Name: Francisco Javier Castaneda
Title: Senior Category Development Manager – Systems and Platforms
Company: The Boston Beer Company
Certification Obtained: Certified Professional Strategic Advisor

Where did your journey in the category management industry begin? What was your role?

My journey in category management started in the grocery business where I began stocking shelves at my neighborhood market after high school. In that type of store there really wasn’t a specific role because you did pretty much everything; from receiving shipments, stocking shelves, running the cash register, etc.. If you had to put a title on it, I guess I would say I was a grocery clerk.

However, my official Category Management training was during my 13-year career at Coca-Cola Enterprises.

How has the industry changed from when you started?

The industry has changed in magnificent ways since I started. The processes have improved and there is an infinite amount of data that can be used to make the most informed decisions. Advances in technology have also been a huge catalyst of change in the industry. Processes that used to take days or weeks and, in some cases, years; can now be accomplished in a matter of hours/minutes. All this fantastic change has enabled category management practitioners to do more with less and make better decisions faster than ever. Particularly in shopper insights, which drove the CatMan 3.0 updates.

How long have you or your company been involved with the CMA?

I have been part of the CMA close to 10 years now across two companies.

You have been certified with our highest designation for quite some time, how has the training helped you over time?

The one thing that (in my opinion) makes a great vs a good category manager is curiosity and hunger to learn. I believe in being a life-long learner and although I have been in the CPG industry for over 30+ years, I continue to learn every day. The CMA has been a great source of that learning journey. The weekly seminars and the on-line trainings help me continue to keep my knowledge bank growing.

Were you mentored in your career by someone? What difference did that make for you personally and professionally?

I have been fortunate to have several mentors in my career. The first mentor was a boss during my 13 years at Coca-Cola. She taught me that a successful person does not need to change who they are to make the biggest impact. This has helped me not only become a better people leader; but ultimately has helped me to embrace my authentic self in both my professional and personal life. My second mentor is somebody that showed me that by trusting and supporting your people, you help them reach their full potential while at the same time delivering amazing business results. The theme here from both of my mentors is that it is not necessary to compromise, you can be authentic and trusting while still accomplishing amazing business results.

What advice would you give others in the industry about staying on top of their certification and training? Why is it important?

For those who are beginning the journey of certification and training I would advise to strive for “balance”. Put all the learning in classes into practice and make sure you apply the learnings into the real world. This is of most importance because you can be certified at the highest level because you know how to study and take tests; however, when the rubber hits the road and Retailer X calls you with an emergency the certificate will not be the only thing that will help you solve the problem. You must have the roadmap/schema that comes from experience and when you combine it with the knowledge from your certification journey, that is when you are most effective as a category management practitioner. Last bit of advice to the newcomers who are joining our ranks, please don’t “fake it until you make it”. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know how to do something. This will serve you better than stumbling through and taking 2 times as long to get to the wrong answer.

I also like to advise anyone who wants to make Category Management a career on the following:

  • Dive in, get your hands dirty, don’t rely solely on automation
  • Develop your analytical framework/approach as you build expertise in data sources
  • Critical to understand how to solve problems & provide solutions, then figure out how the data fits in
  • Knowing data alone isn’t enough without the skills to be an effective category management professional