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Industrial Placement to Area Manager: Will Smith

By Aldi
Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Starting out as an ambitious student eager to learn about the world of retail management in the best place he thought possible, Will Smith couldn’t let the opportunity to move up the Aldi career ladder pass him by. Here, he tells the story of how he started his Aldi career on the Industrial Placement Programme and returned as a Graduate to become an Aldi Area Manager.

Will was first attracted to a career with Aldi when researching options for his year in industry, which was included as part of his Economics degree at Leeds University. He comments, “I am very ambitious and like to test myself, therefore when I learnt that only the candidates at the top of their game would receive a place on the competitive Aldi Industrial Placement Programme, I had to go for it.

“Before applying I conducted research by speaking to several peers who’d completed industrial placements elsewhere, all of whom encouraged me to apply to Aldi. I also read about the programme on the Aldi recruitment website – there is a week by week breakdown detailing everything you learn during the yearlong placement which I found extremely useful. As a result, I knew that I would come away from it with real life skills that would help me complete my degree and launch my career.

“I was also drawn in by the idea that, on the General Management Industrial Placement, I would be exposed to the Aldi Head Office, as well as the store environment, therefore gain a holistic view of how the business worked. This helped me enormously when I returned on the Graduate Programme, as I understood how the different departments worked together and already considered many of the Area Managers to be friends, as well as colleagues.”

Will thrives under pressure and credits his ability to keep calm for helping him during his interview and group assessment. He adds: “During my assessment, I was briefed, given five minutes to prepare and then asked to present back on the chosen topic. This encouraged me to think on my feet, something I’ve had to do a number of times as an Industrial Placement student, so it was a great introduction to the job.”

Talking about his experiences while on placement, Will reflects, “I was given responsibility for my first store while the Store Manager was away and I’ll always remember the pride I felt as I kept everything running smoothly and managed hundreds of thousands of pounds at the age of just 20. It was a fantastic achievement which gave me exposure to the inner workings of the store and ultimately helped me complete my final project at the end of the programme. I presented this project in a Regional Directors meeting, which was extremely nerve-racking, but set me up well for my future as an Area Manager, as I do this now every quarter.”

Following the successful completion of his degree, achieving a 2:1, Will was offered the position of Graduate Area Manager and given responsibility for four stores within the Chelmsford region. Commenting on his current role, he says: “I really enjoy being hands on and getting involved in the day-to-day running of the stores. I’m involved in recruitment and ensuring the teams are happy, feel motivated and supported to do their job to the best of their ability. Part of this means driving stores and people forward and helping them to reach their full potential. This can be something simple like ensuring they receive the correct training or developing a progress plan to help them reach the next stage of their career.

“I also work closely with each Store Manager to make sure the store has everything it needs to run efficiently and effectively while meeting its targets. I report the store results back to my Regional Director and enjoy working with lots of different colleagues across different levels and areas of the business.

“I’ve also been part of the team organising and executing the opening of new stores, notably the new Peterborough store which is now my pride and joy. Ahead of this opening, I worked with different teams across the Aldi business to advertise the opening and recruited the store team, promoting people from other stores within the region if they were ready to progress to the next level.

“In 2019 I was also fortunate enough to be part of a project team, tasked with re-organising the way Aldi splits its stores across the regions. 10 stores were placed into the responsibility of my Chelmsford regional team so I had to work with the team to ensure the new supply chain and deliveries worked effectively and the stores and warehouse teams were happy with the changes.”

Having gained experience across the whole Aldi business, taken on the responsibility of managing and opening his own stores and built on his strong managerial skills, Will is now managing stores in West London and looking ahead to his future, knowing that there are ample opportunities available to him at Aldi. He explains: “I have been very fortunate in my career already, having worked with many inspirational colleagues and played a part in some fascinating projects.

“Moving forward, I’d like to continue to support and inspire my team, as well as take on a new challenge such as a secondment in a different country. I’d be particularly interested to learn about the challenges faced in other markets and help to overcome them. Following that, I’m motivated to become a Regional Director, with accountability for one of Aldi’s 11 regions – I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what my future holds with Aldi.”