Industrial B2B Appliances (Refrigerators, Ovens, Dryers, Coffee Machines etc) play a crucial role in our society through customer centric innovations that focus on design, durability and sustainability !
Rohith Sujaraj, our next pathbreaker, Project & Product Manager at Electrolux Professional (Sweden), leads an international team that encompasses Purchasing, Supply Chain and R&D across their 11+ global factories.
Rohith talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about taking up a unique masters course focused on Product Development at Jönköping University in Sweden, a country known for its resolute focus on industrial sustainability through innovative approaches.
For students, be smart in your career choices, and look around for unique opportunities that align with your interests and vision !
Rohith, Your background?
I grew up in village in Kerala called Pathanapuram, it is not big when compared with metros but not small or remote either like some other districts in India.
I studied Mechanical engineering from Amrita institute. I was neither the smartest nor the brightest student in my class. I always aspired to be a lawyer because I believe that life is always a reasoning between motives and purpose, as well as truth and lies, and who else can do it better than lawyers. During my schooling and graduation, I was attracted to drama and role play. I was so much interested in mime that I took practice sessions at schools and other universities.
My parents belonged to the agricultural field from the beginning. My father started a business when I was young.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I did my graduation in Mechanical Engineering from Amrita University & post-graduation in Product Development and Materials from Jönköping University, Sweden.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
The key influencer for me is my father. The commitment and honesty he had in his business along with the faith his clients had in him makes him a great idol for me.
When speaking about a mentor, in my personal life, for me it is my mother as she is always a person who will be there to back me up. At work, I had many mentors at different levels, and so it is almost impossible to mention them, as in the last seven years I have worked in 3 different countries and worked on quite a large number of projects.
During my last year of the BTech, I was already planning to do my masters. This course in Product Development and Materials particularly caught my attention because it focuses more on the methodologies that are used in Product Development which are technical and process oriented. The materials part of the course covers the deep technical knowledge one should possess while developing complex products. Also the strong sustainable values in Scandinavian countries and the opportunities to work with all the big product based companies like Volvo, Scania, Electrolux, Ericsson….etc was a big deciding factor in choosing Sweden for my masters.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
My career started in a strange way as it was in a country where I had no previous experience. As part of my master’s program, I started an internship in the Electrolux plant in Thailand. I stayed and worked in the R&D department and was part of various projects in the refrigeration platform. It was a journey from India to Sweden and from Sweden to Thailand.
I received great training from one of the world leaders in lean manufacturing, MR Andrea X Bet, the GM of the Electrolux professional plant in China & Thailand at that time. Along with that, I got very good exposure to an international workplace in a foreign country that shaped me as a person through an understanding of different cultures.
The company I currently work in is Electrolux professional, which is a spinoff from Electrolux group in 2019. We mainly develop industrial B2B products like Industrial Laundry products (washers, dryers, ironers…..), Kitchen Equipment (ovens, dishwashers, induction tops….etc ) & Beverages (Coffee, Ice-cream machines….etc). I worked in 3 different countries.
During my Time in Thailand, I was focused on the Refrigerator product line, while in Sweden I worked with Laundry products and in France with Coffee Machines. As a project manager I work in the group function that is supporting all the mentioned business areas, which give me opportunity to work on all the product ranges.
I also cover an additional role of Product Manager for the Coffee division.
How did you get your first break?
During my Period in Thailand, I met my future managers, Ermes Sacchiero (Product Care Manager laundry) & Andrea Rossi (Product Care Director), and I ended up in Sweden again as a product care engineer.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Though being away from home and everything that is close to you is always a big challenge, finding things you like to do, engaging in new activities, meeting new people and learning new things that can keep you warm is always a positive change.
I have worked in many countries and lived in 4 different societies. Understanding the social structure, and adjusting to the daily life in these places was a big challenge. But slowly it has become more fun as I was able to get involved in day to day activities like buying groceries, which stores to look for , what kind of apartment to live in , which banking to choose etc. Moreover, in all places I have lived I was able to find really nice friends and people who are always willing to help.
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
For the past few years, I have been leading an international team that encompasses Purchasing, Supply Chain and R&D to run the business smoothly (against the risk of electronic shortage) across the 11+ factories globally for my company Electrolux Professional, along with various other interesting projects like connectivity, new development…etc.
I am also covering for now as the Product Manager for the coffee business. In this role, I act as a bridge between operation, sales & marketing to define the priority and product specifications for different markets.
What skills are needed for your role? How did you acquire the skills?
The skill sets are mostly accrued by listening to people who have been in the industry and learning from them with an open mind. Being a technical person in a technology driven company, I always try to keep myself open to new innovations and global trends happening around the world to look into opportunities on how it can be applied in my daily work, not just in the short-term but I always tend to look at 3+ years in terms of the impact.
What’s a typical day like?
The day starts with the team, progresses with solutions, and ends with a business case.
What is it you love about this job?
Being a project manager, I love working with people. Interacting with people, making plans, and executing them in real life is something I enjoy in my daily life.
How does your work benefit society?
I worked in only one company, Electrolux Professional. I love the commitment of the company and the way the principles are treated. It is a big company in scale where you can know and learn about all the operations in an industry.
I am proud about the sustainability values and customer obsession we provide to the globe. Some of the examples are the world’s most energy efficient heat pump commercial dryers, a professional dishwasher where a glass of water is enough to wash hundreds of plates etc.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
I am not in that level of experience to give any advice; the best guidance I can provide you is to be greedy and always take all the opportunities that come to you. Always accept mistakes and try your best to avoid making the same mistake again.
In the future, I want to be in a leading position in the executive management.