8 March, 2018

SEEING THE TALENT, NOT THE GENDER

At M&S, we have always been a fervent supporter of International Women’s Day, which this year is issuing a global call to #PressforProgress towards gender parity. That’s something we’re passionate about, and we’re proud of our record of supporting women on their career journeys and the way we promote on ability alone. Alice is a case in point.

Interested in retail since she worked in her local post office while at school, Alice originally embarked on a retail consultancy career. That is, until she took on an assignment with us – and decided to ‘go native’. “In my six years at M&S, I’ve enjoyed a very exciting and varied range of roles,” she says.

Always interested in ‘the next big thing’, she joined our start-up New Channels team. “The team was doing such exciting things in the tech space. Like developing our first mobile phone app, designing the touchscreen order points for stores, trying out new technology such as AR and VR. I wanted to be part of this hugely promising frontier of retail.”

But after 18 months Alice had a hankering to work abroad and was seconded to Mumbai to work with Reliance, our joint venture partner in India. There, she launched a new store concept called ‘Lingerie & Beauty’, took our brand to a major online fashion marketplace – “and did a lot of travelling, exploring and eating amazing food,” she adds!

On returning to the UK, Alice headed up the Operations Development team within M&S.com, which focuses on cost reduction, strategic planning, project governance and financial control. After taking a year out to have (and get to know) her first child, Edith, she took on the new cross-functional role of Head of Customer Experience. Alice provokes conversations about how we can put the customer even more at the heart of our business, and looks at how we can become more digitally minded and work in an agile way to deliver step-changes for customers.

“My new role has given me a chance to work at a strategic level – writing board papers, examining our operating model and reviewing business-wide governance structures,” she says. “I’ve also had the chance to deliver a customer experience pilot project called ‘Fit & Style Studio’. This was designed and delivered in a very agile way. It’s given us useful insight into future opportunities for our business around styling services, in-store technology, and online and offline customer journeys.”

Alice has her own way of balancing the competing priorities of looking after her family and having a successful career. “I know my limits. I work a four-day week and rarely do any events in the evening. I pay my cleaner more than the minimum wage and she helps me out twice a week. My daughter is in a super nursery school, and my husband and I share the drop-offs and pick-ups evenly.”

So, Head of Customer Experience and a mother. Does Alice have time for anything else? “I’ve always enjoyed long distance running, open water swimming and travelling. Fine wine and black coffee have always been passions, but not any more… not when I have another little one on the way!”

Inside M&S