Alvaro Mejia - Director Supply Chain Planning, North America

I came to the US from Colombia with my family in 1985 when I was nine years old. With hard work and determination, I was fortunate to earn a scholarship, gain entry to a university to study business – and get to where I am today

Alvaro Mejia - Director Supply Chain Planning, North America

Fast-forward to 2015, I lead and develop Unilever’s supply chain operations for the North American foods category. I am responsible for ensuring that every process in the chain – from manufacture through to arrival with the customers – is executed in the most efficient way.

I oversee a billion dollar business, and I practice the mind-set of an overachiever to consistently achieve excellence in my field.

None of this would have been possible had I not followed a few simple rules:

Get away from the noise

Sports played an important role in my life while I was growing up. I was into basketball, a sport that opened the door to a brighter future. I had a talent for the game and that led to a scholarship, from which I graduated with a degree in business management. Over the years, my athletic background helped me develop strategic thinking in my approach at work, especially when I position the right individuals to get the job done and rally my team to deliver our best performance.

Another thing that sports taught me was how to get away from noise. Working at Unilever allows us to break away from the typical nine-to-five office culture and become our ‘authentic selves’. I am a father of three kids and it is important for me to be part of their lives. With agile working, I am able to manage my own time. The peace of being able to work where I choose to – whether in the comfort of my home or the support of a team environment – is a great privilege.

Have faith in yourself

"No matter what your background is, you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it."

When you are establishing your career, you will find that you must constantly verify yourself and your ability. You have to sustain your self-belief and sit at the big meetings with a mentality of confidence.

Unilever is a purpose-driven company, so this step was relatively easy. They knew that my education, experience and character were the right fit for the business.

It also counts that I am part of a company that upholds diversity and I knew that I’d be able to flourish when I joined. Unilever is multi-cultural, welcomes diverse talent from all backgrounds and encourages people with ambition to develop their careers.

Even if you have this platform, it is still important to have faith in yourself if you want to achieve great things in your work. Once you have the confidence, you must use it to prove yourself to specialists in your area.

I have a very different background than the expert engineers in supply chain planning. I was determined to demonstrate to this group that I have the management knowledge and years of experience to merit working alongside their vast analytical expertise and technical know-how.

Identify your strengths

A major component of earning the respect and trust of your peers is being able to identify and exploit your strengths.

If you want to be an overachiever, you have to concentrate on getting the most from your strongest abilities. By concentrating on them, you will be in a position to demonstrate how you’ve earned your stripes and to show everybody in your field their value.

For me, that means concentrating on planning, my major forte, and using it to meet a myriad of solid metrics and consistent deliverables.

Focus on what you want

Ultimately, the key to becoming a permanent overachiever is focus.

Be clear on the one or two things that will make you happy, that are going to feed your passion, and chase them. Make those goals achievable, deliver them, and pick one or two more.

Three years ago, I decided to run the New York City marathon. After several injury setbacks, I questioned whether the feat was still possible. This November, I successfully ran a 42 kilometre race from Staten Island to Central Park, completing the run in five hours, five minutes and five seconds.

I was able to do that because it was my main focus – and everything else had to revolve around it.

My message to you

The overachiever is in each one of us. No matter what your background is, you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.

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