Hristina Burdasheva is the Chief Counsel Legal and Compliance of Mondelez International for South Central Europe and Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of Mondelez Bugaria Holding. She is based in Bulgaria.
CEELM: You have spent your entire career in-house, with Rompetrol, Kraft Food, and now Mondelez International. Why did you decide to pursue that path instead of heading into private practice?
Hristina: It was indeed a very conscious choice and it took me a while before I started my in-house lawyer career. Being a business counsel covers all I am and what I want – having a higher purpose and cause, living with values and principles I truly share, raising myself professionally and personally surrounded by great professionals, being part of beloved corporate brands, in 150 countries around the world. There is no private practice that can give me access to the entire legal world at the tip of my fingers. Today, I am working on projects with colleagues from North America, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, which gives me a perspective I truly cherish.
CEELM: Your role covers the South Central European hub (Romania, Bulgaria and East Adriatic Markets) for Mondelez International. Can you give us some insight into the different challenges presented by the various jurisdictions you cover for the company? In what ways are those jurisdictions different, for the purposes of your role?
Hristina: There are ten markets in the SCE hub – four of them are EU members and six are non-EU. We have nine languages and eight currencies. Sometimes it is difficult to define if we have more similarities rather than differences. This makes us deal with complexity every day. However, in Mondelez International we share the same values, like keep it simple and tell it like it is, regardless of where we are located, which helps us deliver the best possible legal service to the business under difficult conditions. I am happy my team and I have developed a world-class partnership with the business and our trusted counsels make every challenging case an opportunity to grow.
CEELM: At Mondelez International you are in charge of both legal and compliance matters. Obviously, some companies prefer to separate those two roles. How do you divide your time between the two roles?
Hristina: In fact, these two roles are also separated within Mondelez International. Business Integrity – our compliance function – is chaired globally by the VP & Chief of Global Governance and Corporate Secretary, to whom the regional Business Integrity Officer reports. They are fully dedicated to creating the framework and dealing with all compliance matters at a regional level, supported in the country by the legal counsels and where appropriate by other functions in their daily activities.
Our company structure supports our business strategy and the way we are structured reflects both the importance of compliance and legal services. Time allocation is not how we define priorities.
CEELM: What is your typical day at work like?
Hristina: I find myself well-organized with a common corporate life challenge: to follow my daily agenda. It can be explained with two main factors playing a big role: Mondelez International is in the FMCG industry, where speed rules. The other driver of this dynamic is specific for our region – the political and economic environments of South Central European markets are intensively shifting paths, making it necessary to adapt quickly to new trends and legislative changes. I live a dynamic and challenging work life full with projects and issues, and I am surrounded by young and talented professionals. This makes me happy and keeps me motivated.
CEELM: What skills do you have, personally, that are most useful to you in your position?
Hristina: Managing diversity and dealing with ambiguity are critical when you have many stakeholders to deal with – geographically and covering different professional areas in the commercial units. In addition, I have found out that being authentic, giving all your energy to understanding others and their challenges is what makes us trustworthy and powerful.
CEELM: What would you describe as your biggest success or greatest achievement as a lawyer?
Hristina: I always strive for more. Therefore, I believe that my biggest success is ahead of me. My latest challenge was to lead the legal team in Mondelez Europe to design and implement the requirements of the GDPR. Our main objective was and still is to raise awareness and to train the entire organization to embrace data privacy in our daily life and operations.
CEELM: Tell us about the legal department at Mondelez International in its South Central European hub.
Hristina: The SCE Legal function is a boutique – but very impactful – team of great legal professionals, located in three countries: Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria. I am amazed every day by the quality of this team, by their dedication, passion and creativity. It is a privilege to lead the South Central European Legal hub. Furthermore, we choose to partner with excellent outside counsels in the market where Mondelez International is not directly presented. The SCE Legal department is integrated with the Central Europe Legal family, where I report to the CE Chief Counsel.
CEELM: In an ideal world, what would you like to see changed, professionally, either in the context of the legal environment you work in, or internally in Mondelez International?
Hristina: In an ideal world, I would enjoy a legal environment where we are mature enough to trust self-regulation rather than restrictive regulations in all aspects.
CEELM: On a personal level, tell us a bit about yourself?
Hristina: It is a blessing to do what you like and to love your job. I do. I am extremely lucky with the most loving family and desire to explore and travel – to get together. I am truly committed to start skiing and mountain biking and enjoying more time with my gorgeous teen-aged son.
CEELM: And finally, on a lighter note: What do you think Bulgaria gets right that you would like the rest of the world to know more about?
Hristina: Hospitality. Tolerance. Adaptability. Authenticity. A unique language and culture.
This Article was originally published in Issue 6.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.