17 years later, I graduated in 2012 with a degree in Geography, from the University of Liverpool, which also happens to be my hometown, and embarked upon the Sainsbury’s 2020 Leadership Operations Programme. What is Operations, I hear you cry? Absolutely nothing to do with the board game that buzzed when you couldn’t remove a spare rib and rather a lot to do with retailing, customer services and logistics.
Lauren, Daniel and Poppy have told you a little about the process and framework of the scheme, so I thought the best way to introduce you to what you can expect is to give you a snapshot of my personal experiences from when I started on 3 September 2012.
Day 1: My first day at Sainsbury’s is spent getting to know the team. Team GB that is! Wearing our Paralympic Games t-shirts and cheering on another gold medal for Great Britain, we join thousands of colleagues to show Sainsbury’s support. What a day to join the company!
Day 4: Dressed in a white overcoat, blue hair net and thermal gloves (how attractive?!), I’m at one of our fruit packing centres in Chingford, Essex. Amazing to see the work and attention to detail that goes into sourcing with integrity! A huge thanks for the Taste the Difference Apricots – they taste heavenly.
Day 9: I arrive at my store, Sainsbury’s Rice Lane in Liverpool. Alongside my store manager Phil & PR ambassador Cathy, I meet our local charity of the year, Fazakerley Special Needs. Colleagues and customers at Rice Lane have raised £30,000 this year – what a way to make a positive difference to their community.
Day 15: In store and training with my big friendly giant fresh manager Dave. Dave is educating me on key store processes that help Sainsbury’s offer fresh, top quality and competitively priced products to our customers every day. Make sure you remember your fleece for the chillers.
Day 22: Off to Reading for the ‘Love My Counters’ course. Based in the Sainsbury’s Food College at our Calcot store, I learn how to fillet fish, dissect an octopus, choose the right cut of meat for my Sunday roast and (my favourite) make my own pizza – who said school was no fun?
Day 31: The FareShare weekend arrives at Rice Lane. As a team, we are out on the shop floor telling customers about the charity and where they can find the ‘shopping list’ of items should they wish to donate. This is a side of Sainsbury’s the customers love, and before I know it I am wrapping up 2,000 meals for collection.
Day 40: On the road again to our Stanmore store in London, to learn how to ‘Trade the Shopfloor’. Here my childhood ambition is realised as I am taught how to ‘shopkeep’, ensuring the store trades smoothly, with excellent customer service standards and great availability of products. I cannot wait to have a go!
Day 49: I am covered in snow, have carols ringing in my ears and am surrounded by Sainsbury’s colleagues from lands afar. No not the North Pole, but Zone 5 (the mighty North!) Christmas Showcase. The phrase ‘like a child at Christmas’ could not be more appropriate – I’m thrilled listening to our colleagues discussing our plan for Christmas. It really is incredible to be part of such a great team.
Day 58: A true test of my management skills comes in the shape of Sainsbury’s Ashton Moss store refit. Here I am invited by my deputy manager Steve to be board manager, which consists of managing a 400 strong team to ensure all aspects of the project are complete on time, to the best standard. It’s hard work and the pressure is on – yet when the store opens 5 days later, the feeling of success and pride is hard to describe.
Day 67: My big moment has arrived – after 8 weeks of store training I am signed off as a department manager. I know what you’re thinking, that’s quick right? But so is retail, particularly supermarket retail. I draw on a quote I heard from our general merchandise director Jon Hartland at the Christmas showcase: ”Be bold, be fast.” I’m thinking of making it my personal motto.
Day 80: It’s 6pm and I have just completed my first week as customer services manager, leading the team in our preparations for the busy Christmas rush by making our store a great place to shop. The decorations are up; the gifts are in. All that’s left to do is order my Taste the Difference Turkey!
I hope that timeline has given you a peek into life as a Sainsbury’s Graduate Leader, but it is only a peek. You’ll meet hundreds of amazing people along the way, such as our colleagues, coaches, charity ambassadors and even the odd Paralympian! Every day is a different challenge, a new opportunity and a chance to make a difference. If that’s what you want from your career, then this is the scheme for you.
If you have any more questions, queries or simply want to ask my opinion, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below. I’ll get back to you as soon as I have removed my elf hat.
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