Javier Müller (MBA 91), Director Strategy and Planning at Philip Morris International (PMI)
As Director Strategy and Planning, the largest challenges at PMI for Javier Müller are to constantly search for business growth opportunities, as well as embrace new technologies and ways of working that will drive efficiencies and transform the business. Javier Müller has worked for over 23 years in a company where he constantly strives to develop his team to excel in delivering value to the business through deep understanding of its customers and their needs.
– What are the company’s medium-term objectives?
At PMI we are committed to creating a smoke-free future. It’s a transformative vision, one that will change society, our industry and our company from within: A future that does not include cigarettes. And we want to get there as quickly as possible. We know smoking cigarettes is harmful. In fact, the primary cause of smoking-related diseases is the harmful chemicals that are inhaled when a burning cigarette is smoked. And that is why we have invested more than $4.5 billion in research and development to provide adult smokers with better options than continued smoking. These options include amongst other IQOS, which heats rather than burn tobacco. Because the tobacco is heated and not burned, the levels of harmful chemicals are reduced, in average, by over 90% compared to cigarette smoke. I firmly believe it is our duty to convince all smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke, to switch to reduced risk products like IQOS as quickly as possible.
–What are the greatest challenges for the sector?
Our biggest challenge is to get regulators and society at large to review our science and give us the opportunity of an open dialogue. This dialogue would avoid to effectively condemn a population to only smoke cigarettes when there are better alternatives available. In the few short years since smoke-free alternatives have been commercialized, millions of men and women have stopped smoking and have switched to these products. As we continue toward our smoke-free goal, we know that great care must be taken. Responsible commercialization of these products is vital to ensure that only adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke switch to them. In addition, we are undergoing an internal transformation to adapt our ways of working to a new environment where, amongst others, much more product awareness, consumer dialogue and education, as well as constant innovation and reverse logistics is required.
-What qualities do you value most in your team?
Passion, commitment, integrity, curiosity and a genuine interest for constant development are key qualities I always look for in people I work with. Whilst specific business know-how can always be developed, these qualities are much more difficult to build and, from my experience, are paramount in performing at the highest levels. If you are not passionate about what you do, if you are not curious to explore new avenues or you are not keen to constantly learn and develop, it is very difficult to always stay ahead of the curve and deliver to the highest standards. Especially, as we embark in our company transformation, without passion and commitment for the vision, integrity in the way we look at the science and a genuine curiosity for new ways of working and communicating, we will never reach our goal.
-You have worked in the USA, the UK and Switzerland.What did this international experience mean for you?
I left Spain right after I finished ESADE, as during my CEMS exchange in Germany I received an offer to join the audit practice of KPMG in Cologne. After 2 years in Cologne I was offered the opportunity to join the KPMG International Development Program in New York, and it was during that time that I joined PMI. My international experience has been extremely rewarding both from a personal and professional perspective. For my wife and me it has opened up our minds to new cultures, different points of view, new friends and many experiences that would have been difficult to attain if we had remained at home. We also had our three children (at once, yes triplets) in Switzerland 17 years ago, and we have been able to provide them with a strong global mindset and even four fluent languages (English, Spanish, German, and French). There is no doubt in my mind that this equips them well to continue exploring the world and a myriad of opportunities as they finish their international school this summer. While Barcelona has always been home for all of us, and remains the anchor point for our family, moving internationally has given us incredible experiences and a family bond that I believe would have otherwise been difficult to achieve. From a professional perspective, my international mobility has provided a gateway to an incredible amount of development opportunities. Philip Morris is the leading company in the tobacco industry, an amazing company to work for and one that offers great opportunities for international developments. My international moves have always implied stretching career opportunities, which have fueled my progression within the company and which have developed me as a person and a business leader.
-What experiences have influenced you most in your career?Any advice for alumni who are thinking to start an international career?
Probably the fact that I took the difficult step, at that time, of leaving Barcelona right after my studies was critical in allowing me to attain a truly international career. There is no doubt in my mind that if I would have decided to stay in Barcelona right after my studies, it would have been much more difficult later to embrace this international career to the extent that I have. In addition, the uncompromised and truly genuine support from my family throughout my entire career has been critical in succeeding and benefiting the most out of this experience. Their genuine support and true belief in the value of the international experience has allowed us to master difficult situations with strength and determination, overcoming together any challenges or hurdles these last 25 years have presented. It has certainly made us much stronger as a family unit, as we have constantly nurtured the core of our family and lived lasting experiences together.
-What professional/personal possibilities does the area Geneva-Lausanne-Vevey offer?
Switzerland is definitely a great country to live in. If you like sports, outdoor activities, political stability, safety and the ability to reach many European cities easily, Switzerland is a gem. We live in Lausanne and have the amazing Lake Leman at our door step and one of the largest ski resorts in the world (4 Vallees) within 1 hour drive. These provide us amazing opportunities for skiing, sailing, rowing, hiking, biking and many other outdoor activities. From a professional point of view, the fact that Switzerland is an attractive location for many international headquarters of large corporations or entities (the UN, Nestle, Novartis or PMI, to name a few) offers a huge array of opportunities for professional development.
-How has ESADE helped you on a personal and professional level?
ESADE has given me the tools and the mindset to embrace and succeed in this international career. While much of it may be very normal today, 25 years ago when I did finish my studies, starting your career abroad was a big step. The fact that ESADE offered me the possibility to participate in the CEMS program and that I was already offered a job in Germany from the outset, were clear catalysts for my career. In addition, the academic foundation, discipline and structure of the program, coupled with my inherent curiosity and drive for constant development, gave me the right tools and mindset to constantly succeed in my career.