Chris Olckers: Globetrotter from the Heart
Back in 2013, Chris started at Hellmann being recruited straight out of University in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In his first years, he gathered plenty of insights working for the region’s Sales Director and later for the COO Africa. Despite all these varied tasks, Chris felt like growing and – as fate would have it – got chosen for Hellmann’s international graduate program.
Within the program, Chris joined 11 other Hellmann international graduates to spend the next 18 months rotating through the entire business by traveling around the world to countries like the US, Germany, and the UK.
After those months of vast learning experiences, Chris decided to relocate to the US, joining the global HR team to do Learning and Development. While in the US, he also joined the “ASCEND” project team which was responsible for the US restructuring program. With his gathered expertise, he then had the task to implement centralized pricing desks in various Hellmann countries, such as Hong Kong, Germany, Mexico and South Africa.
In 2018, he took the role of Director of Customer Implementation and Business Process Management for Africa. In this role, Chris once again discovered more Hellmann countries in Africa, like Zambia and Tanzania. However, his personal wish brought him back to the US, for which he left his position in Africa and joined the Global HEAT team as Global Transformation Manager.
Hi Chris, what motivated you to move to the US?
I was motivated by my feeling that I wanted to stay at Hellmann but at the same time wished to live with my girlfriend Esther, who I met during my time in the US with Hellmann. I tried to find a way to make both work and luckily Hellmann supported me a hundred percent. So, I had the chance to relocate to my new hometown Charleston, South Carolina. I am very thankful for all the support I have received to make this happen. – I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people!
Has it been easy for you to integrate into your new work environment?
Well, my new work environment has been somewhat special since the beginning: originally, I had planned that I would spend six months of the year in the US and another six months in Germany as well as some time in South Africa. It was a great plan, but then the COVID pandemic crossed our ways. Actually, I traveled from Germany to the US in February 2020, not being aware of sitting in one of the last planes crossing the borders right before things started to pick up and becoming a global pandemic. With luggage packed for one week, it happened that I have stayed for over a year, until today.
This way, the integration into my “new” workplace has been difficult and easy at the same time. Difficult because I haven’t had the chance to personally interact with my new colleagues in the global HEAT project team. But at the same time, it has been easy because I can actually work from home, which I generally like. Still – I believe that nothing will ever beat sitting across from each other.
What do you miss most from home?
I love South Africa in all its bits, but in the first place I miss my mother more than everything else. – Sure, I do miss my entire family and also my friends, but most of all it is my mother who I wish to see.
Moreover, I miss watching the Springboks – our South African national Rugby team – together with other South Africans and to have a proper Braai – that’s what we South Africans call barbeque. When Braaing, a must on your plate is a typical Braaibrodjie – imagine a grilled snackwich – and a juicy lamb chop. – I really miss that!
What do you love most about living in the US?
Things I love the most about living in the US are that people are very friendly here and that it is such a big melting pot of cultures. You can truly feel that it is a land of immigrants and I really appreciate the diversity around me.
Also – as I mentioned already – I am super happy that I can live together with Esther, my girlfriend. We spent so many years doing long distances after we met in Miami, and now we can finally start our lives together.
How does a perfect day-off look like for you in Charleston?
A perfect day-off for me looks as follows: wake up really early to go for a sunrise surf and then come home, spend some more time outside in the garden on my vegetables and fruits before I go out on the boat for fishing. At the end of the day, I come home and have some delicious barbeque in the garden. If I'm lucky I can also squeeze in a trip to the movie theater in the evening. – Yep, that would be my perfect day-off in a nutshell!