Role: Finance and Operations Manager
Company: Marks and Spencer
Track Record: Worked with M&S while an under-graduate before entering the firm full-time and working in stores throughout Northern Ireland.
What does your job entail?
My job is extremely varied and no two days are the same, which makes it very exciting and different. The role includes everything from budget and cost management to organising staff.
I regularly review and analyse sales figures to identify opportunities to deliver our sales targets. Through the use of business weekly and monthly statistics, I work in partnership with the commercial team to drive performance, support local opportunities and maximise sales within the store.
I deal with the day-to-day running of the store from logistics, to cleaning operations, as well as the trading safety and legal aspect of running the store. I also provide a clear financial direction to the store through analysing key financial performance reports, identifying risks and managing action to resolve.
A big part of my job is my role as the store’s Plan A Champion, ensuring that the store team meets our Plan A commitments including energy and waste reduction, recycling and improving our employees health.
Our newest Plan A campaign, launched by Joanna Lumley, is called Shwopping and is a whole new initiative that will revolutionise clothes shopping and help consumers to live more sustainable lifestyles.
M&S believes unwanted clothes should have a future: they should be put to good use, not just thrown out and we are asking our customers to Shwop – give an unwanted piece of clothing every time they buy a new one.
All our clothing stores will now accept unwanted clothing of any brand, all year round. It’s a new, free service for customers aimed at creating a new ‘buy one, give one’ culture on the high street.
Through Oxfam, the clothes will be resold, reused or recycled and the money raised will go to help people living in poverty. This is a really bold campaign and it’s great to be a part of it as Belfast’s Plan A Champion.
Is it 9-5?
No, as with any retail environment I am required to work weekends and late nights. My work can often include through the night operations depending on what is required in the store or by head office.
How did you get into this line of work?
I started with Marks & Spencer as a temporary Christmas worker and discovered that I loved working in a retail environment. Since then, I have had various roles in a number of different M&S stores across Northern Ireland.
Outline your career to date?
I have worked in numerous roles including running a department and also supporting colleagues in a coaching role, before moving to our Abbeycentre store to support the new M&S store opening.
I became a section manager whilst I was still at university and when I finished my degree, I joined the graduate management programme in the Bangor store and completed a year’s training before being appointed as a commercial manager in the Newtownbreda store.
I worked in both the food and general merchandise sections and then moved to Coleraine as a store manager. I spent two years at our Coleraine store and I am now in my current role as finance and operations manager in the Belfast store.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
I have a degree in engineering management from the University of Ulster. Within Marks & Spencer there is a varied amount of training courses that you can take part in which really help you develop both as a leader and as a person.
What qualities are required for your job – personal and professional?
There are such a wide range of qualities needed when working in retail because you work in such a wide range of situations and events. You require excellent communication skills and you must be able to work under pressure and be a good team player. You need enthusiasm, energy, drive and determination to succeed.
I would say that one of the biggest qualities required in retail is being able to work with people as they are key in every aspect of the store function from contractors, staff, customers and management.
What is the best advice you ever received?
This one is a bit of fun… but always arrive to work before your boss! Try to leave your desk tidy when leaving the office as it means you can start afresh in the morning – it’s very basic advice but very true.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to spend time with family and friends relaxing, taking the dog for a long walk on the beach near my house. My great passions, when I get the time, are cycling, making and drinking coffee.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I don’t know if it is interesting but I have a real obsession with having things look symmetrical and straight, I think this has just been developed in my time with Marks & Spencer.
Who has inspired you most in your life?
I would say my parents, especially my dad. He always gives good advice and can help you out when needed. I think he has done extremely well through tough times in his career but has always worked hard to make whatever he does a success.