TC034-15 - IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Economics - Leadership

“IMD helped me develop a global overview”

Nestlé executive and IMD alumna Deolinda Nunes discusses her road to success
October 2014

Deolinda Nunes has an unusual profile in many respects. - IMD Business School Unlike many people who work in corporate affairs and communication, she has an operational background. As a chemical engineer, she first acquired extensive experience in quality control and production management.

A woman in a man’s world

In her early professional years, she rapidly became a factory manager in Porto, beginning with 100 workers under her stewardship, first in the fish industry and then in the production of frozen vegetables. Nunes affirms that it was never a problem for her to be a woman in a man’s world.

“When you lead a team, you need to find the right balance: you need to be humble enough to learn from others, but strong enough to lead. Being with Latin men made no difference; it was easier than most people think,” she says, although she acknowledges that women tend to practice a more consensual form of leadership. “They like others to be part of the solution, whereas men tend to prefer the feeling of power.”

She admits that she too likes the feeling of power, although it took her some time to realize it. But she uses it carefully in order to remain “fair and humble.” Nunes continued as a factory manager even when the company that she worked for was bought by Nestlé in 1993.

The IMD executive development experience

In 2009, Nunes attended IMD’s Program for Executive Development (PED). She said she learned a great deal, not only about marketing and finance, but also about herself. She found it fascinating to discover how the same problems, viewed by different people, could lead to such a variety of solutions. “Because I was exposed to people from so many different countries, IMD helped me develop a global overview,” she says.

Nunes, who was born and raised in Mozambique, insists that she did not wait for IMD before embarking on self-analysis. “The biggest part of our development comes from ourselves, not a course,” she says.

But one of the great benefits that she derived from the Program for Executive Development (PED) was to gain confidence. “I realized that there are many things that I already knew. Sometimes it’s just a question of consolidation.”

The big leap

At the beginning of 2012, Nunes moved to Lisbon to become Head of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Portugal. She says that she feels good working for a brand that is loved in her own country and that has been there since 1923. She admits that she was a little anxious when she took up her new position, although the leadership skills that she had acquired at IMD helped her. “I was coming from an environment where I could look for protection from headquarters and was now in a situation where it was my job to set the framework and learn to drive people through communication.”

Furthermore, the tools on which communication strategies are based have been transformed by the digital revolution and frontiers erased. “Even crises now spread globally with different intensities, like waves that continue around the world,” Nunes says.

She speaks with enthusiasm about the use of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and notes: “We who have the responsibility to put these strategies in place belong to the previous generation. I should have been born a lot later.”

Deolinda Nunes is Head of Corporate Affairs at Nestlé Portugal in Lisbon. She attended the Biennial International Alumni Event focusing on the digital revolution on 26th and 27th September at the IMD campus in Lausanne.