James Alasdair (pictured fourth from right) graduated from the Nestlé Academy Fast Start programme (now the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship) a year ago, and since then has been managing a team in our Supply Chain function. We caught up with him to find out what he’s learnt, and to get his advice for our current and future Apprentices.
Tell us a little bit more about what your role has involved since you graduated?
I manage the Order Capture team in Customer Service. So that’s a team of seven people who process roughly 25% of the volume that comes into the business, and it’s all the volume that can’t be processed automatically so it’s manually entering the orders into the system. Accuracy is a massive part of the role, and it’s my job to ensure the team have everything they need to do that job to the best of their ability and as accurately as possible.
What did you learn from your Apprenticeship which has supported you over the last year?
I think the main thing is the fact that you move every six months on the programme, so you’re used to setting yourself up in a new job very quickly, because six months isn’t very much time to come into a role, build relationships and deliver results before you move. So learning how to get up to speed really quickly – that’s probably the first thing.
Also, our department is so operational it’s really easy to get your head down and just focus on what you’re doing, but if you’ve got that awareness of what’s going on in Sales and Marketing, and elsewhere, you can bring all that in. I think my team have really appreciated that they understand their link to the rest of the business a bit more, as that’s what I’ve been used to and brought in off the back of my Apprenticeship.
Looking back, what advice would you give somebody going through the programme now, or joining it next September?
Try and take the time to think about what you want to do longer term, and how you can find and get involved in opportunities that will help you out with this. If you talk to people who have done well in their careers, they’ll always say ‘I’ve been really lucky to have done this or done that’ but when you unpack it, that’s opportunities they have created for themselves by knowing where they want to go and going after it.
Is there anything that you’ve learnt over this year that you wished you’d known at the start of the year?
I think it’s something I already knew but it’s so hard to actually do. It’s such a cliché but to be yourself and find your own management style. When I started I wasn’t really sure how to play it in terms of my relationship with the team. You get so much different advice from different people – some people tell you to be everybody’s best friend, some people would say that’s not appropriate. You need to think about how you want to be thought of as a manager and how your team want to feel about you, and go from there.
The other thing is I was very wary of my age going into the role. I thought the team wouldn’t like being told what to do by a 22 year old, but actually it was more of a thing for me than it was for anybody else. If I’d known that going in, I could have started with a bit more confidence and consistency I suppose – I think I’m far more laid back as a manager now than I was then!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I think long term I’d like to keep doing a job where I manage people as I really like that side of the role, but maybe move to a different part of the function to start to broaden my awareness of the end-to-end Supply Chain. Looking ahead I think I’d like to be a Supply Chain Head for a Business, and to do that you really need to understand all the different bits that are going on. So probably start with that aim and then work backwards as to what I need to do to get there.
For you, what is the best thing about working for Nestlé?
You can really feel how much the company cares about its people, through so many things. The amount of investment there was in me and the support I had going into my first line manager role showed this. Nestlé genuinely wants you to be the best version of yourself you can be – you get a massive amount of time to focus on your own development and I really like that.