I have always had an interest in IT and after completing an A level in IT I went on to study a Business and IT degree at the University of East Anglia from which I graduated in 2007 with a 2.1. My degree gave me great insight into IT including how to work with a number of different programming languages, as well as an overview of project management and business analysis. I began to realise that the problem solving aspects of IT were an area that really interested me and I was delighted to learn I had won a place on the Sainsbury’s IT Graduate programme.
The graduate scheme offered the opportunity to work in IT within a fast-paced, constantly evolving industry. Sainsbury’s is a huge organisation and this meant that they were able to offer the opportunities to work within several different areas of IT.
I have been at Sainsbury’s for nearly two years now and I am still thoroughly enjoying it. I started off my career by working for six months in one of our supermarkets really getting to know how the operation worked and learning to understand the IT systems that the colleagues use in store.
Since starting at the Store Support Centre at Holborn I have had two very different roles. Firstly I spent six months in our data warehouse team focusing on Business Intelligence and working on a project to install a new data warehouse. This was a real challenge, but thanks to the support of my colleagues the project was a real success.
After finishing the installation of the new data warehouse I am now working as Executive Assistant to Angela Morrison, the IT and Change Director. This is a great opportunity to learn how the IT division functions at a higher level and to gain a wide breadth of knowledge about the numerous IT projects that are already underway within the business. This role is due to end in September when I finish the graduate scheme. After this I will move into a role that allows me to work more closely with a specific IT project.
A typical week can mean anything from working on projects, attending leadership meetings, compiling presentations for the Operating Board or accompanying Angela on store visits. No week or even day is the same and that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
I have found the Executive Assistant role to be an excellent learning experience. I’ve had to quickly find my feet and settle in to ensure that I am working at the high level expected of me. This has meant a steep learning curve but one that I have looked upon as a challenge. Once I began to learn more about the role I looked to put processes in place to make everyday common tasks more effective. This has given me ownership of several areas and allowed me to develop close working relationships.
What aspects of your job do you enjoy most?
I enjoy the ever changing nature of my role and the wealth of opportunities it brings. No two days are the same and I’m constantly meeting different people – all of which adds to the buzz surrounding the job. My job also allows me to progress my career in a structured way and to take advantage of the many development opportunities provided by Sainsbury’s.
Tell us about the most stressful experience on the job
The fact that the role is ever-changing means that there can be pressure to complete projects on time. Often you can be reliant on others for information and this can make things more than a little stressful! I find taking a step back to look at the bigger picture can help with this.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since graduation?
Never turn down an opportunity and learn something from every task. Gain feedback wherever possible to ensure you continue to build your skill-set and improve every day.
Finally, develop a large network of colleagues; you never know when they will come in useful!
Katherine’s Graduate Journal
I will typically spend some time catching up on tasks from the previous week as well as having a meeting with Angela to let her know of any important events over the coming week. With many projects I will begin by looking at the initial communication in terms of what information needs to be collected. This will all be written up and handed across to Angela at the beginning of the week to ensure she is prepped for her meetings. We also review Angela’s diary to ensure everything is correctly set up for the week.
I attend the leadership team meeting, for which I control the agenda. I take the action points from this and ensure they are followed up. These leadership meetings really give a great insight into how a large corporate company operates and I have learnt a lot from working with such a senior team every week.
This day is often spent trying to catch up on tasks which have built up throughout the week. These tasks can range from producing reports, writing presentations for the Operating Board or writing up action points from a variety of meetings. All of these help further my knowledge of Sainsbury’s IT systems and allow me to meet a range of people from across the business.
The main meeting on Thursdays is of the IT Board – a forum where project teams pitch their ideas to the IT leadership team and other senior colleagues from across the business. I take the minutes during this meeting and it is a great opportunity to learn best practice from some really experienced colleagues.
I often spend Fridays visiting stores with Angela. At Sainsbury’s we are encouraged to use Friday as an opportunity to visit stores to see how IT projects benefit our shoppers. This is a great opportunity to learn from Store Managers and, most importantly, to speak to our shoppers.
All of this is just a snapshot of my role! Working with Angela means I am constantly kept on my toes due to the high-profile nature of her work. Often I have to work within strict timescales at short notice, which gives me even more opportunities to develop my skills.
I really do enjoy working at Sainsbury’s. It is a fantastic place to begin your career and provides me with constant challenges and opportunities. I wouldn’t swap my job for anything else!