Carolina Pinart talks to Global {M} about life as a Global Product Director and AI Strategy Program Pillar Lead for Nestlé, Barcelona.

Nestlé is the world’s largest food and beverage company, with 2,000+ brands and present in 190 countries, Nestlé is determined to become the leading FMCG company in leveraging digital to transform its business.

‘Can you imagine your life without the Internet? Hell, no! That’s why I help businesses build awesome digital products that improve the way we live. And these days, it’s more and more about AI.’

From her home in Barcelona, Carolina gives us insight into life as Global Product Director.

1. First, can you tell us a bit about your job? What does your company do?

I work for Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company. We operate in 187 countries and employ over 300,000 people from sourcing to production supply chain, marketing, sales, and technology, which is where I work. I wear two hats shall we say, my day job and night job. My day job is to make emerging technologies become second nature. Nestlé has a fabric of lots of systems, over 2000 in fact, and when we want to start something such as a chatbox, how do we do this?

We need to make sure those technologies are emerging and scalable. Nestlé operates around the sun, so it must be accessible to everyone. We create new ways of working and new processes so people can use them. Whether this is for consumer use cases, like the launch of a marketing campaign with virtual reality or another example would be, Espresso machines, consumers buying a coffee machine.
How does that machine look on my kitchen counter? 
You can simply snap a picture, see the machine on your home counter, switch the colour, switch to another model (Cool hey!)

My Night job – I lead the pillar of use cases and roadmap to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence. Our ambition is to become a cognitive company by 2025. By that, we mean that we use machine intelligence that is unbiased and we leverage data to operate in a sustainable way.

2. So what time does your day start, and what does your typical workday schedule look like?

This can depend on what I have on. My Line manager is based in San Francisco so we are 9 hours apart. My typical day starts at 7 am, I take the youngest to daycare and I’m back and working by around 8.45 am. 

My morning might be working with Zone Asia as that’s their afternoon, then Zone Europe and Africa. Zone America is later in the day due to the time difference. I am really Flex, it has been like this for me for the last 15 years.

My work takes a lot of passion and one thing I am so thankful for is sourcing great talent. My product managers are amazing, they are the driving force behind what we do to allow me to focus on the strategy. 

We are now in partial lockdown here in Barcelona, so I tend to go to the office twice a week to meet with people. It is limited to 5 people in the largest meeting rooms, we try to keep a little bit of the human touch that way, however, the majority of what we do is remote. At Nestle, safety always comes first. I typically work with all of the other business functions, so the remote aspect was not new to me.

3. What kind of projects are you working on?

Primarily the launching of chatbots. Chatbots will help a lot with e-commerce and call centers. Food companies usually sell directly to consumers, and Nestlé’s business model has always been to sell to distributors, retailers, etc. We are moving more online due to COVID and will shift the model to sell directly to consumers. This requires a lot of automation and efficiency. 

I am also working on augmented and virtual reality, which is huge at the moment, an interactive experience of a real-world environment. Due to the travel ban, our engineers cannot travel to the factories so we use robots. 

I also do things around empowerment for Diversity & Inclusion. Women are a minority in technology and I am passionate about participating in some of these initiatives as well.

4. What do you consider the greatest achievements to date?

Key achievements:

1. My kids and family 

2. Doing things that were out of the comfort zone. I was born and raised in Barcelona during the last year of a dictatorship. We only joined the EU when I was 11, this was a very young democracy. I traveled the world and visited many places, places where I barely spoke the language.

3. A strong personal achievement of mine is pushing myself, even studying Engineering. Once you push yourself enough you realize you can do anything. You get to a point where you have the confidence to do these things.

5. What is the one app you could not live without?

Watsapp – I love staying connected and chatting with people.

6. What’s the best thing about working at your company?

The Diversity. We are close to 50 different nationalities, people come from many backgrounds. There is so much talent here. 

I come from a Tech background so it is so nice to be working with a company that does not produce technology and is closer to the consumer. Nestlé produces something that is fundamental to people, helping people live healthier lives.

7. Who is your professional role model?

Former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi. This lady busted a lot of meat to get where she did and really represented what it meant to be an Executive, mum, and a female leader. She is most definitely a great role model.

8. What makes Barcelona a good city for technology, startups and diversity?

Barcelona has a powerful brand, a city that is bustling, with good weather, nice food, and a great cost of living. There are a lot of great opportunities here and the market is fluid.

9. Which tech trends are you most excited about?

Artificial Intelligence – this is going to change the world, it’s already changing it.

10. And finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give to a Director of Product starting out? 

Have confidence. If you have already reached the position of Director of Product you already know a lot about the product. My advice would be to learn how to read the room to be able to get the alliances and resources required. A lot of the job is about strategy, getting the resources for your people, setting the vision, and getting out the way.