Name: Michael McRae
Job title: Heineken Asia Pacific Marketing Graduate – Craft Beer
Employer, city/country: Heineken Asia Pacific (Singapore)/DB Breweries (New Zealand)
Length of time in current role: 2 year graduate program (2 months in)
Where and when you studied law: University of Canterbury (2012-2016)
Describe a typical day in your job?
In no particular order, I will usually spend majority of my time in a day working on a project that I’m running at the time. For example, at the time of writing, something I am running is a promotion to help our Monteith’s sponsorship with the Crusaders rugby team. What this sees me doing is working with digital, website and promotion agencies to create a full scale nationwide promotion. I also have to work closely alongside the Crusaders too. Another way to look at it would be project management.
I will almost always have a meeting with my manager and schedule my own meetings with other internal teams to make sure whatever marketing projects we’re running are running along smooth.
As I am still new to the role, I have also been having a lot of meetings with people to help me in the right direction with certain tasks, or to explain their role within their team and the company.
How did you get into this job?
Funny story actually. I actually did a conjoint degree in Law and Commerce (majoring in Finance). I had a graduate job lined up at one of the big Corporate law firms and had interned at a boutique investment company, but was swayed to go along to the recruitment evening with a friend because there was free beer and food. Being the poor 5th year student this was a common occurrence. I took a break from studying for a law take-home test I had the next day and listened to the HR team talk about the program. I applied along with said friend straight after the information evening because it seemed a bit surreal that there was actually a graduate job in New Zealand that pays for you to travel for two years.
The process was rigorous, with a bunch of Matrigma testing, video interviews and assessment centres. But the final assessment centre saw me having to pitch in front of people from the Singapore and Auckland offices. I had just left to Colombia to take a year off before starting my graduate job at the corporate law firm, and received a call from Heineken two days in to my trip to tell me I got the job. Naturally I came back to take it, which was a tough decision, but I get to do a lot of travelling with the role so it was a good trade-off.
I never considered a marketing career at law school. Mainly due to the fact that it is often pushed on to you to follow the traditional pathway and try and land a job with a law firm or the “Big Four”. Hand on heart this is almost a dream graduate job in NZ though.
Are there particular study subjects or working experience you would recommend to prepare for a similar role to yours?
The only marketing paper I ever took at university was MKTG204; a second-year summer school paper on consumer behaviour. Having seen almost all aspects of the job now, I am happy with what I studied and my involvement at university in preparation for this role. I would recommend immersing yourself in other areas of university life to make you a well-rounded person. I did a lot of extra-curricular stuff through sport, societies and volunteer organisations.
What are the highlights of the job?
It would be a lie if I didn’t say the highlight has to be working around Asia for 16 months paid for by Heineken. This can be anywhere from Shanghai to the Solomon Islands, to Vietnam, Hong Kong, South Korea etc.
Beyond this though, you’re working for an extremely innovative company that owns a large number of renowned brands in NZ and has some huge sponsorship deals. This sees me heavily involved in some fun projects around the country, such as taking Crusaders to breweries, helping run launch parties for craft beer brands and being at the table where entire iconic New Zealand brands are being re-launched/rebranded.
I also spent my first week on a conference on the Gold Coast, got given the keys to a 1994 Land Cruiser all branded up with Monteith’s, and have a full scale open bar 50m from my desk (enjoy responsibly).
What are the challenges of the job?
The biggest challenges I have faced are the same in any organization I have worked in. The main one would be knowing who to talk to in order to get things done. For example, if you are given a task and need to delegate jobs, you need to know who to talk to in order to actually delegate.
Further, knowing historical performances of the company and ideas they’ve tried in the past is something that often comes with time. If I could know exactly what has been attempted in the past with the craft beer brands I work with then I would be a lot more effective with my input and suggestions.
What kind of personal qualities are suited to this job?
For marketing you have to have good project management skills, a creative mind, good communication skills and a winning attitude. If you do not back yourself then you’ll find yourself losing to other brands and getting left behind in the market.
What one thing do you wish someone had told you at law school?
I was lucky to be given all of the advice (I think) I needed at law school. I regularly talked to people outside of the faculty and in the work force who had both pursued careers in the legal sector, and also beyond. As my initial direction was to head into commercial law I often talked to friends who were already working in the field about what they were doing and what their job actually entailed. But further, I talked to people in, what I thought were, cool and obscure jobs that were still financially rewarding and mentally challenging but added a tad more excitement to every day working life.
Any other advice for law students wanting to get into a similar role?
I think it’s important to not purely focus on roles just within the legal sector. I have friends to have gone into consulting jobs and business development roles that are just as fast paced and exciting, and, to be honest, give you more exposure to agencies, clients and the public.
The main thing is to not follow a legal career purely because you have studied it at university. You will find in other roles that a law degree has placed you in good stead to be critical, analytical, and hold a strong unbiased opinion on a lot of issues/tasks.