7 Questions with Noel Ferrao
Name: Noel Ferrao
Current title: Vice President
Current organisation: Olam International Limited
Am responsible for the import procurement of the Packaged Foods Business of Olam International Limited and have two decades of experience in 3PL, SCM, Procurement and PnL Management.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The imperative to keep tabs on external variables and ensuring the best possible outcome for the organization. Often there is no available benchmark for like to like responses and hence actions need to be fastest possible at the shortest possible time.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have two decades of professional experience which spans 3 PL, PnL Management, Business Development, Procurement and Supply Chain Management. First of my ten years was as a service provider and the next ten as a user; having worked across diverse functions as I have, gives me an appreciation of the various moving parts in an organsation.
I have consciously sought newer challenges in every phase of my career that led me to various roles in the same organisation (close to 18.5 years of my experience has been in 2 organisations) as well as helped me transition from one organisation to another
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I start my day at about 630 am scanning emails for anything urgent but do not actively start work on any of them until I have finished an hour of Prayer, upto an hour of workout and about an hour of scanning about 3 newspapers. I start work between 930 - 945 am and plan out my day basis my calendar as well as emails received. I try to close in on the tasks that require close concentration / attention early in the day and then move to the routine follow ups and review calls. I get busy by about 4 pm as Nigeria opens up followed by Ghana an hour later. While work doesnt ever end, I wind up by about 10 pm and read up for another hour and a half. I prefer reading up on current affairs / non fiction and usually sleep by about 12 pm.
4. What’s the most recent significant leadership lesson you’ve learned?
The lockdown world over brought about the need to infuse generous doses of empathy in leadership styles. People reacted to the same issue in many different ways and hence it was important to align everybody and take the teams along while holding up on expected service levels.
5. What one book has had the most profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are many such books that I had a lot to take away from but one that made a profound impact was "The Long walk to Freedom" which is an autobiography of Nelson Mandela. The fact that one could face trials as immense as Mandela and yet persevere for about 3 decades to see one's dream come true is a strong lesson for all of us.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
While recruiting people, I personally look at attitude and aptitude. Sometimes I even oversee the latter if we have abundance of the former. A 'can do attitude' can surmount many hurdles and constant mentoring and coaching helps build and develop one's leadership trait. It is also important to recognise different leadership styles and to respect individuality while not losing sight of organisational objectives.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One such story would be a cross functional team we created for brainstorming and implementing a cost saving project. We had team members from Finance, Manufacturing, Procurement, Product Development and Marketing and realised $ 2.2 mn savings in a year. What remains meaningful was that there was no visible leader for the Project but al of us had a common objective which we worked towards.