Two and a Half Years on the Waitrose Leadership Scheme – My Reflections
My name is Godfrey Asare and I am currently one of the 9 final year Waitrose Leadership Graduates. I spent the first year of the scheme working in Waitrose Branches where we became Department (Deputy) Manager Trainees. Year two of the scheme I spent as an Analytics Project Manager working within our eCommerce (Online) department; and my current final year role is Biscuits Buyer for Waitrose working within our Grocery Buying team.
Having now been on the Waitrose Leadership Scheme for two and a half years now, I thought I would share my reflections on the scheme to date to give you all a bit of an insight into life on the scheme.
The great part about year one was really understanding the art of management and how to become a future leader in the John Lewis Partnership. Technical training stage (stage 1) was really about getting to know the operation and understanding the pressures that Partners (employees) face on a daily basis. Building great relationships within the branch and starting to get a feel for your own leadership style were the key outcomes for stage one.
Section Manager stage (stage two) was then about putting into practice what you had learned in stage one and also preparing you for life as a Department Manager (DM). SM stage is very tough, but it is also the stage where you will learn the most about yourself and your leadership style. Whilst admittedly, SM stage was not the most enjoyable for me, it was certainly the stage I can genuinely say was the most valuable. It was the stage I made the most mistakes, took more calculated risk and learned the most from.
As a DM you will have ownership of the branch along with the Branch Manager (BM), accountability for the branch profit and loss account, customer satisfaction and also the happiness of all Partners.
Year 2 of the scheme is head office based. The head office environment is quite different to working in a branch. We all went from managing 200 odd Partners (depending on size of branch) to not line managing at all. Leadership isn’t just about line management; leadership is also about being able to influence people at all levels and year two is very focused around developing a plethora of leadership skills outside of line management.
My year two in eCommerce was extremely challenging and it really did teach me to become resilient. Despite the challenges, eCommerce was extremely exciting and rewarding for me because it gave me an invaluable insight into what is the fastest growing channel in retail and I would highly recommend for any Partner to have experience of working in the digital arena. As the Analytics Project Manager I was responsible for managing the upgrade of various web analytics and data platforms to the eCommerce trading and marketing teams.
Heading into year three, you then have the option to start shaping where you see your future career with the Partnership. I chose Buying because I am absolutely passionate about product, customer and profit. Buying has been fantastic and it has really sharpened up my commercial acumen. Again, despite not line managing anybody in my current buying role, the focus is continuously about leadership. It is about influencing Partners all over the business, making decisions under pressure and developing strategic agility in what is a fast pace environment. As a Buyer, I am accountable for, market outperformance, sales and margin. I work really closely with my colleagues in Supply Chain, Food Technology, Brand Development, Commercial Operations, Marketing, Customer Insight and Retail in order to deliver a market leading customer proposition.
Throughout each stage of the scheme, you have a fantastic support network and you are in a really safe environment to make mistakes, learn and really fulfill your potential in the John Lewis Partnership.
Hopefully this has given you a bit more of an insight into life on the Waitrose Leadership Scheme.
Please let me know if you have any questions as I would be more than happy to support in anyway I can.
All the best for the next stage of the process.