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Diageo's women in finance are driving results

 April 18, 2018

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Having attended the University of Economic Studies in Hungary, Klara Sebastyen’s former studies in European Union and Political Science were a great passion for her, so it made sense she would focus on international relations as a career. But what led her to change direction and pursue a role in finance with Diageo?

An attractive employer

Having never heard of Diageo before, Klara was unsure of what to expect when the global premium drinks business got in touch with her for a Credit Controller role following her studies.

“Frankly speaking I never heard of a company before by the name of Diageo, but agreed to come in for an interview later that week. After the call I googled Diageo, and remember thinking to myself ‘please be a company selling products that I would buy myself’, and much to my relief it was a captivating list of brands that I was familiar with: Johnnie Walker, Baileys, Guinness, etc. I felt a great relief and excitement as I knew this could be a company that I would feel proud to work for.”

A varied and rewarding career

Starting work with Diageo in the following weeks, Klara was taken by how vibrant, welcoming and inclusive its work environment was. She was also pleasantly surprised by how varied a career in finance could really be.

“Finance is an overarching area which gives you great visibility and access to all the different processes and teams within an organisation. For obvious reasons, it is high up in the agenda, which creates a lot of traction and buzz about your day-to-day work, hopefully with the right level of pressure and stretch. Secondly, it is measurable - the numbers give a clear indication and constant feedback whether we are running our business the right way and have right set of priorities and focus,” she explains.

Great scope for growth and development

Working at the world’s largest premium drinks business, Klara has found that there is great scope for career progression.

“At a company as big as Diageo, you have a great selection of roles with different band levels looking at various aspects of Finance. Making the right horizontal and vertical moves over time, you can build up a strong functional knowledge base, gain a lot first-hand experience and develop a wide network within the organization through fostering great relationships. All these could add up to a great career route,” she says.

Now thriving in her current position as Business Process Manager at Diageo GB, Klara never considered that her first role as a Credit Controller would lead to such a fantastic managerial career. “Such success would have seemed unattainable to me. Hopefully my story proves that there is definitely a way to forge a career at Diageo,” she says.

Inspiring leadership

Klara believes the inspiring leaders within Diageo have certainly helped clarify what she is capable of and supported her on her way.

“I’ve been fortunate to experience many great coaching moments with inspiring leaders within Diageo who were either an eye-opener for me, or assured me of next steps I should be taking. For example, one time I was about to make a bold career move and as usual after the initial go-for-it push, my insecurities and hesitation crept in. Soon I started to come up with a long list of reasons why it was not the right time for me to move, focusing on all the imminent difficulties. It was in this state of self-doubt that someone offered me a perspective that yanked me out of it immediately: ‘Klari, don’t make a decision about this opportunity based on how the next three months of your life are going to be. Look at the next five years and how much further this role could take you on a professional and personal level.’ It can seem obvious to everyone else except perhaps yourself when your judgement is clouded by your worries and concern. It is then that you need someone to state the obvious,” says Klara.

Considering a career in finance

“I believe if you work in finance you need to have a unique combination of affinity towards numbers, result-oriented mindset, great leadership skills and a strong sense of urgency,” explains Klara. “You need to be able to interpret the numbers, translate them to short, medium and long-term actions, engage a wide range of people within the organisation to stand behind them and orchestrate their joined efforts to get to the desired outcome. And you need to be agile and proactive about it. These do take time and in most cases you will not have direct influence over the outcome,” adds Klara.

Collaborative work environment

Klara’s career in finance at Diageo involves many different aspects such as being in the frontline of the conversation around performance, short and long-term strategy, overseeing a wide-range of processes and activities, and driving outcome through engaging and holding the organisation to account.

These are some of the most exciting aspects of Klara’s career, but that does not mean they come without challenges. “For me, the element of ‘success through others’ has been something I have needed to focus on and develop over the years. I tend to run a one person show, which becomes infeasible when you look after such an overarching area. When you operate in a geographically dispersed organisation, success through others can become challenging. You need to build trust and create a framework for people with different backgrounds and agendas to work towards common goals,” explains Klara.

Strong team effort

“Having worked really hard on a project to improve our brand performance reporting, I was delighted to receive a thank you note on our ‘go-live’ day from our CEO, Ivan Menezes for all my contribution and resilience on the project. This certainly surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting the CEO to be aware of the project, let alone my role in it. As it turned out my project manager had added the CEO in copy on an email drafting the comms about the project go-live and as such he responded. I felt it was so endearing that he took the time to recognise my efforts. For me, this demonstrates how much the company values its employees and recognises the hard work and effort exerted.”

Proud to do what she does

As a vegan who has always sought to work for a company she could be truly proud of, Klara was particularly delighted when Diageo’s iconic brand, Bailey’s, launched a vegan version - and its well known Guinness brand did likewise.

“Healthy living, nutrition and finding balance in life are all super important to me,” suggests Klara. “I like to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and news in nutrition so I read a lot of research. I’ve been vegan for a number of years now and I try to be a positive role model and inspire people to follow a more healthy and less harmful lifestyle,” comments Klara.

Working for a company like Diageo that maintains strong priorities in sustainability, responsible drinking and gender equality, it is no surprise that Klara has forged a great career with this top employer whose values and beliefs align well with her own.

Great career options at Diageo

With many exciting and innovative brands, Diageo is an impressive company. Meet some of the fantastic people working at Diageo and enjoying high-profile careers.


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