The right choice

Dr Elaine Rodrigo
Dr Elaine Rodrigo

Report Shaunnagh O'Loughlin

Dr Elaine Rodrigo (BBus(Mktg) 1993, BBus(Hons) 1994, PhDBus 1998) might be an accountant today if it hadn’t been for an inspiring lecture in her first week at Monash.

“As an international student from Singapore, I enrolled in the safe choice – accounting – but in my first week, I went to a Marketing 101 class by lecturer Don Bradmore. He spoke with so much passion that it made marketing real and exciting for me. I realised quickly that I’d made the wrong decision and transferred to marketing.”

An overseas study tour to companies such as L’Oréal in Paris, Swire Group in Hong Kong, and Polaroid in Boston, at the end of her second year confirmed her decision.

“I saw how marketing strategy worked in practice. I knew then that marketing was my space but also realised that my career goal was to work for a multinational company.”

After finished her marketing degree, Dr Rodrigo went on to complete her Honours and PhD at Monash.

“During my Honours I realised I enjoyed the strategic side of marketing – managing the marketing mix wasn’t for me.

“My PhD supervisors wanted me to join the faculty and become one of the youngest marketing academics at Monash.

“But I remembered that lecture from Don Bradmore. He inspired me because he had real world knowledge. I decided that I needed to follow my dream.”

Dr Rodrigo returned to Singapore and worked in market research agencies for three years, before joining consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser. In 2003 she moved to her first global role in the company’s UK-based headquarters. She moved back to Singapore in 2006, and in 2007, moved to Kraft Foods Asia Pacific (now Mondelèz International) to lead the regional consumer insights and strategy team.

In 2013 Dr Rodrigo was promoted to lead Consumer Insights and Strategy for the global biscuits category, responsible for North America, Europe, and developing markets in countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Her team ensures that all strategies for brands including Oreo, BelVita, Chips Ahoy and Barni, have strong consumer foundations.

Dr Rodrigo now divides her days between work and home commitments, often taking calls and meetings in the early hours of the morning and late at night to coincide with the opening of business in the United States and other global markets. She credits her mother’s advice to ‘maintain business relationships and never burn bridges’ as key to her career success.

And she hasn’t ruled out a return to academia once she has achieved her goals in the corporate world.

“Things that happen at university really do impact on the choices you make in life. My aim is to share my knowledge and experience with others just as my lecturer did for me when I was a student.”