Veteran packaging leader Jay Gouliard changed jobs a year ago. Previously vp global packaging at Unilever, Gouliard joined labeling and packaging materials supplier Avery Dennison as global vp segment innovation. He shares his reasons for the move and advice for keeping fresh and energized in your career.
After such an illustrious career in the CPG world, why did you make the switch to a packaging supplier?
After leading the packaging organizations for Unilever, Coca-Cola and General Mills, I felt it was time to reinvent myself and my career.
I was looking for a challenging opportunity that would bring energy back into my career, where I could expand my experience base to a broader innovation role rather than just a specific packaging role. A role that allowed me to gain experience in segments where I hadn't worked before, and leverage the experiences I've gained over the last 20 years working in the CPG world into the materials and technology world. I'm motivated and energized by learning and teaching, meeting new people and entering new businesses. Avery Dennison provided me with those opportunities and challenges—that's why I decided to make the switch.
A friend of mine, Steve Farber, wrote a book titled "Radical Leap." The theme is, "do what you love in service of people that love what you do." That philosophy is one that I try to adopt in my own career.
Is there a broader trend of CPG packaging leaders moving to suppliers?
I don't think that there is any mass exodus from leadership roles in packaging to the material and technology world. I just believe that many people who have spent years in the packaging industry are looking for a change. People who have accomplished everything they could in the type of roles that they had are looking for different experiences and opportunities and new ways to leverage their skills.
Why pick Avery Dennison? What do they offer you, from a professional development standpoint?
There was a good fit between the skills and capabilities that I had developed over the last 20 to 25 years in the CPG world and what they were looking for: someone to help guide and transform their innovation process to deliver significant top-line growth. The culture of the company fits with what I was looking for also. It's lean, fast paced, entrepreneurial, highly collaborative and energy intense.
It is often difficult when you work in massive, fast-moving consumer goods companies to see how what you do really impacts the top or bottom line of the company. At a company like Avery, your impact is highly visible, imminent and extremely evident—you can see and feel both positive and negative impacts on a daily basis.
The other thing that really impressed me about Avery is their innovation-focused growth strategy and the cross-functional alignment that they had achieved on an action plan to deliver this strategy—they were and are "walking the talk." Innovation is truly a "team sport" within the company.
What do you still hope to accomplish in your packaging career?
I'd like to make significant impact on the business at Avery Dennison—leveraging innovation to deliver the top-line growth that the investment community expects from us. It is an exciting and refreshing challenge, but it's also a bit daunting.
I also want to develop the next generation of leaders at Avery Dennison, and to chart the course for their success—insuring long-term sustainable growth and success for the company.
Avery is a North American-based company, so my mornings in Europe are somewhat open except for an increasing amount of calls and video-conferences with our growing innovation teams in India and China. One thing that is exceptional about this role is that, even though my agenda is relatively empty in the mornings, my office is full. People just want to drop in and talk about things that they're working on, trying to understand how they can leverage my experience and my knowledge of the industry, and how we can move the company forward together. It's such a refreshing change of pace, where you don't need an appointment or an agenda item on your calendar to meet—it creates an environment where innovation can flourish in an informal setting.
Avery is No. 1 in their field with labels and packaging. But they're still hungry to move the needle when it comes to growing their business.
You've relocated several times, including your last move to The Netherlands. What are the career benefits of a global experience and/or being open to relocation?
Both are key. I would not have accomplished what I have had it not been for my willingness to look at opportunities that existed that required me to relocate—and my family's willingness to follow me.
The experience you gain by actually living in another part of the world improves your ability to make decisions, and develop new technologies and products for those people who live in other parts of the world, who don't have the western European or American culture and lifestyles.
It's important for people to step outside their comfort zone; have the courage to do something different. It's not an easy thing to do. Initially, the effort that it requires is significant, but personally, it has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. The plusses far outweigh any of the minuses. The experience and knowledge you gain will serve you well in the future as companies and businesses continue to globalize.
Packaging Digest's Industry Insights column, created in affiliation with the World Packaging Organization, is an open forum for packaging professionals to share advice, identify trends or pose questions to the industry at large. Have something to say? Send your ideas for future columns to [email protected].