“I have to shake myself sometimes when I realise what a privilege it is having the CEO as my mentor.”
I joined Asda’s Graduate Trading Scheme in 2012 after completing a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Theology at Durham University. As soon as I walked into Asda House, I knew that this was the place I wanted to work. The buzz of the building was distinctly different to what I had experienced in other interviews. I left desperate to get the job.
It’s been non-stop since the day I joined. I spent my first three months in-store completing the management training. I then took what I had learned back to the Central Trading team at Asda House, and they sent me straight back out to implement my findings. It was such a great experience.
After that, I was offered a Trading Assistant role for Fresh Food to Go, where I gained loads of knowledge. I was spending time with suppliers, going into factories, working on packaging and design, as well as trialling new products in store.
After a few months, I moved into an established Buyer position where I was in control of my own profit and losses worth £3m a week. I was buying toiletries, developing key trading skills and refining the art of negotiation. Twelve months later, I was given an amazing opportunity to become the Project Manager to our President and CEO Andy Clarke. When I started at Asda, I never thought I would have the actual CEO as my mentor.
Every 12 to 18 months, one of the Graduates on the Graduate Scheme has the opportunity to Andy Clarke’s Project Manager. And I was lucky enough to be appointed into this role. You’re given exclusive, one-to-one mentoring and a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be at the helm of one of the UK’s biggest retailers. I more or less shadow Andy whenever he goes travelling overseas, supporting him in a variety of tasks. Which can include writing briefs, carrying out detailed insights, organising events, conducting research, and keeping him up to date with the latest news and trends.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit some extraordinary places as Andy’s Project Manager. Some of the most memorable has to be the Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons, Silicon Valley and Bentonville Arkansas – home of Asda’s parent company, Walmart.
After 18 months of working for Andy, it’ll soon be time for me to pass the baton onto someone else, giving them the opportunity to see and learn everything that I have. I’m grateful that I’ll be able to get some advice from him before taking the next step in my career. I have to shake myself sometimes when I realise what a privilege that is.
One thing that has been consistent since I started at Asda is that I’ve had to work incredibly hard. But all of that effort has been recognised. Anyone applying for the Graduate Scheme should know that you have to be completely dedicated. It’s incredibly competitive, but the opportunities and rewards really do depend on the effort you put in. As a business, we’re always focused on what we could do better and how we can improve.
I’d advise everybody to consider a career in retail. I never imagined it would be this fulfilling. I’m certain that retail can be a satisfying career for school leavers, university graduates and qualified professionals in a range of different roles. And I believe it’s up to my generation to inspire the next, showing them the breadth and depth of jobs in this often overlooked industry.