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Samsung New Zealand's Jean-Philippe Diel

Samsung New Zealand's Jean-Philippe Diel

Starting in newly created positions and building up brands is a passion for the new general manager for marketing at Samsung New Zealand, Jean-Philippe Diel. He talks to Jan Birkelandabout his passions for food and technology, and how he moved from selling beer to marketing for one of the world’s leading technology companies.

How did you start out in IT?

My background is not really in IT; I grew up in France, but did part of my studies in the UK and US. I did part of my MBA at the University of Oregon. I first started out as a salesperson with Heineken breweries in France. I worked very closely with distributors, helping them sell multiple brands. Heineken set up a new position for me in the company, doing channel marketing. I ended up doing about two years in that position.

So how did you move from marketing alcoholic beverages to technology?

I got headhunted by Alcatel, who was doing really well at the time. This was really just before the crash in the market. They were looking for someone with experience in working with a network of retailers and operators. I had that experience, so they picked me up. It was a great learning experience for me; I was responsible for about 16 countries. Some of the offices would only have one person in them, while others would have up to 10. I travelled a lot during that time, through our offices in Europe, Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. The offices all had different structures and layers of operations, making things quite interesting. My friends were jealous because they thought I travelled a lot, when in reality all I saw was airports, airplanes and meeting rooms in hotels. I jumped off Alcatel when their CEO declared that they would get rid of the mobile phone business because it was not their core business. I am a consumer person, marketing wise, and Alcatel had just sold off their only line of consumer products. I struggled to find out what their core business really was, so decided to leave.

Did you regret leaving Alcatel?

You can’t regret anything you do, you have to look forward. I joined forces with a small company that was starting up called Sendo. They were really the first ones to design the Stinger, which was the Windows mobile operating system. I had the same position I had with Alcatel, doing marketing across several countries. It was a very good environment to work in. They were a small team and there was great communication between departments, for example between us and the engineers. I stayed with the company a little bit over a year, and left for personal reasons when I met my girlfriend. We then pretty much decided to relocate to the other side of the world.

Why did you decide on New Zealand?

She said she wanted to move to New Zealand, and I said ‘Great, just show me on the map. If it is really far and really difficult, let’s do it.’ It was very scary and very interesting at the same time. You have to do things like that in life to spice it up a bit.

How did you find getting a job in New Zealand?

It took me about six months of travelling back and forth and consulting, to convince people they needed to give me a job. joined Radiola in December 2004, mainly to work with the Samsung brand, which represented about 95 percent of Radiola’s business. They did not have much marketing when I joined, so it was a bit of a culture change for them. My role was really to raise the profile of Samsung New Zealand. I did things like sign up the Black Caps and the Evers-Swindell twins to help raise that profile. I also did incentive programmes with the resellers and tried to rationalise communications and setting up a proper process with resellers and customers. Everywhere I’ve been, it has been a first-time position created for me. I enjoy setting processes up.

Do you enjoy working for Samsung directly?

I love every minute of working here. I have two passions in life, food and technology. I would have to work in either one of those industries. I have always been interested in technology, from when I got my first work phone with Heineken. It was a huge brick. Samsung has a great range of products, and I have to work with very different products, from high end LCD screens to vacuum cleaners and refrigerators.

When you come home after work, do you turn your cellphone off?

I try to do a bit of sport when I can; I am getting into Tae Kwan Do at the moment. Unfortunately I have been pretty busy lately, and I am a very old beginner at the sport. It is good for fitness and it gives me a hobby. Although my instructor thinks I’m the laziest person on the whole team. I absolutely love to cook, and I really enjoy watching good movies. I try to watch a lot of French movies when I can; I try to not only watch Hollywood productions.


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