This article is sponsored by Aldi as part of the ‘10 Minutes With…’ series.
How did you get started in the Graduate Area Manager Programme?
I first became aware of the programme through my business studies teacher in secondary school. She would often speak to us about the career options that were available to us. I remember being really interested in it, so after graduating from UCC with a degree in commerce and French, I applied. I was really impressed with the depth of training on offer through the programme and the time Aldi invests in the programme. I knew right away that this job was meant for me.
Why did you choose to work with Aldi?
I was attracted by the fact that you could enter the business at an executive level and yet have the autonomy to make your own decisions from early on. I’m also from a food background – my family have a small organic farm in Waterford that produces apple juice and apple cider, so getting to work for a large food retailer was the perfect opportunity for me.
What are you working on at present?
I’m currently responsible for three stores in Waterford city, Dungarvan and Youghal. My day-to-day tasks include overseeing the operations of the stores, monitoring each store’s performance, and engaging with the management teams regarding any issues that may arise. As a personnel leader, I’m also responsible for the recruitment of personnel within the stores in my area and their ongoing development.
It’s a challenging time for everyone at the moment, so it’s important that I am there to provide support to my store teams. As a personnel leader, it is my responsibility to listen to the concerns of store colleagues and address them in a timely manner. It is really important that all store colleagues get the support they need to continue in their efforts on improving the shopping experience for all Aldi shoppers.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part is the support network I have built with my colleagues. The Aldi Area Manager team is hugely supportive of each other – we meet up regularly, discuss any challenges that we’re facing and share solutions. It’s a great pool of experience to draw from. Everybody genuinely wants to help each other out. I also love the autonomy that comes with the role, as well as the variety in my workload. No two days are the same; there is so much diversity and other projects to work on once the daily tasks are completed.
Also, no graduate employer offers a comparable benefits and rewards package from the outset as Aldi. The starting salary for graduates is €65,000, and this comes with a broad range of benefits, including a fully expensed company car.
What is a defining career moment or high point? Is there a career moment you are really proud of?
For me, it was taking on my own area of responsibility after the programme had finished. It was fantastic to put my comprehensive training into practice and show how much the training had prepared me to excel. It was exciting to be given my own area, to have the opportunity to makes changes in order to improve efficiency and build relationships with store colleagues, fostering a supportive environment that benefits everyone.
The quality of training I received from Aldi made me feel totally comfortable and confident in my role and has been of great help to my professional development.
Where do you see the retail industry five years from now?
Sustainability is one of the most important areas of focus for retailers, and Ireland as a whole. I’m proud to work for a company that takes this so seriously. Aldi has been making great gains in this area in recent years. Some of our achievements include the removal of 2,150 tonnes of virgin plastic from our store network and donating the equivalent of over 2.35 million meals to our charity partner FoodCloud. Additionally, Aldi was named as Ireland’s “Most Sustainable Supermarket” in the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2021 and won the Green Retailer Award at the Green Awards 2022.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
One has been to back yourself and your own decision-making abilities but to always ask for advice when you need it. When applying for any role, you may think that there are so many people with more experience than you, but you can’t think like that. In this role it is important to remember that you are here for a reason, and to try not to second guess yourself. It’s also important to realise that others in the same role may have their own ways of doing things, and that sometimes it’s good to reflect on this and what works well for others.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?
When I started the Aldi Graduate Area Manager Programme I found that I didn’t avail of my colleagues support enough. In hindsight, I can appreciate how supportive a network that Aldi has provided me with. The relationships I have been able to build as a result of the programme are invaluable, and I am so grateful that I have always had so many experienced colleagues that I can rely on for support or to get ideas from.
What advice would you give someone who is thinking about interviewing for this position?
As with any new role, it is important to do your research. Aldi provides plenty of information on our recruitment website on what the role entails, from the interview process to a running order of what the programme will look like week to week. As the job requires you to be on the shop floor at all times, it also helps to visit your local store and speak with staff to get a feel for how the business operates.
What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?
Aldi Area Managers have a wide range of responsibilities, so a variety of skills are required. It is important to be flexible and adaptable as no two days are ever the same. You must be ready to change plans to support the needs of the business. It’s important to have problem-solving skills, too. Communication skills are also essential, as I work with people all the time and, as a personnel manager, it is also very important to be empathetic.
What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?
I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask for help or advice when I need it. Working as a team is so important in this industry and I’m lucky to have such a great support network at Aldi to learn from and rely on and vice-versa.
If you were applying for the Area Manager role today, how would you prepare?
I would reach out to people already working in the role and ask questions to get the best insight possible. I would also visit stores to see the workings of the company and speak to staff to learn from their daily work. There’s also some very helpful information available on www.aldirecruitment.ie
Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?
I’ve found the How to Fail podcast by Elizabeth Day to be a very insightful listen. The podcast centres on the topic of “failure” and how to overcome it, with advice from guests who are considered extremely successful in their profession. I think accepting that we will sometimes fail and learning how to grow from it is a vital part in anyone’s career. The podcast offers helpful insights from guests from different backgrounds, experiences and learnings.