Sunday, March 18, 2007

35. Familiarization or Initiation?

My first week was spent touring the departments as part of my familiarization with their functions and the people who ran them. The familiarization was generally a pleasant experience except for a few instances when the department or the manager in charge was feeling playful and would want to have his version of an initiation on the seemingly helpless young greenhorn.

The rivalry that existed between marketing and manufacturing was as old as “Estero de Paco”, the canal that separated most of the departments of these two divisions. This rivalry was heightened by the intense intramural athletic competitions raging at the time that I came in.
My visits to the production areas were
not exactly congenial. I had detergent powder falling from above as I passed by…a ticker tape parade of sorts to welcome me. My signature necktie and white shirt, newly bought to create a good impression, was squirted with shampoo as I passed by the filling line and I was warned about the existence of a monstrous machine which swallowed and regurgitated neckties of nosy marketing trainees. Heaven knows what other monster machines were there and those still at blue print stage designed to intimidate the marketing cadets who were passing through.

The men on the production floor were a playful lot. I knew I had to go through all these as an initiation of sorts. The guys in the technical division were much more professional than what these incidents may tend to portray them. I learned this later on as I experienced working with them through product development projects and brand maintenance work. Some of the friendships that I cultivated were from the guys in technical division and they still are among the better friends that I have up to now.

Familiarization with the Sales Department took me to the sales route of the van salesman who covered the sari-sari stores and the small groceries. The role we played during the stint with sales is that of the “pajinante” or the one who unloads the bought merchandise and brings them over to the store’s stocking area. I tried my hand at selling the line of PRC products to the storeowner. It gave me a chance to experience the first contact of our products after leaving the bodega and at the same time empathize with the salesman’s rigors of the job in the field. One motherly sari-sari storeowner after seeing me load up the heavy merchandise on her counter said… “look for another job, son. You’re too frail for this”.

Another ordeal in familiarization was going through the Purchasing Department whose big boss, Noli Fragante, seemed to spend nights thinking of ways to bedevil new marketing recruits. There were two memorable incidents with Noli that the marketing guys find difficult to forget. One was with Boy Trillana who during his familiarization went to Noli’s room and immediately sat down on the visitor’s chair. Noli berated him for having sat down without his permission. Boy spent the day moping and mumbling profanities, I guess. The other incident with Noli involved Gus Villanueva who was marketing manager at that time. I don’t remember exactly what the furor was all about but it had something to do with packaging materials. He was coequal to Noli in the organization but this did not inhibit Noli from being obnoxious during their argument. As told, Gus got so riled up and in his anger he pulled a gun on Noli.

Somehow you begin to understand that these animosities build up and become conditioned reactions to the sometimes overbearing and arrogant stance the more senior marketing guys take when dealing with the service departments. However, brand managers take the brunt of failed launches, promotions, product development, ad campaigns and almost any undertaking that involved the brand. While we were responsible for all these we did not have real authority over the service departments who had to implement the requirements of the brand. Responsibility without authority can oftentimes be frustrating. Friendly persuasion works but not all the time. During crisis situations civility is set aside and working styles become overly assertive and imperious.

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