26 October, 2016

Getting to know... Toby

Everyone that works at M&S is an individual. That’s why we hired them. We spotted something in them that made us say yes to them. Behind every person in every role is a personality. Meet Toby.

1.    Tell us about your biggest ambition.
I’d particularly like to go to Las Vegas, but I suppose my biggest ambition’s to travel the world. I just want to see what’s out there. 

2.    Who was your favourite teacher at school and how did they inspire you?
My performing arts teacher was great. She always treated me as an adult and allowed me to use my initiative. The biggest thing I learnt from her was that it’s all right to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

3.    As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger I wanted to be an actor. For as long as I can remember I took part in school performances and I even joined a performing arts school. Although my career didn’t quite pan out that way I still take part in local productions.

4.    What do you see as your major strength?
Understanding. No matter what the situation, I’m always there to listen and help if I can. I don’t jump to conclusions before I hear the whole story and always make time for someone when they need me.

5.    What is your proudest moment – in work and outside of work?
In work, it was being chosen to help open a new store (Biggleswade) after only a year on the Programme. Outside, it was when I became an uncle and godfather to my niece, Lily.

6.    What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 
‘Fail fast, learn quick’. Four simple words which I try to remember every day. They came from my current store manager, Jo Herd and they highlight that it’s OK to make mistakes, because that’s how you learn.

7.    What are the most important things to you in life – aside from family and friends?
Never wanting to stand still and always wanting more. To push myself to be better and achieve more with my time including skills, experiences and career progression. 

8.    What would you be doing now if you weren’t on the School Leaver Programme?
My second career choice aside from acting would have meant going to university. I liked the idea of being a lawyer. But my career at M&S so far has been successful, so I’ll hold off on applying for my law degree.

9.    Which M&S value – Innovative, Inspiration, In Touch, Integrity – do you most identify with and why? 
In Touch. I think it’s really important to understand your team and customer. Being in touch is easy to accomplish when you listen to your team and customer. By being in touch I feel I get the most from my team and they know my expectations as well. 

10.    What motto do you live your life by?
Every day is a new day.

11.    You’re cast adrift on a desert island: choose one song to inspire you in your solitude; one personal possession to console you in it; and one M&S product that you simply couldn’t do without. 
You have to be optimistic in these situations, so the song would be ‘Things can only get better’ by D:Ream! As for the personal item – that would have to be a picture of my family. And the M&S product? Percy Pigs – what else! 

Inside M&S
25 October, 2016

More from Andrew

Andrew’s retail career began at 16. When he graduated with a degree in IT for Business from Southampton Solent University, he was keen to find a role that allowed him to make the most of his work experience and academic background. He found his ideal role a M&S

“I wanted to work for a retailer I could be proud to be part of. So M&S was the obvious choice. It’s a business that brings integrity to what it does; be that the work we do through Plan A or doing the right thing by customers. That’s what really had me sold.

“Landing the role was a really big deal to me. I was over the moon when I found out I’d got it. So I had a lot of emotions on my first day. But the main one was excitement. It was the end result of many years’ hard work and the beginning of a new chapter filled with possibilities. The experiences I’ve had on the graduate scheme have seen me grow in confidence as they’ve added so much to personal development and professional capabilities.

“I’ve had a good balance of structured and unstructured support towards my development. Training days have been a great help for preparing for future challenges and equip you with how best to deal with them. My mentor has been a great source of advice and feedback, identifying areas where I can improve. Networking is important too. In a big organisation like M&S, you need the help of others to get where you’re going and achieve your objectives.

“I am currently Operations and Finance Lead for M&S for business. It’s the brand’s Business to Business operation and still very new. So what I learned at university about process improvement and business continuity plans is definitely coming in handy. It’s been great to start at the deep end. One of my first challenges came when one of our suppliers went into administration. It was my job to set up a new operation that could fit with our existing processes and provide the same level of service and continuity to our customers.

“Looking back at where I was a year ago, my career has evolved dramatically. I’m now in charge of an operation which turns over £1.5m a week. I lead my own team, manage stock, stakeholders, deliveries and, most importantly, ensure our customers are happy. It’s hard work but there’s nothing sweeter at the end of the week than seeing how much this translates into profits for the business.

“My future is definitely here. Even in my current role there are so many opportunities to develop. So for the time being, I’m happy to learn the lessons that come with doing things on larger scale. It’s all about learning and this is a great place to learn.”

Has Andrew's story inspired you? View our graduate career opportunities here.

Inside M&S
25 October, 2016

Getting to know... Andrew

Everyone that works at M&S is an individual. That’s why we hired them. We spotted something in them that made us say yes to them. Behind every person in every role is a personality. Meet Andrew.

1.    Tell us about your biggest ambition

Top of my bucket list is to earn my light aircraft pilots’ license and to fly myself to my holiday destination. From a young age I wanted to fly a plane, even though I was scared of heights. The airport experience of waiting around and all that queueing has made me even more determined to achieve it.

2.    Who inspires you and why?

My wife and her unmatchable level of determination and passion for progress which she applies in both her professional and personal lives. This inspires me to achieve more in mine. 

3.    What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A commercial airline pilot. When I was young, I wanted to travel the world as my parents travelled the world on the QE2. I wanted to drive something big. 

4.    What do you see as your major strength?  

Determination. I might be decidedly average in some areas but having determination has enabled me to overcome my shortcomings and rise to some really tough challenges. It hasn’t been an easy journey at times to get this point in my career. I would not be where I am today without sheer determination.

5.    What is your proudest moment?

I’ve done a lot I can be proud of since starting work at 16. But my stand-out proudest moment was being accepted on to the M&S Graduate Programme. I’d been working towards this moment for the previous four years. So when the call came to tell me I’d been successful I was over the moon.

6.    What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given? 

Do the basics really well. I learnt this as a rugby-playing teenager. My team was terrible. We lost nearly all our games. But when we got a new coach, he took us back to basics. He taught us how to pass, catch, tackle and communicate with one another. In two seasons, we went from wooden-spoon losers to too-cool-for-skool winners. I apply this approach to what I do at work. When I begin a project, I start by identifying the core components. Getting these right creates the firm foundations on which to build.

7.    Tell us something unexpected about you. 

I think my colleagues were surprised when I told them I was a husband. (I got married to my wife, Emily, and hadn’t told anyone).

8.    What makes you tick?

The future. Thinking about what it holds and all the possibilities. Having a vision of what my future looks like and working hard to achieve my goals will drive me no matter what challenges I encounter.  

9.    Which M&S value – Innovative, Inspiration, In Touch, Integrity – do you most identify with and why?
Integrity. I always strive to do the right thing and never do anything to gain an advantage at someone else’s expense. How I achieve something matters to me as much as what I achieve. 

10.    What motto do you live your life by?

Keep it simple. Life is complicated enough. 

Inside M&S
25 October, 2016

More from Billy

Billy is a Trainee Commercial Manager in one of our Plymouth stores. For him, the School Leaver Programme is an opportunity to gain valuable experience and get paid for doing so. He’s not keen on early starts but isn’t afraid of hard work.

Starting my career and moving on with my life were more important to me than spending more time in education. Here, I have my own team, my own accountabilities and my own duties. My job is demanding but this means I have more opportunity to grow and I’m always striving for improvement. It’s enabled me to leave home at 18. I’ve matured, become a better person and given me a great deal of confidence.

I’d enjoyed my interview so much I really wanted to be successful. So it was amazing when I got the call. My first day is a bit of a blur now. I just remember lots of friendly people and learning so much I didn’t know. I had the best lunch. Ever. It was scary and exciting and bewildering. But I do remember thinking, I’ve never worked anywhere like this – and I think I’m going to love it.

You learn so much so quickly and you don’t even realise what you’ve learnt until you look back. A lot of it is driven by you; no-one will explain unless you ask and you won’t find out unless you do it.  You’ve got to want it. If you don’t want to develop yourself, you won’t. You have to ask how something happens. You have to take the initiative, and go and do it yourself. Then you have the experience to understand what it is you are telling others to do. You can’t give people lots of difficult tasks if you don’t understand the processes required to do them.

My advice to someone starting the scheme would be to spend as much time as you can at the beginning learning every simple process from the customer assistant’s perspective. From this you get a real vision of what their day involves and from that you can tell what works well and what doesn’t. It gives you the understanding you need to make intelligent decisions. This means you’re better able to help your team, improve the store and make more money. You need to build good relationships to work here, so people skills are vital. These are made up of lots of different qualities but being fair, motivational, and a good role model all add up to make a great manager.”

I am proud and passionate of where I work. I am proud of the job I have and I am proud of the team I lead. It’s challenging, it’s hard and it’s stressful at times. But I enjoy every day. I look forward to going to work. I always have something new to do and the business wants the best for you. So it will help you in every way it can.

I’ve learned so much I can’t begin to tell you. I’ve experienced all kinds of roles; worked every possible shift. I feel like I know M&S inside out. I’ve grown as a manger and as person. 

Can you see yourself joining Billy on our Level 4 Apprenticeship Scheme for School Leavers? Click here.

Inside M&S
25 October, 2016

Getting to know... Billy

Everyone that works at M&S is an individual. That’s why we hired them. We spotted something in them that made us say yes to them. Behind every person in every role is a personality. Meet Billy.

1.    Tell us about your biggest ambition

I used to want to be the best at what I enjoyed; I wanted to own the most successful business. I now just strive for improvement for myself. I want to be in a position where I am truly happy with what I have achieved and where I am.

2.    Who was your favourite teacher at school and how did they inspire you?

My favourite teacher was my PE teacher. I never enjoyed sport previously but after being pushed my teacher I got involved and learnt I really did enjoy it. I ended up training regularly and joining the rugby and football team. I continued with PE through to A level. This teacher became my tutor and taught me a lot and made me the person I am.  He motivated me to try new things, break comfort zones and improve myself for the better.

3.    As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be the new Richard Branson- a Dragon on Dragons Den. I always wanted to sell and I wanted to be the person who was known for always selling the best most innovative products. 

4.    What do you see as your major strength? 

Confidence with people/ People skills- I can take control and lead a team successfully and hang fire when leadership isn’t necessary. Being able to make people want to work for you is difficult but if you manage it you can achieve huge things. Understanding people and what they want so you can make their time as enjoyable as yours.

5.    What is your proudest moment – in work and outside of work?

I went to South Africa to work with a Charity called Dance Aid where I spent time with Children affected by Aids and HIV. Being able to cheer them up for at least one day and or make a difference to their lives was incredible. Helping someone at work develop themselves from when they were in a position where they struggled and got themselves into trouble and then managed to turn it around and ended up being one of the most useful members of the team.


6.    What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it and how have you put it to good use.

Treat others how you’d like to be treated. It has taught me to be respectful for others which have led to my teams having respect for me. I would never expect them to do something if I wouldn’t and sometimes getting stuck in and leading the way rather than directing it is the only way. 
Being able to demonstrate the attitude you aspect gains yourself respect.

7.    Tell us something unexpected about you. 

I used to be a professional dance where I would travel teaching and performing hip hop and break-dance in a group. We visited LA, South Africa the Philippines and many UK cities.

8.    What are the most important things to you in life – aside from family and friends (that goes without saying). 

Improving myself- being the best I can be. I like success and I like to see improvement. Being able to have a significant effect on my job and others at my job and my life in general pushes me to do my best. Having or being more than I started with gives me huge pride.

9.    What would you be doing now if you hadn’t made it into the School Leaver programme?

I would have got a job somewhere- saved some money- bought some stuff and tried to sell it on- I would have tried to find a day job but look for something that interests me and where I could see potential growth. 

10.    Which M&S value – Innovative, Inspiration, In Touch, Integrity – do you most identify with and why? 

Inspiration- I think I lead my teams as a role model as well as inspiring my colleagues- being challenging and involved pushes for a better outcome.
Being a figure that your team looks up to gives me pride and creates unity in a team.

11.    What motto do you live your life by?

Positivity. I am very positive and live my life off of it. Ive been told I am too laid back as I rarely get upset however I look for the lesson from a bad situation and look at how I can be a better person because of something like that.

Inside M&S


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