A Mondi Containerboard sales office is a team and a family!
Meet Giulia Barboni, Sales Manager from Mondi Corrugated Packaging Italy.
A Mondi Containerboard sales office is a team and a family!
We spoke to Giulia Barboni, one of our Containerboard Sales Managers for Italy and a longstanding member of our regional sales office in Milan. In our interview, Giulia shared what it’s like to work in a Mondi sales office, how spending time in our paper mills is always eye-opening and why Italy is an exciting market to be in. We are profiling several Corrugated Packaging colleagues this year as part of our drive to discover the opportunities, and occasional challenges, of our growth agenda.
I met Mondi by chance, 18 years ago
I’m half Italian and half French and I’ve always loved languages. I studied ancient Greek and Latin at school, and at University in Milan, I took German, English and Spanish. I spent a year in Germany for a part of my degree. When I finished my travels and came back to Milan, I wanted a job where my language skills would be useful - and I found the Mondi sales office in Italy. At the time, it was a Containerboard and Kraft paper office, and I began in customer service. I then started getting my own customers and getting more into the market.
My job is about talking to people…
Solving the customer’s problems and Mondi’s problems, finding solutions, making connections, and growing the business. Customers do become friends because you are speaking with them so often – you share something about your life. In Italy it’s often like this: you talk for half an hour about your family, what you like to do, sports and so on and then five minutes about business! In our team, everyone is doing important work – if you work in Customer Service, you’re not just putting orders in the system, you’re speaking to the owner or the central buyer of a company, or working in Sales you go to a customer appointment to solve an issue. Everybody's contributing in a different way – putting the customer in the focus works on many different levels.
Spending time in a paper mill showed me how much effort goes on behind the scenes.
I spent three months working in one of our paper mills. It was a great experience, spending time working with colleagues who I knew already on the phone, but suddenly we were sitting together, becoming friends! I started to understand the details of how it works in the mill. Before, I’d have been pushing to change something, and then you see, actually, it’s not so easy! You understand more about production, logistics, and that, yes, there are a lot of people in the background and a lot of effort! Recently, I took a customer on a trip to a Mondi Corrugated Solutions plant - it helped him solve the problems he was having and it was also great for me to spend a few days understanding more about the corrugating business – it helps me understand what our customers need.
We’re making connections every day, catching opportunities.
I sometimes start the day talking to a colleague in our Świecie mill in Poland, then to logistics in Vienna, then to atechnical service colleague in the Netherlands, and then, as I am also an international key account manager, I’ll talk to my colleague in France and the sales manager in Spain about the market in France, Spain and Morocco. Or I’ll be calling another sales office to ask, how are you doing this. So, all very international, and very connected!
And then there is cross-segment cooperation, which is nice because we’re looking for possibilities in other businesses. For example, we had a request for a black dye paper which Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper produces – Pergraphica – so we put them in touch with the customer. We’re looking for opportunities – for example, a customer is interested in siliconised papers – we can make those connections. The great thing about Mondi is our size – there’s always a solution - but sometimes you have to go searching for where in Mondi we have this product, where it’s produced and find the right people. If you listen out for those special requests and pass them on – you can maybe start a business for a division!
A sales office is a team but it’s also a family.
You have people who have been working there forever as if it were their own business; people are really caring, and they work with a lot of passion and attention. When we were a smaller office, our boss would cook for us at lunchtime – pasta, risotto (of course!), and we would eat together. I remember one time I was sad, and my boss went to the kitchen and prepared some grated apples for me, like a mum. It was always a nice place to be – and it’s still a place people choose to stay.
These days, our Mondi Sales Office Southern Europe in Milan really is a hub.
In the past, it was a bit like an island – a bit separate. But year by year, it has become much more interconnected - to Mondi, to Vienna and to the mills. In Milan, we have sales managers and customer service for Containerboard and Kraft paper all together working alongside Uncoated Fine Paper. And these days, many of us in the sales offices have international assignments, with a perspective on the wider market. So, with 17 colleagues based here, it’s more and more possible to grow and it really is a network.
Seven years ago, I moved to Rome – and I found that distance can be positive.
It’s where my husband is from and we have two small children who are four and seven, so it made sense. It was before Covid so it was unusual to work remotely – but Mondi allowed me to move here, with the agreement that I see my colleagues regularly. Everybody was telling me, “Wow, you work for a forward-thinking company!” It was possible because I was a sales manager, so I was already always travelling to see customers, and I had been here a long time and I knew everyone so well. We talk to each other on the phone all the time, and actually, I think there can be an advantage to moving – when you work with the same people for a long time there’s a risk that you get a kind of uniform thinking. The distance can help you bring new ideas to the table.
It can be hard to find the right balance.
I travel a lot – I’m away every month and sometimes for days at a time. For two years because of Covid, there was not much travelling and now it’s picked up again – and it can be complicated to manage at home. You have to find the balance. I try to explain to my children this concept that it’s important to work, that it’s interesting and that it gives me a lot of satisfaction. It’s great when you can see colleagues from other countries, think together about what the situation is. And we have Florian Stockert, our Containerboard Sales Director, who is like a good family father, he looks after us!
Last year I started to play the piano – and Mondi is responsible.
After the pandemic, and all the changes during that time, I was involved with a development centre and it helped me get out of the everyday work and to concentrate more on “Ok, what am I going to do that’s for myself?” My daughter started to play, and I was inspired to take lessons too. Starting from zero, there are a lot of rules – and then out of all those rules comes something artistic and creative, which is inspiring. You have to study a lot and concentrate - the fact that you’re making progress is very satisfying. I have hardly any time to practice but I’m really fighting to keep it up and to carry on with lessons. I’m so happy I started it. It’s never too late to start something new!
The market now is challenging but there are always opportunities.
There is still space to grow for our customers and for us as well. On the plastic substitution, there’s still quite a lot of room to substitute plastic with paper and board – fruit and vegetable trays, for example. And, of course, eCommerce is a big element. At Mondi, we’ve always been well-perceived in Italy - we have a good technical service, we’re innovating, launching new products and we have excellent customer service – which puts us in a strong position. And now in Italy, a new mill, our Duino mill, is a big plus for the Italian market. We’re going to transform Duino into a Containerboard mill producing 420k tonnes of paper (today we’re selling 240k tonnes of Containerboard in Italy), so this is going to double our volume – so it’s great news and a big challenge ahead. It’ll come through in 2025 because the investment project takes some time, but we’re excited about that, and our customers are very interested. They know they can count on very good quality from Mondi. And for us, it means a lot of new things to learn, and new colleagues to work with – the next years will be exciting for sure!