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Roel Verlaan: 'There is always something happening around beer'

Alumni in the spotlight

This month's alumnus in the spotlight is Roel Verlaan, he graduated in 2016 from the MSc Business Administration at the UvA and works as a Brand Manager at Heineken® & Desperados at HEINEKEN International in Croatia. We asked him how he got there and which steps he took.

What was your dream job as a child? And what is your dream job now?
Garbage cleaner! Being able to hang on to a big garbage truck and drive around town to make it cleaner, who would not love it? At a somewhat older age that changed into an interest for diplomacy. I did an internship at a Dutch embassy abroad during my bachelor studies. Later, between my pre-master and master, I did an internship for HEINEKEN International in Lagos, Nigeria. This made me enthusiastic for this company and a commercial role in it. If I have to imagine my dream job today, it would include working with a tangible end product or -service, making this with a variety of people from different (international) backgrounds, and preferably a product or service that brings joy to people’s life. In that sense, my current job at HEINEKEN fits pretty well!


What do you do at work?
I am the brand manager for Heineken® & Desperados in Croatia, which means that I’m responsible for all marketing for those brands in the Croatian market. Think of brand strategy, communication, packaging, pricing, and distribution. Average days do not exist, but media plans, point of sale material development, sponsorship negotiations, and good Croatian coffee do show up regularly.

What do you like the most about your job?
The fact that my product is a beer and a brand, and there is always something happening around beer. It’s present in life’s celebratory moments. And if one can build those brands, sell the beer, travel the world and experience different cultures while doing so, what’s there not to like? 

What do you find the most difficult about your job? 
The hours, and the dependency on factors you cannot influence can be difficult. Moreover, working in a different country brings cultural challenges as well. You can learn a lot from this, but it is not always easy.

Can you apply the knowledge that you have gained during your study in your work?
Yes, partially. Part of what you are being taught is not directly applicable, but gives you a broad understanding of business, and perhaps a little bit of understanding about the world. A big plus of my master’s degree at the Amsterdam Business School is that academic courses are intertwined with practical skills. A good example is the course on negotiations, where a very solid academic base is combined with practical negotiation classes. Also, my cohort was very international, so a degree of cultural sensitivity is almost inevitably developed.

How did you get this job? Did you have to search for a long time? 
I did not search for a long time for this job. I did the International Graduate Programme (IGP); the international traineeship of HEINEKEN International (it comes highly recommended!). In this programme you do three assignments in three different places in the world and in different parts of the HEINEKEN-organization The selection process for this programme was intense and took a long time, but it was my first application, and it actually already started before finishing my degree. After the IGP, I got my landing job in Croatia as a junior brand manager. And currently, I am brand manager in the same country.


What tip would you give students at the start of their career path?
Being a marketer, I would like to use the tagline of two great sports brands to describe that tip. Adidas: Impossible is Nothing, and Nike: Just Do It. I did three internships during my studies, rowed at a competitive level, had a 16-24 hour job on the side, and did full-time studies. 

Be active, and just do it. Do that internship in a strange country. Do that low-paid job that gives you unparalleled work experience. Do learn that new language. And do travel and discover the world. Impossible is nothing!

Want to know more? 
You are welcome to approach Roel via mail with any questions. Get in touch with the EB Career Centre for his contact details. We hope this month’s alumnus was an inspiration for your own career journey. What kind of Economics and Business career path would you like to know more about? Let us know, and we will try to arrange an interview with alumni who have this experience for next month’s column!