essity product and what was it? Don’t think is unusual, but maybe unexpected …. Back home in Sciacca, I saw that my mom used Tena Lady. She, again, helped me to understand that consumers are people not that far away from us and I really felt proud to be part of something bigger, part of Essity.