Multitasking Aldi Area Manager tells us about her career journey; from juggling her university course, to taking responsibility of multiple Aldi stores. Millie Duck has enjoyed every minute and believes there is still more to come, as she continues to develop and progress with the UK’s leading discount supermarket.
What did you do before joining Aldi?
Starting out at University of Sheffield as an ambitious student, Millie Duck thought her future lay in marketing. However, her mind was swayed when her marketing course also highlighted other industries of interest.
Millie says: “I studied a masters in marketing which helped me realise that there were lots of different industries I hadn’t considered before. One of the sectors my course particularly focused on was retail, which sparked a genuine interest in how things worked from a store attraction point of view. I enjoyed looking into how different retailers marketed themselves, and their products, to bring in customers and then offer them the best in store experience possible. I saw that Aldi was doing some amazing things when it came to this, it was also expanding rapidly, and I thought I could learn a lot and make a real difference by getting involved.”
Millie was so inspired by Aldi, she applied to the Graduate Area Manager Programme and started her new role while still completing her masters. She comments: “The Aldi Graduate Programme was such a fantastic opportunity, so I was keen to hit the ground running while everything I’d learnt at university was still fresh in my mind. I therefore joined Aldi with three months left of my master’s degree, which meant juggling writing my final dissertation with training and busy days on the job. This helped me to be extremely focused and ensure I managed my time effectively.”
Millie chose to join Aldi over the other graduate programmes she applied for because of the real responsibility given from day one. She says: “With each application I gained more and more experience which helped me to perfect my answers and prepare for interviews. I used the recruitment website to find out more about the role, the training involved and the amazing benefits.
“My research also helped me realise that, while I thought I wanted a career in marketing initially, I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk all day. I was more interested in being on the ground, in different environments and learning about the whole business picture, not just the marketing strategy.
“As an Area Manager at Aldi I’m now in charge of four stores so I am constantly on the go, seeing different places and interacting with different people, which I love. I also realised that there is still a marketing role within retail management – organising specific points of sale or special buy items to be attractive to customers, for example, or managing store branding and seasonal collateral. Even working with Head Office departments to put together the correct strategy for advertising a job vacancy involves marketing and strategic thinking; sometimes we’ll use a carpark banner to raise awareness of a vacancy and other times we’ll use the power of social media to attract candidates. This really appealed to me and made me realise that there is so much more to working in retail than I had first thought.”
What did you think once you started?
Having worked in pubs throughout university, Millie was used to working long hours and being on her feet, and she thinks that this stood her in good stead for the yearlong training involved in the Graduate Area Manager Programme. She adds: “The first few months were busy but very interesting and absolutely essential. As a new Area Manager I spent time on the shop floor, learning about all the store roles in order to fully understand what goes into running one Aldi store, let alone four.
“I think this stage of the training is so important as you really get to know your team and show them that you’re all in it together, all willing to roll up your sleeves to get the job done, supporting each other to do so. My favourite time in store was when I was trusted to manage it myself. I was so excited to showcase my new skills and prove to myself, and my team, that I could do it. It solidified all the training I’d been through and made me feel ready for the next step.
“The second part of my training was spent shadowing an Area Manager as they managed their stores. That year of training was challenging, but I learnt so much and think it is crucial for getting new colleagues up to speed quickly and arming them with everything that they need to succeed as an Area Manager.”
What do you love most about your job?
Aldi’s people is its focus; Millie recognised the importance of this early on and has a reputation for always putting her team first.
She says: “I really value my team, so I don’t mind at all if a whole day of plans is thrown out of the window for a last minute development meeting, or if a colleague wants to discuss an incident – I want them to know that they are my priority.
“I enjoy seeing different faces every day and relish having a big team to work with and manage. I particularly like seeing people I’ve supported and pushed to succeed reach that promotion and move through the business, that’s definitely my favourite part of the job.
“As well as learning to manage a team, I’ve had to develop my people skills to work closely with my fellow Area Managers and make a good impression when reporting store results to my superiors. We are an extremely close-knit collection of stores and I speak to the other Area Managers based nearby practically every day. The likelihood is that one of them may have previously experienced a challenge that I’m facing, or I may be able to offer my expertise to support them.
“I also think it’s fantastic that anything is possible at Aldi and there are so many opportunities to try something new, develop new skills, or gain experience in a different field if you wish.”
Millie was fortunate enough to take a secondment and spent some time within the National Buying department, based at the Head Office in Atherstone. After 18 months she returned to her Area Manager position with further knowledge of the business and a broadened skillset which she utilised to run her stores effectively.
She concludes: “This experience was invaluable. I always like to try something new and add another ‘string to my bow’ in terms of building my skillset, but this gave me a more advanced understanding of the business as well. I was able to bring suggestions to the table from my experience in stores receiving customer feedback, and also learnt new strategies that I could take back to the stores with me.
“It was also very insightful to be based in the Head Office for a time and have access to different people and departments. It demonstrated how everyone at Aldi is part of a big, exciting and ever changing machine, and that we must all work well together to make it a success.”