Erik Owino is Mars Wrigley North America Vice President of Supply Chain. In his 16-year tenure, he has travelled from Germany to Sweden, supporting teams as an innovative leader. While studying at university in England, he joined Mars after university as a working student and later as a graduate management trainee.
“I have always been working in a supply chain, and I’ve supported various manufacturing and ship management roles. I’ve run plants and factories, worked in industrial engineering locally and regionally, and moved with Mars to five countries,” he said.
Though his professional background at Mars inundated him with the hard skills to position himself as a trailblazer, his experience also expanded his cultural perspective.
“It’s been very good working across multiple countries. Culturally it’s been super interesting. I’ve been able to experience and learn a lot from a business and personal perspective.”
When it comes to a diverse cultural lens, Owino has a unique insight. Growing up as a half Swedish and half Kenyan child, he was exposed to a multicultural environment he would spend years learning to navigate. BYP sat with him during an open conversation about his experience, self-perception, and professional growth.
BYP: Have you faced any challenges along your professional journey as a Black professional?
Owino: I didn’t realise that I was facing my self-limiting beliefs. In my experiences growing up as a child in Sweden, I was the only person who looked like me in the town and school. So, I think that led to a certain internal conversation I had that I never really felt equal to or adequate growing up. The biggest challenge was linked to my perception of my capabilities or whether I was deserving of the positions I was in. Discovering that was a breakthrough in understanding how I could control my mindset and shift from feeling less deserving and like I was lucky to be where I was to feeling deserving and knowledgeable of my efforts and capabilities took me to where I am.
BYP: When you started at Mars, did you have any role models or mentors?
Owino: I’ve encountered many allies in my career. One of my greatest allies, who was a senior leader and he mentored me. He assisted me with self-inquiry, which helped unlock my potential. Additionally, when I was a working student, there was a factory director who took an interest in understanding me, and he was the one who offered me the invitation to join Mars.
BYP: At Mars, do you have any specific DE&I initiatives?
Owino: We have Associate Resource Groups (ARG) spanning the spectrum of inclusivity. There have been many efforts to create communities and small groups with which people from all ranges of inclusivity can identify. One of those groups in the U.S. is the Mars African-American Council. I am proud to be the sponsor of that group, and it’s an incredible privilege. I have worked with that team on various projects, from celebrating culture to developing ways to recruit and source talent from diverse backgrounds. An example of one of those initiatives is our potential partnership with the Black Association of Engineers in the U.S., enabling us to access African-American engineers early on in their careers. It also allows me to work with other ARGs and create synergy across different teams and collaboration.
BYP: Do you have any advice for Black professionals looking to get into Mars?
Owino: Finding your ways into Mars, probably go to the careers site and look at what’s available. Linkedin is also a phenomenal tool where you can look and seek out Mars leaders with whom you identify.
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