Getting to know... Ben
1. Tell us about your biggest ambition.
Top of my ‘bucket’ list would be travelling to America. I’d have nothing but a backpack, some clothes and money. Once there, I’d buy a vintage split screen campervan and travel the length of route 66. The idea of experiencing all the different cultures, scenery, music, people and foods along the way – and creating some new memories – really appeals to me. I’d then have the campervan shipped back home to do the same round the coast of the UK.
2. Who was your favourite teacher at school and how did they inspire you?
Mrs Knights, my primary school teacher, was hugely inspiring. I can’t say I was particularly gifted when it came to drawing or painting, but she would always pick out the good things in my work. This always made me feel inspired around a subject I never particular liked. It also taught me to focus on the positives in a situation and play to my strengths.
3. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up, I’d always wanted to be a vet. I loved being around animals and used to spend a lot of time at my auntie’s farm which would normally result in getting caked head to toe in mud and getting chased around by turkeys. Astronaut, Superhero and Sports Physio also featured on the list. Then I got my first taste of retail aged 17 and enjoyed the pace, supporting customers and the fact no two days were the same. So, whilst I never got to land on the moon in a superhero costume while operating on a giraffe, I’m loving where my career has taken me so far.
4. What do you see as your major strength?
Being driven to improve and succeed. Since discovering my passion for retail, I’ve completed two work-based NVQs: Level 2 in Customer Service and a Level 3 in Management and Team Leadership. I’ve worked for several different retailers to experience different levels of management. Now I’m on the School Leaver Programme at M&S.
5. What is your proudest moment – in work and outside of work?
In work, it would be making it onto the scheme; as well as planning and launching big events for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Outside of work, it was making it onto the Suffolk County badminton team and winning the UK Men’s Doubles competition. This is something I spent years training for, so I’m extremely proud of the achievement.
6. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Any feedback is good feedback’. I don’t know where the advice came from but it’s been a mantra for me for as long as I can remember. If feedback is positive, it keeps you motivated. If it’s constructive, it tells you were you need to improve. If it’s negative, you take it on the chin; it helps you to grow and become a stronger person.
7. Tell us something unexpected about you.
I can wiggle my ears and I have hyperextended knees (they flex backwards further than normal).
Pointless skills on paper; but can be great conversation starters to break the ice.
8. What are the most important things to you in life – aside from family and friends?
My first car: a classic 1972 VW beetle. It’s currently hibernating in the garage. But it’s taken me to many different places and been part of lots of memories, so it has huge sentimental value. Aside from this, my snowboard collection is something I cherish. I snowboard weekly and love the rush of adrenaline from hurling myself down a slope on a slither of wood at 50 mph. Adrenaline is what makes me tick.
9. What would you be doing now if you hadn’t made it onto the School Leaver Programme?
My plan B would have been to continue to progress in retail. I had looked into doing my Level 4 NVQ in Management just prior to getting onto the scheme. But that wouldn’t have provided the same opportunities to progress as M&S.
10. Which M&S value – Innovative, Inspiration, In Touch, Integrity – do you most identify with and why?
In Touch is the value that I connect with most. I’m very personable and people orientated; I really enjoy putting customers first. I love the sense of satisfaction I get from resolving a customer dilemma or working with my team to achieve a common goal.
11. What motto do you live your life by?
I have a few:
‘Do the best you can do in whatever you’re trying to do and never give up. Success is not by chance it’s by choice’.
‘When you love what you do, you’ll never ‘work’ another day in your life’.
‘Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.’ Those are the wide words of Master Yoda from Star Wars.
12. 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.
This is a tricky one. For the song, I’d bend the rules slightly and take my saxophone with me to play several different songs to inspire me. The personal possession I’d take would be lots of paper with a pen, envelopes and stamps discretely hidden inside and hope that a letterbox and postman had also been washed ashore. Then, I could write home to loved ones. My M&S item would be a bag of potatoes. I could cultivate them and grow sand potatoes, so I could adapt and live a happy life eating spuds on what, hopefully, would be a very scenic postcard-worthy island.