Melina Smpokou
Portfolio Manager for Central Europe, Mars
MSc Marketing & Strategy (2016 - 2017)

Tell us about yourself and your background.

I am from Greece and I graduated from the MSc Marketing & Strategy postgraduate course in 2017. When I was studying Business Administration for my undergraduate degree in Greece, I realised how much I enjoy Marketing Science since it combines so many different aspects (e.g. behavioural science, advertising, analytics) enabling you to reach consumers by building strong brands. I felt that by evolving myself in this subject I would be able to in a way impact the lives of other people by building brands with purpose! Directly after my graduation from WBS, I found a job that resonates with my passion which is to work in the Marketing department at MARS, one of the top FMCG multinational companies globally, combining not only my passion for Marketing but also for interacting with people from different backgrounds  & cultures.

Why did you decide to study MSc Marketing & Strategy at WBS?

WBS is one of the top universities in the world and my desire to receive my masters education from the best professors and the best possible environment was a major reason for sending through my application. I selected WBS for the high education quality, the high credibility & respect it provides in the marketplace, something that was obvious by looking at the profile of the graduates & of the companies they are working for.

Additionally, reading the list of modules I felt confident of the strong & holistic approach of the course really puts into practice all the theories that we will learn during the year. Another reason for choosing WBS is the strong global network that it provides helps you build your professional success. Finally, a key element for selecting WBS was the diversity in our class with people from different backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures. This is an element that struck me as an opportunity to broaden my perspective not only in academia but also in life.

What does your job involve?

I am Portfolio Manager for Petcare flagship brands such as Whiskas & Pedigree for Central Europe, based in Prague, Czech Republic. My job involves a variety of aspects, however, one of my main responsibilities is to build a holistic strategic plan (portfolio, promotion, pricing, communication) for my brands. I am also the key contact person for the European brand teams where together we integrate key learnings from all the European markets. Another part of my work is to engage the entire organisation, from supply to sales teams, on the plans, always focusing on the purpose & growth opportunities. A big focus area for me is building media plans, creating strong campaigns, organising our advertisements (e.g. TV, digital channels) as well as ensuring strong 360 communication plans to build strong mental availability to our shoppers. Lastly, I am responsible for identifying the white spaces in terms of portfolio, deciding where the growth and where the shopper needs are and bringing product innovation in my markets. 

How did the MSc Marketing & Strategy course help you prepare for your role?

I can recall many ways that the course prepared me as a professional but also prepared me mentally for my role. Learning important marketing theories combined with case studies as real examples of worldwide brands helped me to process the knowledge and put it into action. This element was crucial and helped me to feel ready to work in a competitive environment from day one.

Another key part of my studies was the Analytics & Research courses, which helped me to familiarise myself with big sets of data, process them and draw insights and actions from them. This trait is key in all industries and in my role it is something that helps me not only make decisions but also to create strong arguments and eventually engage the entire team behind my ideas.

Very practical modules such as brand building, social media and digital marketing enabled me to understand and propose concrete media plans on the digital environment in my role, something that was outstanding for a young graduate. However, if I had to choose the most important elements that I acquired from my experience in WBS, I’d say they were learning how to adjust to a multinational environment, how to listen to other people’s perspectives, and how to operate in big and diverse teams, all working towards the same outcomes. Those are fundamental elements that you need to develop through your studies and your career to achieve your desired goals both at the professional and personal level. 

What would you say to someone thinking of applying for your course at WBS?

I would say just do it! I firmly believe that this was one of the best choices I made as a student. Seize all the opportunities that the course will give you not only in academia but also at the network-building level. Leverage associations that you can be a part of, seminars, or speeches from the external guests. Involve yourself actively in good conversations with your professors & classmates to develop even further your skills and uplift your perspective. When successfully graduating from the course for sure you will feel a sense of nostalgia and you will want at certain points to go back in time to the classrooms of WBS!