Data and analytics are a crucial aspect of any attempt to improve sustainability but what skills and mindset are needed to make a success of such a career? CommUnity spoke to alumnus Gonçalo Guerreiro about where his professional path has taken him.
What was the main learning you took from your studies?
I like to say engineering is not a specific role, it’s a mindset. I think that’s probably my biggest takeaway - the way I approach new challenges and work towards solutions is very much engineering-driven. Hypothesis, validation, learning, repeat.
I have to mention as well all the intercultural exposure I got during my Master’s - it’s not a hard skill but I feel it made (and keeps making) my life easier.
What was your first thought when you graduated? Did you feel prepared or daunted by going into the "real world"?
Honestly I felt lost. I knew roughly the direction I wanted to follow: I wanted to get a job where I would be exposed to innovation and which would be as related as possible to sustainability issues like energy, transportation, food. Ideally, I wanted to join a startup.
I frankly had no clue on how to make that happen and as I kept applying to jobs and going to interviews, nothing felt quite “right”. It was quite a weird period because I loved everything I had learnt so far while studying, was passionate about the industry but didn’t really love anything the market had to offer.
What was your first work experience after graduation?
I got an internship at ABB in Poland in their corporate research center. Quite a nice personal challenge as I moved to Krakow for three months without ever visiting Poland before or knowing anyone there. I loved the opportunity because it felt like the perfect place to figure out the direction to follow next.
Can you share a tip on how you got this position?
Quite funny actually. I’ve applied to a programme called Blind Applying in which you send your CV for a chance to be matched with one of the participating companies from all over Europe. Knowing that there were about 10k applicants my hopes were really low but I ended up being called for interviews and got one of the positions.
Can you explain more about your current role and the company?
For context, after my internship, I figured out that working as an engineer (in the traditional sense) was not something I wanted to do long term. So I drifted away from my goal of working in sustainability for a few years in order to develop new skills. I found out that Marketing (Performance Marketing to be precise) was the sweet spot for me: it mixes the geekiness of numbers, analytics and data that I like, with being first-row exposed to the business I work with and consumers.
So, currently I work as a Performance Marketing Manager at kencko, a smart food company helping people all over the world to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets, while fighting food waste. Our main products at the moment are organic breakfast smoothies made of freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. I’m loving it, as I finally got to apply the skills I’ve developed over the past few years in a business I’m passionate about.
Which skills and experience do you need for your current role?
You need to be a data-driven person. Your opinion matters, but numbers matter the most. Performance marketing is like supply chain management but instead of sourcing components of a product, my job is to juggle all the potential sources of new customers for the company. Essentially anything that we spend money on with the goal of getting new customers, is Performance Marketing.
You need to love numbers and data. If I can’t measure it (or find a creatively reliable way to do so), I’m not doing it. You need to be quite familiar with your product and keep hustling to find not only new channels to bring users, but also keep experimenting to find the perfect message for each cohort of the population.
Is there a link to the energy transition?
Not the energy transition in particular but kencko is a health-related business focused on doing everything sustainably. We’re a certified B Corp. [Editor’s note: Certified B Corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.]
What is the biggest lesson you learnt in the period after graduation?
That there isn’t one “right” way to build a career path and that often we forget that we are constantly evolving and changing as life goes on. This means that there’s no point in strictly planning too far ahead as you may want a different thing when you get there.
This is my advice: keep in mind some guiding principles you want to follow, like “I want to eventually work in a sustainability-related business” but allow yourself to be surprised. “I never thought I would enjoy doing this job!”, for example. Whenever you have to make a big decision, make it with the information you have available about what you like and feels right. Compare it with your guiding principles, but don’t constrain yourself too much with set paths. The more I keep moving through my career, the more a certain speech by Steve Jobs makes sense to me. You can only connect the dots looking backwards.
How has the pandemic affected you, did it make your work easier or curtail it?
Professionally not much. I was already working remotely before and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. I miss the occasional meet-up in the office but hopefully we’ll be able to do that soon. I feel we get so much time now that, in general, days feel much more relaxed. I wouldn’t want to go back to an office routine. Everything else about the pandemic can’t go away soon enough!
What do you think will be your next step?
My plan is to stay at kencko for the foreseeable future as I feel the journey is just starting and there’s lots to learn. In the long term, I still dream of helping to make energy-related products more mainstream for regular consumers, which is quite a challenge. Let’s see where life takes me!