Marten Strikwerda

You worked for OC&C for six years and got an MBA there. What made you leave?

"I was part of the Practice Group Retail & Consumer Goods, specializing in e-commerce. My next step at OC&C would have been Partner, but I wasn’t ready to fully commit myself to the consultancy business."

What did you pay attention to when making the transition?

"That it would be part of the Consumer Goods or Retail industry. These sectors appeal to me because they are so tangible, and because I like to think about consumers, what makes them tick and behave a certain way. And that's what I found at Unilever. The people who interviewed me had a mission and really went for it: to bring the right product to the right customer at the right time. That is the passion I seek in my co-workers. Of course Unilever’s Dutch origin also added to its appeal."

Why is it important to you that Unilever is a Dutch company?

"Because it leads to more career opportunities. Taking a job at a multinational without Dutch roots means you remain within a certain part of the organization. At Unilever, you are closer to HQ."

Senior Manager Shopper Marketing & E-commerce - that's quite a mouth full. What do you do?

"Half the time, I am responsible for Unilever’s Dutch e-commerce activities. We don’t deal with consumers directly, so it is all about picking the most important platforms and developing a strategy and course of action. The other half of my time, I deal with projects reaching beyond the scope of specific categories and brands, dealing with themes such as sustainability. To be honest, we use the term ‘Shopper Marketing’ for such versatile projects at Unilever, because we don’t concern ourselves with how products are situated in stores."

What makes consumers so interesting?

"How little they know about their very own behavior. For example, if you ask people on a panel how many cleaning products they have at home, they usually answer ‘three’, but when you look at their cupboards at home, there appear to be fifteen. I often frequent shops and am involved in studies such as these. Especially due to the growing popularity of e-commerce, consumer insights are gaining importance. We are still at the beginning of finding out what that is going to mean, but time and place are no longer limiting factors in shopping - in the future, consumers will be able to buy anything anytime anywhere."

What struck you most after making your exit?

"I was used to managing a team of young, extremely ambitious consultants. Here, I started out as the boss of an experienced sixty-three-year-old. She was very motivated, but required a very different management style altogether. That taught me a great deal. Furthermore, the pace and impact are very difficult to compare. As Associate Partner, you provide advice to CEOs and Boards, whereas now my ideas are first shared with my Director, then they go a up a few levels and back down again. That process alone takes at least a month. The goal I had in mind upon making my exit was to gain valuable experience and learn new ways of working. That certainly worked out well. I started out as a member of staff, but got to be made responsible for sales within six months."

What is your advice to consultants?

"Whether it is your ambition to be made partner or not, work in a different field from consultancy for a few years to experience what that is like. Do pick a field you are passionate about, otherwise the road will become a very long and tedious one. For me, that's e-commerce, because it is so cutting-edge. Due to technical innovation, we are able to meet the client’s needs more and more successfully. And a company that fails to do so has no ‘right to play’ in the long run. I find e-commerce to be so exciting that it gives me the energy to keep hammering on change." Text: Deborah Klaassen

2016 – present
Director E-commerce Europe, Unilever

2015 – 2016 
Director E-commerce & Category Management, Unilever

2013 – 2015
Senior Manager Shopper Marketing & E-commerce, Unilever

2005 – 2013
Consultant, Project Manager en uiteindelijk Associate Partner, OC&C Strategy Consultants


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