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JJ: Graduate

By M&S
Book open Reading time: 2 mins

The Retail Leaders Programme rotates you through every part of the store, but it also offers challenges and experiences that shape you as a manager. For example, just recently I was asked to coach a group of colleagues who were stepping up to their first team management role.

Some of them had been with M&S for years and they had more experience than me. But teaching other people is a great way to learn. I remembered what it was like to be new to something: I went back to basics and took them through the processes, step-by-step, showing them what to do and then letting them have a go. There was some lovely feedback from the group: they liked the way I made things digestible, rather than just delivering an information dump. Now they are fully fledged Team Managers, they still call me up for a chat. It built my confidence: I’m here for a reason and I’ve earnt my place.

When I joined, I expected the culture to be tough and unforgiving: I put pressure on myself to get things right first time, all the time. But I then grew to understand that you are given the space to fail and that you learn from your mistakes. The important thing is to use the support that’s available, embrace the experience and move forward.

For me, this is really what’s special about M&S – it’s the support network.  People are there for each other. We all know what the pressures are, so people are very approachable and willing to help. Networking is very important for me: alongside my day job, I do a lot of social media on the side. I created a video for International Women’s Day that got over 5,000 views and I was invited to go on our Pride Float in London, which was brilliant.

I feel I’m making a difference, just being in this job: people who look like me aren’t always associated with management – but here I am. Being real about it, there is still a lot of work to do, but the business has a practical commitment to equal opportunities for everyone. I think we are very good at nurturing talent and removing obstacles to progress, but there’s also a sense of belonging which is very M&S.

JJ’s summary 

I knew I loved the energy of retail before I joined, but people arrive with no experience at all and M&S has nurtured that within myself and others. The pace is fast, the challenges keep coming and the development path is clear: everything that happens is helping to shape you as a manager. It is an amazing way to build a career and I do recommend it to friends, all the time.