Career Advice from Fokko Wientjes, Sustainability Director of DSM

DSM is a Dutch-based life- and materials-science company behind MixMe, a powdered multivitamin supplement developed in partnership with the UN World Food Program to ease malnutrition in developing countries. Fokko Wientjes, 45, says the secret to his 20-plus career at DSM is about not staying in the same place.

1. If someone wanted to land a job at your company today, how would you recommend he or she do it?

DSM is Dutch-based, and what we're looking for right now is diversity so we can become much more of a global company. If you look at our history, we started out as a coal-mining company. And then we switched to chemicals. Then we transformed ourselves into a life and materials sciences company. We don't look very narrowly at job or education background but instead what an individual can contribute. We need people with different industry experience, different backgrounds, so emphasize your point of view.

2. What is the best piece of career advice you've ever been given?

Start with what is appealing to you and what you are good at, then jump on the things that come your way. I'm one of those people who joined DSM early in my career, and 20 years later, I'm still around. There's a lot of people like that here. But even though I've been with the same company, if you look at my career, I've been all over. I'm a psychologist by education. I started in HR, then ran logistics operations, then worked in marketing and sales. Later I was entrusted to lead big programs, to be the general manager of an antibiotics facility in Egypt, to do engineering plastics in South America. [In each role] I had to prove that I could deliver.

3. If you were job hunting in this economy, where would you look?

The area of sustainability. You'll see more government involvement. Government will start to demand those types of changes. If you look back on the crisis from whatever year it will be over, the survivors will be those [companies] that have changed, that worked that in to the business they do.

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