Laima Čigriejūtė-Vitkauskienė

Laima Čigriejūtė-Vitkauskienė

Head of Communications and Public Affairs for Europe at Roquette corporation

„I have chosen the ISM based on my gut feeling“

Laima Čigriejūtė-Vitkauskienė, who has more than twenty years of experience in various fields, for the past year has been serving as Head of Communications and Public Relations for Europe at Roquette global corporation. She is juggling these duties with being a representative of Amilina AB, a company producing concentrates of natural plant carbohydrates and proteins. Laima is not happy about the fact that her family may be lacking her attention, but she is happy that she has an exciting job.​

Exciting unpredictable challenges

What I find exciting about my current job is the challenges that are never the same; each project is completely unlike another, with different goals, tasks and resources. The fact that I work for an international company is even more challenging because the region I am responsible for brings together 18 different countries and cultures. Our company Roquette is a global leader in the supply of ingredients of natural plant origin and an innovator in the field of plant proteins. By tapping into the potential of nature, together with our customers and partners, we offer better nutrition and healthcare products for people. We provide business customers around the globe with the solutions which their success needs. In Europe, the company has 10 manufacturing companies and offices responsible for customer service and sales. The organizational structure of the company somewhat different than the usual hierarchical structure. Here everything is based on a corporate matrix management system. Therefore, strategies are coordinated not only with local management, but also with functional subordination. The nature of support functions (which includes the Communications and Public Relations Unit) is also very diverse, since communication reflects functional needs such as quality assurance, customer service, environmental, sales, safety, etc. The role of communication and public relations in such an organization is important everywhere: either by presenting changes to employees, shaping or developing the internal organizational culture, or by sending a visual communication to the clients and various third parties such as suppliers or public institutions. And in general, strengthening the reputation of the company, promoting awareness by organizing and participating at various events, initiating and sustainably developing the activities of the socially responsible company, responding to many global challenges and contributing to the goals of the World Sustainable Development.

ISM 17 years ago

I graduated from Kaunas University of Technology, later I enrolled at the ISM Executive MBA programme. At the time, ISM was a recently founded university, and did not have the recognition it now has in the public space and the Academia. It was only the second generation of graduate students; therefore, I just did not have a chance to see where the graduates get to work and of what benefit the studies were to them. I have chosen the ISM based on my gut feeling. It did not fail me. There were, of course, rational reasons too: I liked the level of expert lecturers at that time; what is more, the requirement to have four years of work experience for those who were admitted also signalled the maturity and high requirements of the young university. It is also important that I could combine studies with work – at that time I worked two jobs and I could only study on the weekends. Looking at the ISM today, I believe the university did not drift far from its original vision, it only improved it. I can safely say that this university goes hand in hand with business needs. Lecturers from abroad also add to its attractiveness, it is obvious that they are focusing on global practices here. After talking to the lecturers and students, one can notice the careful and consistent contribution to the study programs. I think this is due to the strong academic partners selected. As a graduate of this university, I would also highlight the following advantages: top-notch expert literature at the university library, lectures by the best researchers and practising business consultants. This is an attractive model for those who seek international leadership school without the need to leave Lithuania. 17 years ago, I did not think much about organizational culture and values, as it probably was for most of us, it was important for me to survive. Now I see a great need for responsible business, responsible behaviour, and mentoring. ISM communicates these features essential to the modern manager very clearly. It’s not only academic activity that is of importance – there are various events, projects of patronage, they include business representatives, discussions are organized for the public. All this shows that ISM succeeds in fostering the sense of community and a responsible attitude towards the science-oriented people. I remember how, in the first years of the university, the sceptic would say that if it is an international and commercial university, only the very wealthy would be able to afford it. However, the requirement for quality studies has remained – I have heard many stories when even very high-ranking people did not receive an ISM diploma, because they only wanted a diploma, ignoring their studies and knowledge. It is only thanks to the understanding and broad-mindedness of my employers at the time (I worked for Lifosa AB, owned by one of co-owners Amilina AB), that I, just like many current students of the ISM “100 Talents Program”, was able to acquire the highest value-added personal development and professional knowledge. I am extremely pleased that the tradition of patronage has survived to this day and Amilina, a Roquette group company, has been contributing to this brilliant university and its business mission supporting gifted young people since the first days of the foundation.

Science and business synergy

Businesses always need curious people to apply the latest research methods, the latest benchmarks, to follow the latest research. The university gives the key to unlock this knowledge. I believe that one must learn throughout one’s life. We are not computers, sometimes we are missing one piece of knowledge, sometimes another one. When I was choosing my study programme, I chose the one that was the hardest for me at the time – finances. I believe I made a mistake here because I needed to deepen my speciality knowledge to grown as an expert. Of course, I later applied the financial knowledge too, it was helpful. I have successfully applied theoretical knowledge acquired at the university many times. For example, my master’s thesis was about launching new products into the market. Some 15 years ago, on the basis of methods learned at the ISM, I proved to the company that it’s time to produce and supply special bread mixtures in Lithuania (for three years, I overlooked the marketing for B2B and B2C products of Malsena, the leader in the flour and pasta product market in the Baltic States. Another example is my company, founded in 2010, when the word “start-up” was not yet in circulation. The company was involved in the wholesale and retail trade of food products for people with special needs, including electronic commerce, which was just making the first steps in our country. Here, the knowledge acquired during the business management studies such as time planning, product integration, negotiation skills, etc. was very helpful When I was working for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, I needed some diplomatic and political science competencies which unfortunately were not on offer at the ISM at the time of my studies. However, I can safely say that discipline, time planning, organizational behavioural patterns in business can also be adapted to the needs of productive public sector. To contribute to the team of the Lithuanian Diplomatic Mission at the FAO headquarters in Rome and the FAO EU Working Group in Brussels, under Lithuania’s chairmanship of the EU Council, gave me an exceptional experience that is very useful in today’s work.

Learning what you know how to apply

If one does not have good fundamental knowledge, one cannot lead people. There is a risk that you will be guided only by your own personal experience that may no longer be relevant. The leader is a pivotal person, she needs staffing and financial management, as well as sales strategy competencies. After all, everyone comes to this person for an advice. It is difficult to approve somebody else’s proposed solution, if one does not have a through knowledge of it and cannot evaluate the strategy proposed by the team. Executive MBA studies should be pursued by a mature person. I would say if after the bachelor’s one wishes to continue studying for the Executive MBA, it should be remembered that this is not just a diploma, it’s a step towards science. If you do not feel what you want from life, it’s worth waiting some time. After all, one acquires best what one knows how to apply. When I was studying finance, I had no work experience in finance, so I did not know what I needed. In contrast, I saw that my peers at the ISM who were working in finance at the time took a lot from the studies because they knew what they needed. Indeed, after all, one can read an infinite number of books, but if there is not a single sentence applied in practice, what’s the point of it all? ​