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Minnesota native Ryan Coyne shares his perspectives on working at CJ CheilJedang, where he hopes to broaden his horizons and further his passion for the food industry In an era marked by globalization, companies such as CJ CheilJedang are spearheading cross-border innovations. Ryan Coyne, a Minnesota native, stands as a prominent figure in CJ CheilJedang’s global talent pool, bridging his experience from Schwan’s Company in the U.S. to CJ CheilJedang in Korea.  CJ Newsroom sat down with Ryan to learn about his role at CJ and hear his advice for aspiring candidates from all around the world seeking a similar path.  Q. Please briefly share your background with us.  A. My name is Ryan Coyne. I grew up in Minnesota, where I studied Agriculture and Food Business Management at the University of Minnesota. Prior to joining CJ CheilJedang, I worked for Schwan’s, a leading U.S. food producer based in Minnesota known for Red Baron Pizza and Edwards Pies. *Since 2019, Schwan’s Company has been affiliated with CJ CheilJedang. Food has always been a passion of mine, and I always knew that I would be in the food industry. So seeing how I ended up working in the food industry was no surprise for me. I also played a lot of sports growing up, which enabled me to play college hockey at university. Because I spent my whole life in Minnesota, it was a big change when I had the opportunity to come to Korea. It was an eye-opening experience to live in a different country and a different culture, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to move here. Q. What do you do at CJ CheilJedang? What does your typical workday look like? A. I’m a category manager in our Global Strategic Product (GSP) team in the chicken category, one of our seven global strategic product categories. Before GSP, I was on the Strategic Planning team. It’s been around two months since I joined the GSP team, and the first month was a lot of onboarding: learning about what’s happening with our products, where they’re manufactured and sold, and what projects are currently in the works.  Lately, we have had some big projects going on, like launching certain products in different regions and entering a new region. The day-to-day depends on the agenda for those projects and it’s been very interesting. Q. How were you introduced to CJ Group and CJ CheilJedang? A. I was working at Schwan’s when I heard that the company was being acquired by a South Korean company, which is how we all found out about CJ Group. We were wondering: “What are their plans for the U.S. business?” Then we learned about CJ’s passion for food and its ambition to grow the business to 9 billion USD, which is of course a very ambitious target. Now we have people joining our company because of CJ’s goals, so we went from a U.S. company to a truly global company attracting different talent signing up to be part of this much larger picture. The first talk I had about coming to Korea was in 2019. Now that Schwan’s and CJ are merged into one big global company, I wanted to gain more global experiences. That’s when I raised my hand and said: “How can I go work at CJ HQ?” It took four years, but I finally made it in 2023 through CJ’s global rotational program, ‘CJ&me.’ Q. Please share why you chose GSP – why did you find the team and role attractive? A. When I came to CJ, I wanted to learn about their ways of working, the culture, the relationship between CJ and Schwan’s and what it’s like to work at the headquarters. I always had the objective to gain experience at HQ and then apply that experience to one of the regional offices. Plus, the chicken category is a very large category for us and has a ton of potential. Q. When do you feel most proud to be part of your team? A. Having me – a foreigner working here at CJ – is a big ask. It’s a big ask for me to be here, but it’s also a big ask of my teammates to have me on board their team, to welcome me and embrace me as a foreigner. I think it may be a challenging task for them, but it makes me proud of the way that they’ve handled and approached it. Q. What is the key skill required for the position? A. My previous roles, prior to joining CJ, were all in finance – a lot of analytical skills required. These are essential skills, whether you’re in Strategic Planning or the GSP team. But the transition to CJ CheilJedang required not only technical expertise but also a mindset of flexibility to navigate the complexities of a new role in a foreign country. I decided to sign up for this experience, and I don’t know what’s in store, but I’m going to be adaptable and take it as it comes. Q. What are the perks and benefits of working at CJ Group and CJ CheilJedang? A. CJ Group is a big conglomerate with a lot of subsidiaries operating in various fields, and this means the discounts are great. For example, when I went to N Seoul Tower for the first time and purchased an admission ticket, I got a 40% discount. The person at the admissions was also surprised, he looked at me wondering: “who is this guy, and why is he getting so much discount?” Q. What are your favorite CJ products? A. I’m very biased (laughter). Sobaba, our chicken product, is great and I think everybody should try that. Another project that I worked on was our Basak Chips, which is amazing too. Q. What distinguishes CJ CheilJedang’s corporate culture from others?  A. There’s a lot of camaraderie here and people are very close. Our coworkers go out to lunch together, get to know each other, and have dinner together too. I think I could have dinner with somebody three nights a week if I really tried. For someone like me, getting to meet and socialize with so many different people is one of the many advantages working here. Q. Coming from the United States, how does it feel to work in Korea? A. I feel a sense of responsibility to do my best to adapt to the working culture here, while simultaneously bringing the ways of working from the U.S. that I’m accustomed to. There can be obstacles, and you might even be uncomfortable at some points in time, but it’s always temporary. I think being able to face uncertainty is something that I’ve really embraced during my time here and will benefit me in the future. Q. As a global talent yourself, what role do you think you’re playing in the globalization and expansion of CJ CheilJedang? A. Personally, I feel I have a very small role in the globalization task. Somebody like me coming here or even a group of people is not going to move the needle a ton. We’re going to have more of an impact on those who work immediately around us with influence.  I think if we are going to be a global company, the adaptability to move into new markets and manage their needs are really the strides that I think we need to go to, whether that be a Korean-ethnic dish or even a non-Korean-ethnic dish. So, this path to globalization is a long-term project which will require a lot of planning and group effort to complete. Q. Any tips for aspiring candidates? A. Don’t worry about things you can’t control and embrace the good times as well as the challenges. Moving here has changed the way I think about my place in the world and has given me insight into a whole new culture. I believe it’s furthered my career professionally and made me a better person. Ryan’s journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of embracing change and seizing opportunities for personal and professional growth. As CJ CheilJedang continues its innovation and expansion, global talent like Ryan can thrive and serve as inspiring examples of the possibilities that can come from pursuing their passions and embracing new challenges.
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