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B.A. Management

Jessica Pföhler

"I am often met with the question: “What’s your background?“ Usually, people are referring to some kind of academic title. My studies and subsequent degree were the most important prerequisites for me to take up this role."

Jessica Pföhler is a business development manager at GELITA and graduate of one of our Business & Management cluster programmes. In the following interview, she tells us what makes her job so exciting. 

1. Jessica, you studied at IU International University of Applied Sciences, and are now working as a business development manager for APA/China for the gelatine producer GELITA. What responsibilities does that role include?

As a business development manager for APA/China, I implement our global market strategy in my region. I keep an eye on global targets as well as regional particularities of each market.

In addition, I am responsible for sales in this region. This means I work very closely every day with our local teams in Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, Beaudesert (Australia) and West Krugersdorp (South Africa).

Together, we work on client projects and local sales and marketing measures, and we collect important information on the market which we relay to management. This way, we help support strategic as well as everyday decisions concerning the company. If the pandemic weren’t happening, my job would include a lot of travel – but right now, we are staying in touch digitally.

2. What excites you the most about your job?

I was working in business development before, but in the German-speaking sector. The new regions in my responsibility teach me a lot about different cultures.

Working with colleagues and clients every day, I come across a high variety of people – that inspires me and is a great opportunity for broadening my horizons.

3. What makes for a good business development manager?

As a business development manager, you have to know your markets – and the players in them. That means clients and potential clients, but also competitors, which can differ from market to market.

As in every job, you should enjoy what you do and do it with a certain passion. This will spread to all the people you are working with – be it clients or colleagues. This is something I very much care about as an executive.

Being responsible for a certain region, you also need intercultural competencies and have to approach certain things openly and without prejudice.

4. How did your studies prepare you for your current role?

In my professional life, I am often met with the question: “What’s your background?“

Usually, people are referring to some kind of academic title. My studies and subsequent degree were the most important prerequisites for me to take up this role.

In my Marketing online studies at IU, it was mostly the modules International Marketing & Branding, Market Research, Applied Sales, Market Psychology & Consumer Behaviour - as well as Pricing Policy - that gave me a valuable foundation for my current role.

The module Business Ethics was important from a cultural point of view. As a young executive, I am also glad I took the elective module Advanced Leadership.

5. Were you looking for a job for a long time after completing your degree? How sought-after are people with your skill set in general?

I was actually already working for GELITA and was offered the position after graduating. I wasn’t actively looking for anything new since I was very happy with my job and was enjoying having more free time after finishing my studies. But I also knew that this was a unique opportunity, so I took it – and am very glad I did, in retrospect!

In this position, you develop a set of skills that are required in various jobs in the areas of sales, marketing, or product management. The industry is always looking for new talent.

6. Do you need any particular language skills for this position?

In our team, we communicate exclusively in English and that works perfectly. During meetings with clients, my colleagues have to translate some things into the national language or explain something if not all participants know English.

Thanks to GELITA, I have the opportunity to take a Chinese language course, but I haven’t progressed beyond small talk so far. In my experience, that is more than enough to make an impression on Chinese business partners: it makes them feel very appreciated. Ä

So, yes – language skills are definitely an advantage.

7. How challenging was the application process? What advice would you give students that are interested in similar positions?

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and have the opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities in my previous position – so I didn’t have to go through the regular application process. Since I have been part of the hiring process for other employees, I can only recommend that you go ahead and apply for positions which are a little higher than your current skill set.

Our motto is: “We hire attitude, we train skills.“ We care much more about finding someone who fits our team, is dedicated and authentic and suits our attitude and values. It’s our task to train our employees once they are on the job.

During your interviews, you should be as authentic as possible and ask lots of questions – so you yourself can get a good idea of what the company and the position are like. This shows us that you are honestly interested and have thought in depth about the position.

8. Have you faced any challenges during your career? How did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge so far has been the pandemic: it hit right when I had taken over the position. Travelling was impossible. I could not meet several colleagues I was working with in person. On top of that, it’s best to get a first-hand idea of the markets we operate in to really understand them.

I am lucky to have excellent teams on location that I can rely on 100 percent. It was important to me to learn more about virtual leadership and work in close communication with my colleagues in spite of the distance and different time zones. This helped me create a close and trusting environment of collaboration.

9. Let’s take a look into the future: what could be the next step for you, based on your degree?

I actually already know my next step – I will be moving up to Category Management to take on global responsibility for special applications in the pharmaceutical sector.

The opposite would have been possible as well – instead of moving from regional to global responsibility, I could have dived deeper into a certain market, for example as head of a certain location.

Taking on a different region or adding new countries to my current region would have been a way for me to develop horizontally.