Fenix Outdoor Management Trainee Program - Interview with Cecilia Bååth
What better way to learn about a company and start your career than from the inside? With the Fenix Outdoor Management Trainee Program, Cecilia Bååth has had the opportunity to do just that. Upon completing her master’s degree, Cecilia is using her knowledge in business, retail, finance, marketing, and management, alongside Fenix Outdoor team members to build her career. Cecilia and the Fenix Outdoor team are eager to share details of the program with Malakye.com.
Cecilia Bååth, photo credit: Christian Wittig
How did you initially hear about the Fenix Outdoor Management Trainee Program?
Cecilia Bååth: Having a passion for the outdoors, I have always been interested in working in the outdoor industry so after I completed my masters studies at the Stockholm School of Economics I researched Swedish outdoor companies and was immediately intrigued with Fenix Outdoor’s profile and strategy. I wanted to work for an international company that integrated sustainability into their business strategy and Fenix fit the profile. I kept an eye out for open positions on their website and when the program was advertised I immediately applied.
What was the process for landing a spot in the program?
CB: The recruitment involved the traditional cover letter, transcripts and CV. After this first step, pre-selection was based on phone interviews and thereafter aptitude and psychological tests. The final 12 candidates were then invited to attend an assessment center at the office in Stockholm. Here we completed individual and group tasks and interviewed with past trainees and selected managers. The final interview and hiring decision was made by the Fenix group’s CEO, Martin Nordin. I felt that selection for the assessment center was based on merits and experiences, and thereafter final selection seemed to be based on personality and cultural fit.
So, what do you actually do and how long does the program last?
CB: The international trainee program is 18 months and my program concludes in May. The program mixes practical and theoretical learning to understand the Fenix Outdoor group’s complete operations. I have traveled to our offices around the world to lead and assist a variety of projects dealing with the complete value chain, from production to after-sales. As a trainee, I have worked in areas outside my expertise and experience and in new cultures, helping me grow professionally and personally. The program has given me the opportunity to try on new roles that have required adaptability and quick-learning and given me room to develop in line with the Fenix culture. The ability to build relationships and networks within and outside the organization has been vital to my success within the program.
What will you will take with you in your career as a result of the program?
CB: The Fenix Management Trainee program has given me the opportunity to first-hand see, learn and understand the whole value chain in the outdoor industry. As the group has both retail and brands, including apparel, hardware and footwear, it has given me a unique understanding of the operations of an outdoor organization. This in-depth understanding is very beneficial in all positions in the future as I now have a better understanding for the processes that drive business as well as an appreciation of other peoples’ work. Furthermore, the international experience has resulted in a cross-cultural internal network that helps tie the company together in future projects and my daily business.
Where do you hope to go from here?
CB: As I finish the program, I aim to work for a position at Fenix on a group level. I will leverage what I have learned and will work cross-culturally and cross-functionally, working with developing the organization further. As I am very interested in sustainability, I will incorporate this in my daily work, striving to further imbed it in both my and the company’s daily operations.
Current trainees at their kick-off/team building event in Germany. Photo credit: Christian Wittig
Why did you create the Fenix Outdoor Management Trainee Program?
Fenix Outdoor: The idea behind the trainee program is to ensure that our organization never slows down or grows stagnant. We wanted to recruit young people with more academic skill sets and a young professional is more adaptable to the culture and corporate structures in place. This adaptability is paired with an eagerness to make a difference and drive change. We want to continue to develop and for that we need eager young professionals to help guide us in the right direction.
How did similar programs in the tech world influence the program at Fenix?
FO: The Fenix Outdoor program is different from trainee programs in the tech world as our program is created in the Fenix spirit. Although Fenix has its own take on the trainee program, the program resembles those of the tech world in the internationality as well as the concept of deep immersion in various areas of the organization with the goal to understand the whole operations.
What qualities do you look for in candidates for the Fenix Outdoor Management Trainee Program?
FO: Fenix Outdoor management trainees must be passionate about the industry, ready to immerse themselves in the organization and be self-starters. We need candidates who are fearless and willing to go heads-on into challenging projects and situations, drive change and always be open to new ideas and inputs. We look for people who are flexible, hardworking and adaptable both geographically and culturally. The geographical spread of the organization also makes it necessary to be able to build personal and professional networks across the brands and across the world. We are an ever evolving, fast moving organization, and we need our employees to be that as well; always questioning processes and ideas to continuously move the organization forward.
Some of the trainees enjoying their kick-off/team building event in Germany. Photo credit: Christian Wittig
Is there a dedicated, full-time staff member to manage the program?
FO: We operate with a very flat organization and have a very slim overhead, thus the management of the trainee program rests on many shoulders. There is, however, one staff member who coordinates the program.
Is it fairly manageable or does the workload of such a program become overwhelming for the person who runs it?
FO: With the hierarchical structures we have, the senior management team takes joint responsibility for the program. As the trainees move between offices and brands the local manager takes responsibility for the time the trainee spends with him or her. Without this, it would indeed be a full-time task to manage the program, especially when one considers the complexity of our organization and the expansion of the trainee program. With each new year there are new trainees to educate, manage and mentor.
What are some of the success stories you have seen as a result of the program; what have some of your former participants gone on to do in their careers?
FO: As the program is fairly young we do not have a lot of information about the past trainees’ careers after Fenix Outdoor. We have completed two trainee programs and the third year’s program is in its final weeks. The first program resulted in one trainee taking the position of Marketing Manager for our shoe brand, Hanwag, directly after the program. Another trainee started at Hanwag as a production controller and is now Operational Controller for the Fenix Group. And the third trainee, of the first year, is now E-Commerce Manager, which includes P&L responsibility and 8 direct reports.
How would one go about applying for the program if interested?
FO: We are currently hiring two management trainees for the 2015 Management
Trainee Program in the US. This year we are looking for specialized trainees.
We are recruiting a person with a supply chain/ operations focus and the other
with a retail focus. We are currently accepting
applications until March 31st and more information can be found at http://www.fenixoutdoor.se/fenixoutdoormanagementtrainee-program2015/.