Timo Blanke - Trader - Interfood Dubai

I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, a businessman who travels the world exploring new places and meeting new people while doing business.

Hi Timo, can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Timo Blanke, I’m 31 years young and I am a Commodity Trader at Interfood Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. My blood is half German and partly Algerian/ French, however, I grew up in Maastricht (The Netherlands), and therefore I feel more half Dutch half German. But when it comes to sport tough, I am 100% German.

My Journey at Interfood started approx. 9 years ago in Bladel, where I started in the Export/Africa team mainly focusing on trading powders into West and North-Africa. During this time I travelled a lot and had the opportunity to build relations with many different people, explore new cultures and many different countries.

Five years ago I moved to Dubai, together with my wife Laura, and started settling in a new environment. Slowly but surely we made Dubai our new Home away from Home.

In my spare time, I spend a lot of time with friends at the golf course, restaurants or one of Dubai’s beaches. In Dubai there is a lot to do and you do not quickly get bored. Sitting home on the couch does not happen often here, but I do not mind that at all.

What was your motivation to start a job at Interfood?

Let me try to make a long story short. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, a businessman who travels the world exploring new places and meeting new people while doing business. When I was still a little kid I used to bring back stuff from our holidays in Asia for example, like cigarettes and fancy lighters and fake watches, to sell them in school. Teachers were not always so happy with that but I was happy with the money I could make.

Then, during the third year of my studies, International Business in Maastricht, I needed to do an internship outside EU. I did this internship at Fan Milk in Togo, which is a small country in West- Africa. Fan Milk is a large manufacturer for frozen yogurts in West-Africa which was bought by Danone few years back.

This was my first time in Sub-Sahara Africa and during this time I learned a lot about doing business in Africa and the difference in cultures. I learned that the world of business is larger than only US/EU and Asia.. but that actually in every place on this planet you can do business and create something to add value.

After this experience, by coincidence, I saw a vacancy at Interfood. They were looking for a Junior Trader for Africa. I applied and it seemed to be a good match. That was the start of my Interfood career, and with Fan Milk, who bought their milk powder till then from one of our main competitors and became one of my first larger customers.

What is your favorite thing about Interfood?

I like the fact that you get a lot of responsibility from the day you start at Interfood. Basically, you can determine your own path within the organization. Of course you get some assistance on the way but the direction of your path is in your own hands.

But also the people. Generally people that work for Interfood are very positive, ambitious and fun. This is important. Generally you spend more time in the office than at home (if you exclude sleeping). This means the time in the office and the people around you should be at least as fun as home, otherwise something is wrong.

Timo Blanke 2

What does your average working week in trading for our Dubai office look like?

No week is the same. But in general, we are a smaller office with no back-office. This means we constantly need to make sure we are in contact with the other offices to keep track on things and follow the different markets and/or products. Next to that, when shipping products around the globe there are always nice challenges waiting for you. You never know in the morning what the new day is going to bring you.

Last but not least, we try to travel and see our customers/suppliers and colleagues regularly. Both external and internal relations are very important, especially in the Middle-East/Africa. A good way of creating and maintaining these relations is by meeting each other and spend time together.

Why did you make the move to Dubai specifically?

When the opportunity came across, I did not need to think long. I knew Dubai already quite a bit from different holidays and business trips. Dubai is a fast-moving international hub where much is happening. It is multicultural, futuristic, professional, extremely safe and a lot of fun. There is a very positive vibe and most people you meet are very ambitious. It is also not too far from real-home, only a 6-hour flight, and there are more than 9 daily flights to different airports around Maastricht. This helps to maintain our social life back home as well. That the sun shines all year around is a nice extra, even though the summer is a bit too warm, a good period to travel back to Europe as much as possible.

What do you like most about your job as a Commodity Trader?

I think especially the dynamic environment. Both the dairy world and the Interfood world change constantly. This constant change always brings opportunities along and makes sure it does not get boring. Initially I wanted to work for Interfood for 1 year, to get some experience, but now after almost 9 years I am still around and can say that it is still dynamic and challenging.

You're working for Interfood for almost 9 years now, that's quite a while. Can you tell about one or two of your best memories of your time at Interfood until today?

Too many to write about. We had so many fantastic team events, parties, exhibitions and dinners, and I’ve met so many great people. But let me tell about our latest special memory, which is the Interfood ski trip that we experienced in the second week of February. This event was initiated and organized by two team members from our BV office, as an initiative of the Interfood employees. The idea was supported by the Board and this resulted in a 4-day trip to the mountains of Kaprun in Austria. It was such a great time, with skiing, sunshine, parties and so much fun. We had a group of over 60 colleagues joining, coming from offices in the Netherlands, Poland and Dubai. You can imagine this was really good for the team spirit and bonding with colleagues you had not met yet.

What can you tell about the culture and atmosphere in our office in Dubai?

We are of course a relatively small office and small team. However, we always say “ small office, big business”. This means that we work together daily and try to bring a significant contribution to the group.

Furthermore, we do have a close relation with each other. Generally we do travel a lot together and sometimes also do things outside the office as well. This means you get to know each other very well and that makes the atmosphere very positive, fun, alive and energetic, but also serious and professional when it needs to be. Communication between each other is constant, as we cannot hide in meeting rooms. Our office is just one room so we hear each other all day. This means we always know from each other what we are busy with. And I like that as it is easy to support each other and makes team work easier too.

Since Dubai is part of our APAC Hub, how important is the cooperation with the other APAC offices? Or even globally with offices from the other Hubs?

It is key, good communication is the real key of a successful trading business. Time wise, Dubai is perfectly located for this as well. We can catch any other Interfood office during work ours. Especially since the Covid pandemic I believe our global communication has improved a lot.

What would you say to potential Interfood team members?

If you are looking for a company that can give you a dynamic and ambitious environment, then Interfood is the right place for you. If you are ambitious, positive and you like international trade, then you will not regret becoming a part of the Interfood family.

Timo Blanke

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