Anouchah Sanei, or how to adapt and progress

Did one of her paths go through UTC? Well, the one that led from the Franco-Iranian Lycée in Tehran up the position of VP for world-class groups such as PepsiCo or Campbell’s Soup did do a stopover in Compiegne.

Anouchah Sanei, or how to adapt and progress

“UTC taught me how to navigate and to identify the best options to progress. UTC also taught me how to build and enrich internal and external networks in a corporate environment, thus enabling me to progress in my professional career”, recalls Anouchah Sanei. One expression she repeatedly uses when remembering her arrival in France and her studies at UTC was “the D-System!”[Resourcefulness] Firstly in her two years doing a scientific stream DEUG diploma at Orsay University - Paris 10 to boost her scores in maths and physics after her Baccalaureate in Tehran, followed by a “prep” year in chemistry, before gaining her admission to UTC directly to the second year of the standard engineering course. “As I recall it, there were 4 or 5 women students in my class and we learned to work together and came up with some occasionally unique and creative solutions in order to succeed and pull through”, explains Franco-Iranian Sanei. The base-line here was ‘biology’ followed by ‘chemistry’ as a self-evident strategy to leave Iran before the Islamic 1979 revolution descended on that country, the coming to UTC and understanding that scientific studies go far beyond and lecture-rooms to take in all aspects of Society. UTC’s credo, imparted by founder President Deniélou, was partly responsible for Anouchah realizing the value of adopting an open vision to the world of industry.


Heading a pilot station

For Anouchah Sanei, “the transition from UTC to the world of industry was a natural move thanks to the university’s open view to the entrepreneurial world outside”. Following various placements and project-work, she started a PhD at UTC, in a partnership with the biscuit manufacturer BN (short for Biscuiteries Nantaises at their Compiegne site, analysing the ways to extrude ‘cracottes’ (a form of biscuit). What Anouchah discovered then was that science activities are initiated in laboratories but have their raison d’être in factories or assembly plants. No sooner was her thesis written than she was recruited by Nestlé on the same topic and that opened the opportunity for her to engage in agro-food sectors. After a few years as Head of Innovation at the Nestlé R&D Centre in Amiens and then accepting a position to manage of the pilot station - a miniature factory designed to model large-scale fabrication of these products, a privileged setting to observe and analyse a factory - without the gruelling hardships of a real 3 x 8-hour shift schedule! - innovating through thinking about the products and the fabrication process. At the age of 28, she had to manage a team of about 40 technicians, workers and young engineers (many from UTC) and responsible for a production tool. “It was necessary to be humble and to trust the employees, the young and the seniors alike”, explains Anouchah Sanei who recalls that period as a rich, human adventure and a management learning experience.


The American adventure

Nestlé then sent Anouchah Sanei to Ohio for anew mission, on a development platform for Nescafé® and Nesquick®, products which were of prime importance on the local market place in North America where the company is envisioning significant gains in market shares, and then relocating her at the American home office in California once more in innovation processes but this time on the complete range of Nestlé products, ranging from café, to juices and to chocolate-based drinks. Anouchah was then recruited by PepsiCo just when Nestlé were considering moving her back to the Suisse home Office, a new change which enables her to adopt a change in rhythm – USA style – taking on the responsibility for the Snack Division in Dallas, Texas where just about everything goes faster! That move marked the end of her engineering functions, replaced immediately by managerial responsibilities as VP for R&D, in charge of the research teams and project management. “The ethos of adaptability in my job - which I cultivated partly during my years at UTC - was doubled up by a more strategic and global vision of Business and Marketing”, underlines Anouchah Sanei, now fully aware and sensitive to the commercial dimensions of any product. Imagining the design, production, financial support, sales and team management have all now become integral components in an engineer’s job and responsibilities.


The Asian adventure

PepsiCo sent Anouchah off to Asia to rethink and develop innovations questions throughout the Region, including China and the Pacific Asian countries. So she moved with her family yet again to settle in Shanghai to set up the first PepsiCo Research Centre for the Pacific Asian countries. “With only limited manpower means at my disposal when I started, I needed to recruit some people, to imagine and have the buildings erected, to install the equipment whilst recruiting more staff and drafting the whole Research an Innovation strategic policy thrust focused on for the local national markets, from China to Australia, Thailand, Japan and even some more modest market-places”, explains Anouchah Sanei who underlies the need salsa to adapt culturally to be able to work in Asia. This means adaptability on the job, adaptability with the family and also, of course, in terms of development strategy to gain a foothold in the region. Three full years of an experience that totally hanged her vision of an exploding world scene.


So what about Europe?

The next stage of her career sees her back in Geneva at the PepsiCo Europe Home Office, as VP for R&D for Western, Europe and South Africa. In Geneva the pace is more relaxed, closer to the needs of a mature regional market configuration. But nonetheless, some difficulties remain inasmuch as you have to innovate constantly in an already saturated European market-place, with a constant in-fight among distributors to gain the favours of new customers, who are quite happy to pull the plug on product prices! “We really must try to understand the emotional aspects of consumers if we seek to innovate in a saturated market”, adds Anouchah.


Breakthrough innovation infrastructures

Through observing a lack of dynamics in the Old World and the desire to find and face another professional challenge on a continent that was here making, Anouchah Sanei was head-hunted by the world leader in industrial soup-making, Campbell Soup – and she accepted to go back once more to the USA as their VP for the Global Science & Technology Department as of Feb.2016. Campbell’s Soups has been a pioneer in canned soups for the past 150 years and is making inroads now to fresh foodstuffs, to snacks, cookies and juices. The company is currently investing in developing a new range of so-called ‘health foods’ – with a new vision of what we are putting in our plates.

It is her responsibility to design and set up the relevant innovation platforms and to develop the product policies for the future. Anouchah sees this job as “visionary, global and strategic for the future of the company and its standing resilience in the growing health foods market sector”. Anouchah displays a passion for agro-foods and nutritional questions and also is a yoga and personal well-being adept, on the move all the time and yet sensitive to people, accepting challenges with modesty and always seeking the balance needed to attain her objectives. She has organized and managed her career-path like some perpetual movement adventure for an “exec. woman”, but she has her feet firmly on the ground too.