Ideas, the IE Alumni Magazine, interviewed Cristina Bondolowski, VP Global Brands at Coca-Cola Company and IE Master in Marketing graduate from 1995:
“The most important thing is to have very clear ideas and then get things done instead of worrying about them.” This is the philosophy Cristina Bondolowski has successfully applied at each of the challenges she has faced to become world executive director of the most famous soft drink on the planet: Coca-Cola. Always with the same work formula: “Kicking into action when I face a challenge”
After working under a fellowship at IBM during the last two years of her degree, graduating in Business Administration at CEU San Pablo and completing an MBA at IE Business School, her interest in marketing took her to companies that included Estrella Seguros, Pepsico, Universal & Paramount Video Pictures, and Colgate-Palmolive, “where there was a school exclusively for marketing”, on her way to Coca-Cola at the end of the 1990s. She started working as manager of one of the company’s products (Sprite) and later became the brand’s director in Spain. She was then promoted to director of the fizzy drinks business unit in the same subsidiary.
Since May 2008, she has controlled Coca-Cola’s global development strategy in the 207 markets in which it operates. Has so much responsibility ever made you feel giddy?
If I’m honest, it has never made me feel giddy. First of all because we are all directors of the Coca-Cola brand because we all have an opinion about it. I always say that Coca-Cola is like the economy: everyone wants to give their opinion and they do so because they are interested and that is a very good starting point. And, of course, you feel very protected when you have so many brand directors outside and inside the company. The main challenge has been how to lead those points of view in the direction I want them to go. And it has never made me feel giddy because when the company offers you a position like that, it’s because they think you are capable. Perhaps one of the things Spanish directors often lack is the ability to believe in themselves. When you go elsewhere and start working with people from other cultures, you realise they believe in themselves much more than we do. In the end, the company takes its decisions on the back of a great deal of experience. They have seen your work, you have achieved results in your starting country (in my case, Spain) and they select you because they want the way you understand the business, the brand, marketing and team leadership to be applied and transmitted on a global scale.