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Inside View: SABMiller (2011)

Chris Taylor talks to us about roles at SABMiller, the maker of Peroni, Grolsch, Miller and Pilsner!

We recently got the chance to speak to Chris Taylor, Talent Acquisition Manager at SABMiller, which is one of the largest brewing companies in the world. He talked to us about a life focused around selling beer.

Chris recruits for the company's global head office which is based in London. He described the head office as a relatively small one with only about 400 people in it. He went on to say, “we don't have a specific MBA program, however that's not to say that we don't sometimes go looking for MBA graduates.”

He elaborated in more detail by saying that when SABMiller hires an MBA, it's usually because they're looking for specific skills. He said, “we typically place MBA candidates in our marketing, finance decision support, and global procurement roles”. In Chris's opinion MBAs were generally very suitable for planning, analysis and strategy roles. Outside of the Global Head office MBAs could also expect to find roles as executive assistants to country managers.

We asked Chris to go into a little bit more depth about the kind of MBAs the company wants. He said that, “When we hire MBAs we think about the functions they need to fulfill... let's say we wanted someone in a marketing role with eight years experience, we'd definitely consider someone with five years marketing experience with an MBA for that role. What we won't do is hire someone with five years marketing experience with an MBA looking to get into a strategy job.”

At SABMiller they see an MBA as a career accelerator and not as a career changer. Chris said that MBA graduates don't always understand this point, and overestimate their suitability for certain jobs. However, at SABMiller they understand the merit of having an MBA matched up with the right experience.

Chris said that, “having an MBA demonstrates that someone usually has the right intellectual qualities that we need. It acts as intellectual compensation for lacking two to four years of experience but no more than this.”

When we asked Chris what percentage of the people they recruited were MBAs, he said that, “it depends on what you're considering, for example when we're specifically looking for an MBA, about 5%-10% of our candidates are recruited that way, however in reality we probably hire more people with MBAs but not because of their MBA.”

We then asked Chris what kind of common misconceptions candidates have when they apply for a job at SABMiller. He mentioned that many candidates underestimate the complexity and scale of their business, because they're based around a single product.

When talking about the scale of their operations Chris said that besides the global headquarters in London they also had three regional headquarters, “which are based in Colombia, Switzerland and South Africa.” As a result of this scale many of SABMiller's employees get the opportunity to travel. For example, Chris highlighted that people in the marketing department can spend up to 40% of their time working outside of the UK.

When describing the company culture, Chris said that, “there's definitely a high degree of autonomy for individuals. We allow people to achieve goals in ways that suit them, however this also means there's a high degree of personal responsibility as well.” This is an environment most suited to highly driven self starters who were flexible and don't need a lot of micromanagement.

Learning about the corporate culture of SABMiller prompted us to ask, what made SABMiller better than its competitors. Chris responded by saying, “ I think we're very invested in emerging markets. We take local brands and we target them in local markets, we have over 230 brands all over the world. As a consequence this makes working for SABMiller a much more dynamic and varied experience compared to working at one of our competitors."

Then Chris told us what kind of compensation package someone coming in with an MBA could expect, “someone with an MBA would typically be looking at a salary between £70-80,000 as a starting salary.” He then said that after 3-4 years they should expect to be in a senior management position, after that and after working in multiple regions with about ten years experience they should expect to be running a function or market as senior executive.

We then decided it was the appropriate time to ask a critical but important question. We needed to know whether or not they got any free beer, “Yes we do! We get 28 free cases of beer a year, and every office has its own bar which is free after working hours.”

Restraining ourselves from asking endless questions about beer we decided to explore the other benefits the company offered. According to Chris, employees can expect 20% to 40% in bonuses based on their performance and possibly discretionary stock rights.

He also elaborated on how employees can expect career development support from the company, in the form of SABMiller's Global Learning Development team (GLD) and Global Talent Management team (GTM). He went on to speak about how the GLD team gives competence training to team and divisions. The GTM team help high potential candidates to accelerate their careers. Chris finished by saying, "it really is a great place to work, you get autonomy, scope to travel, a clear career path and free beer!"


Friday 25th November 2011, 12.02 (UTC)


This sounds like a great company to work for, shame I dont like beer! It is interesting that you see an MBA as a career accelerator not a career changer, I think many MBAs overlook this point.

Friday 25th November 2011, 23.24 (UTC)


Great to see an innovative global company with such strong representations in South Africa. And very interesting and comforting to hear your positive outlook on what MBA graduates can bring to the table.

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