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Sep 27, 2022

We were proud to welcome Heliana Romanelli, Head Procurement EMEA Markets at Unilever, onto the EMEA Recruitment podcast.

“Be true to yourself always…try to enjoy the ride, not only the destination.”

Paul Toms speaks to Heliana, based in the Netherlands at the time of the recording, and asks if any travel has been scheduled in Heliana’s diary due to the easing of restrictions; she visits suppliers in different locations. 

We discover the last thing that that made Heliana smile. At Unilever, employee satisfaction survey results showed a large improvement in employee wellbeing – something Heliana is proud of, as it was originally a cause of concern due to the global pandemic.

Additionally, Heliana believes her purpose is to help inspire others to find solutions, describing herself as someone with a “glass half-full” outlook. It’s something she’s had since childhood, with three siblings and two working parents.

As Head Procurement EMEA Markets, Heliana feels really happy in her role. As she has been with Unilever since 1998, she has had the opportunity to work in different countries, markets, roles and subsidiaries. She has experienced current issues, such as inflation and other macroeconomic pressures, before, which helps her leverage previous learnings into her role now. She further praises the company for its flexibility and ways of accommodating employees to do their best.

As listeners will discover, Heliana began her career in a factory and became Factory Manager. She enjoyed working with people, alongside the added technical aspects. She later shares the experience of replacing a male manager in the factory back in 1998, which she found to be positive, but also gives reference to several situations where she is the only woman in the discussion. She adds that diversity is improving, but still has a long way to go.

In reference to the Procurement side of her career, she loves the strategic thinking aspect, highlighting negotiation, competitor analysis and current positioning. She also enjoys the agenda that Unilever has with helping start-ups.

Heliana’s advice to those wishing to start a Procurement career or emulate what she has done is to try to enjoy the journey. If you are open-minded, willing to learn and stay true to yourself, you will be fine. 

During the episode, Heliana reveals that the biggest areas of learning were the fragility of chains and systems, supplier suffering and service issues – largely due to COVID-19. Europe is also facing a war and other macroeconomic issues, which complicate situations further. She stresses the importance of planning, prioritising, learning and taking care of yourself during these times.

To keep a calm mind, especially since COVID, Heliana has started exercising every morning, eating better and mediating in the evenings to face the challenges in the workplace. 

Paul asks Heliana for any role models who have inspired her during her career. Special mention is given to a lady called Rosalina, the first female VP of Supply Chain for Latin America. Rosalina left the company 15 years ago, but the two still share a strong bond. If Heliana has any doubts, she will call on Rosalina for advice.

Discussing how to find talent in an efficient and effective way, Heliana says you firstly need to define what you want – the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. But, never have a fixed profile. During the recruitment process, you need to be able to decipher if the company will be right fit for them, as well as for your team.

We also discuss the impact of business intelligence and data on the Procurement function. Heliana finds it to be a revolution and shares an example of its capabilities, such as the ability to track traceability, sustainability and disruptions before they appear on the media. She adds that data can support strategic decisions and make those decisions faster.

To end the episode, we listen to the advice Heliana would share with her 18-year-old self. Humorously, her 12-year-old daughter’s response was to buy Apple and Amazon shares, but Heliana looks back on previous experiences of suffering unconscious bias and would pass on the following quote: “Don’t let anyone define who you are.”


If you’re looking for a certain part of the episode, use these timestamps:

01:10: Planned work and leisure travel
02:25: The last thing that made Heliana smile
05:05: The origin of Heliana’s positivity
06:25: How it feels to be Head Procurement EMEA Markets
09:00: Heliana’s 20-year journey at Unilever
14:30: Why the Supply Chain & Procurement function?
19:40: Becoming a factory manager in 1998
25:30: Procurement career advice
28:00: The biggest challenges in the role
31:20: Heliana’s interests outside of work
35:40: Heliana’s role models
38:25: How to find talent in an efficient & effective way
43:00: How BI & data can strengthen strategic decisions
47:55: Advice Heliana would give her 18-year-old self

To connect with Heliana, you can find her on LinkedIn


EMEA Recruitment is a proud partner of Operation Smile, an international medical charity that provides free surgery to children suffering with cleft lip and palate. We’re hoping to create 100 new smiles through this partnership. If you can support this cause, please donate:


This episode is hosted by Paul Toms, our Founder, and Rose Jinks, Marketing Manager.

Learn more about our recruitment services, including our specialist Procurement & Supply Chain division, through our website: 

Or keep up to date with us via LinkedIn: 

You can also connect with Paul on LinkedIn:  

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Are there any topics you’d like us to cover in future episodes? Please reach out to Rose with your suggestions: 


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