How to have several careers with a single employer

THE days of a job for life may be gone – but it’s still possible to stay at one company and enjoy a successful career with a variety of different roles.

Thanks to its position as one of the UK’s biggest employers, as well as a tradition of developing internal talent, Tesco is one of a handful of companies where you can enjoy several careers in one place.

From marketing, software engineering and HGV driving to buying, product development and store roles, the supermarket offers a great diversity of opportunities to gain a wealth of business experience.

When Claire Pickthall joined Tesco 15 years ago, straight from completing a history degree, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. It was Tesco’s wealth of opportunity and shared values that inspired her.

She says: “When I went to the Tesco graduate induction day, I remember instantly feeling this was somewhere I could be at home. I didn’t really have a passion for retail; that’s grown since. It was about a great cultural fit – a place where I could be myself and grow and develop.”

Claire has certainly seen incredible career progression since joining the graduate programme and then managing her own Tesco Express store at just 23.

“That moment when you get the keys in your hand, you never forget it,” she says. “I was responsible for everything: from customers to managing 15 colleagues, it was all on my watch. It was a steep learning curve.”

Just one year later she was looking after 23 Express stores and more than 200 people as an area manager. Now, as group customer proposition director at Tesco, Claire, 35, is responsible for finding ways to add value for customers – anything from seasonal events to new ranges.

“I have to think about what’s right for the business and what will connect and resonate with customers,” she says. “It’s exciting. For every single good idea, we might have ten bad ones – but that’s OK, it’s all part of the process.

“I’ve managed stores, worked in distribution and now I’m in marketing. Even if you stay in store, you can work in different cities, with different communities and customers.

“You can do so many different roles in a store, let alone all the other opportunities at head office, whether that’s marketing, property or even product design.

“The great thing is that Tesco will have faith in you and give you a chance, give you responsibility and build the scaffolding around you so that you have the support you need to succeed.”

At one point she was running Tesco’s fresh and frozen food deliveries, moving goods from 13 depots up and down the country.

“That December I remember thinking, ‘If I don't get these turkeys out, I'm going to ruin millions of Christmases.’ I didn’t sleep much that week, but I loved it. It was a moment of realisation – if you want to maximise everything that Tesco can give you, you’ve got to be a bit brave.”

Claire met her husband Matthew at work, and he’s recently taken the company’s 12-month Lifestyle Break to be with their two young children.

“Matthew has worked at Tesco for 26 years. He’s a classic example of someone joining and moving through the business. Tesco is borderline obsessed with developing talent internally.

“There are so many stories of people who had a Saturday job and five years later, they’re a store manager. Tesco is brilliant, it’s a meritocracy.”

“I enjoyed interacting with people and the variety of the jobs,”

Berkshire area manager Freddie Sackey-Addo, 38, knew Tesco was perfect for him after joining while doing his A levels.

He started out with two days a week on the fruit and veg aisle and loved everything about the store, from helping customers to the camaraderie with his colleagues, so he decided to take a retail business management degree and opted to do his 12-week industrial placement with Tesco.

“I enjoyed interacting with people and the variety of the jobs,” Freddie says. “There was this sense that you can do whatever you want to do.”

During the placement, his enthusiasm and initiative shone and in 2006 he joined Tesco permanently.

Freddie had numerous leadership roles before taking up his current position as area manager, looking after 32 convenience stores from Tesco’s HQ in Welwyn Garden City.

“Moving into headquarters was like going into a new business. The roles are more strategic, with a big impact. In store, it’s more: I’m here, I need to react, to serve.

“At HQ, you pretty much have a blank piece of paper to come up with something to move the business forward, and whatever you implement is going to touch 3,000-plus shops, so you’d better make sure you get it right!

In store, you’re leading an army; it’s a very different skill set.”

‘You can build a successful career here’

THE feet of commercial director Kris Comerford have barely touched the ground since he joined Tesco 16 years ago.

Before running the commercial team for the supermarket’s former Thailand business, he had chalked up 30 countries as a buyer, sourcing exciting new foods from around the world.

It was a steep learning curve, but Kris loved it. He says: “You get given a lot of responsibility very quickly, but there are so many people across the business with experience and everyone is very happy to help you and share their expertise.”

Now back in the UK, Kris is a commercial director and his team works with Tesco suppliers on new product ranges, determining their price and how best to promote them.

“It’s exciting when the decisions I’ve made result in products on sale and I can see them in store and track how popular they are in the daily performance numbers.”

The job is varied and with changes happening every day, Kris says he still has plenty to learn despite his years with the company.

It’s all a far cry from scratching his head over the choice of banking or engineering after he’d graduated.

“I wanted to experience an industry with tangible products, so decided to give retail a go.

“There is a huge breadth of opportunity at Tesco from the different product areas, services and countries we operate in.

“The culture is built on having strong values and colleagues have big hearts and are very humble about their achievements and work. Tesco is a genuine meritocracy. The company gives a lot of thought to people development.

“The learning and development support that is available provides a great foundation for people to build a successful and varied career here.”

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