Cameron Heath is managing director of Unilever New Zealand, a role he started from Sydney last December before he moved to NZ in April. He’s been with Unilever since 2015 and spent five of those years working in the Czech Republic and Latvia as Baltics general manager and marketing director of food and beverages. 

Before Unilever, he was at Procter & Gamble in Sydney for seven years, starting out as a retail account manager and rising to national account manager. 

Earlier, at the University of Wollongong, he studied for a bachelor of commerce degree. During this time, he did a six-month study exchange to Sheffield in England and while there visited the Rolls-Royce factory to see jet engines being made – an experience that ignited his enthusiasm for big brands and businesses. 

Cameron Heath was born in Cronulla in Sydney. (Image: Cameron Heath)

 I grew up in suburban Sydney, down by the beaches near Cronulla. One of the biggest things that the family really loved doing while I was young was camping and caravanning. I got a lot out of being outdoors and close to nature through that. 

When I was 13, my family did a big seven-week trip around Australia. I remember dad throwing on 80s rock and soft ballads and us all screaming down the highway, passing the time as we drove through the outback together by singing along to the Seekers and the Eagles. 

Growing up, I had a pet golden pekin duck that thought of itself as a bit of a dog. It quacked in the garden until you came down to sit with it and would jump on your lap and want you to pat it. It liked to snuggle up to the dog when it was cold outside and if you let it, it would jump up onto the lounge suite or onto the bed and cuddle up with you. 

My mum is a primary school teacher and – fun fact – I went to the same school she taught at. It was really interesting as a kid to have your mates being taught by your mum, and to manage that dynamic of all the teachers and your friends knowing your mum and there being nowhere to hide. But it was a great time. 

The values my parents instilled in me were to be really humble and thankful for what you have. They had strong views on working really hard in life and putting your best foot forward each day – and also taking a moment to look back, reflect, be proud and celebrate what you've achieved. 

My dream growing up was to be an astronaut. It's probably more of a realistic dream in this day and age than it was back then. I loved the idea of exploring the unknown, floating around in space, and the sense of adventure and the adrenaline that would come from it.

I studied marketing and management through my commerce degree and, through that, developed a love for big business and big brands. I really loved the way in which consumer goods brands are part of daily life for people and the type of impacts they can make – from the way in which they bring convenience and ease to people's lives, to the difference they can make in the world. 

After uni, I started as a sales representative stocking bottles on the shelves of pharmacies through the northern beaches of Sydney, and really began to build a strong career in sales and marketing with Procter & Gamble. It was probably the best training you could ask for because you really got the opportunity to work with a different business owner every hour of every day. It's so important to understand what the challenges, desires, and ambitions of your customers are, and how your business can help them achieve their goals. 

There's a physical side and a mental side to managing stress. I find exercise is a great way to relieve stress and I'm a big swimmer, so I love getting in the pool and doing some laps. Putting things into perspective is the other thing I do. Very early on, one of my managers said: “Cam, we're selling shampoo. So, whatever the big business problem is that you're facing, just remember you're selling shampoo.” That helps me to put things into perspective when things get tough. 

The best parts of New Zealand are the Kiwi mindset and the environment. Kiwis don’t take stuff too seriously and do things with a hint of love and humour. And I love having access to the ocean and all of the beautiful landscapes and nature. It’s been really exciting and something I'm looking forward to exploring further. 

At the supermarket, I try to buy as much fresh food as I can. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so if I get a nice loaf of sourdough with some bacon and eggs and maybe some tomato relish, it's the perfect way to start the day, along with some good coffee. 

From a want-to-buy perspective, it's definitely ice-cream. I find my way to a freezer aisle every time – I farm it off as doing market research. The first receipt that I got from New Zealand was for six ice-cream products – on one receipt! 

As told to Ella Somers.
This interview has been edited for clarity.