Arno Willemink – COO Asia
Growing up on a dairy farm, as a child Arno Willemink (32) was naturally already involved in the livestock business. His Industrial Engineering and Management degree at the University of Twente would not lead him directly to the agriculture sector. In 2012, however, he embarked on an internship for De Heus Vietnam, doing market research about the Myanmar market which De Heus was planning to open up. This made him aware of the opportunities for Dutch agricultural companies abroad. After completing his master’s degree in Financial Engineering and Management, he started as Trainee Purchasing & Trading in 2015. Since 2018 Arno has lived in Asia, first as Purchasing Director Asia in Vietnam and since 2022 as COO Asia.
Projects during the management traineeship
From the start in April 2015, Arno was responsible for buying foreign exchange (US Dollar), electricity and gas purchases for the Dutch Business Unit, whilst doing market analyses for the Global Purchasing & Trading Department. Arno: “This analysis work helped me understand the complex world of the global commodity markets. Then, together with two other management trainees, Maarten Schouten and Elisa Ramkema, I started the Grain Course run by the Royal Dutch Grain Traders Association. During this course, you get weekly classes from experienced people in the trading business about a wide variety of topics, as well as everything related to grain trading (contracts, biology of the grains, futures markets, insurance, etc.). Meeting other young employees from the big trading houses or other feed companies was also good for my network in the business.”
After less than a year, Arno moved to A Coruna in Spain for a 6-month project. At the end of 2015, De Heus bought a Spanish-Portuguese company. Arno was responsible for supporting the integration of the purchasing department of the newly acquired company into De Heus. “I had a wonderful time with my Spanish and Portuguese colleagues. I visited many parts of Iberia and learned a lot about change management, seeing how an integration after an acquisition works.”
After returning from this 6-month project, a new opportunity arose and Arno started preparing for his next job after the management traineeship: Global Purchaser Oils and Fats & FX. “In January 2017, officially 3 months before the management traineeship ended, I started my new role. I became globally responsible for the purchasing strategy of the raw material category Oils and Fats, whilst keeping my role as FX purchaser. The management traineeship really helped establish my professional career.”
Being the only Dutch person can be challenging
When you are directly responsible for a product group, it can be challenging at first. “You don’t have enough experience and background knowledge, so you are less confident about making decisions. But it’s a very good learning experience to have the courage to take decisions without all the information. Even when you are further advanced in your career, you can’t always have 100% of the information and you can’t predict how the future will be. Obviously, being the only Dutch person in a new business unit during my 6-month assignment in Spain also had its challenges, but I got a very warm welcome and never felt alone.”
Growth opportunities for everyone
Several aspects together make De Heus a very interesting employer. “For example, De Heus is a market leader whose rapid growth is outpacing competitors. That brings development opportunities for everyone, in every department. De Heus needs people, so it automatically needs to invest in people. But it also has a rare family culture. It’s still a flat organisation, which results in fast decision-making. For me, being involved in a global environment makes working for De Heus very interesting. We operate in many developing countries, making a difference for the local communities, so I work with different cultures every day. From the start, you work in very diverse teams, which is both fun and a worthwhile experience.”
Challenging times from the start of your career
De Heus is growing fast. It has the courage to delegate responsibilities, provide opportunities and take a risk on young talents. “If you are eager and want to learn and grow, De Heus will give you the space to do so. They will invest in your development and give you a chance to prove yourself early on in your career, more so than in many other multinationals, I believe. When starting your management traineeship at De Heus, you will definitely have an intellectually challenging time, interesting projects, good mentorship, a high-energy culture and a great learning experience,” concludes Arno.
Traineeship Arno Willemink
Arno about his experience concerning his traineeship
It is not without reason that De Heus was awarded the World-class Workplace label for 2022. At De Heus you work in an environment where the employee is central.