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Graduate story: Tienne on her surprise career in logistics

Industry views | 26 September 2019

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In 2017 Wincanton launched its graduate scheme, aimed at attracting more young people to logistics. Tienne Oates is currently in the second year of this programme at Wincanton; we caught up with her to talk about her role, her ambitions and what it’s like being a young person in logistics.

Can you talk me through your career to date?

At the moment, I’m a Logistics Coordinator working for Wincanton within one of its defence contracts. This is my second placement as part of the Wincanton graduate scheme, which I joined after graduating from Aston University.

I did a placement year at Intel as a business analyst while I was at university studying Logistics with Supply Chain Management. Although I loved the company and working there, the role wasn’t for me. I didn’t want my life to be within a laptop.

During my final year at University, I was at a Novus Trust event and got talking to some people from B&Q about graduate schemes and what I was going to do after studying. They told me about Wincanton. It was great timing as I actually just managed to get my application in on the day it closed for the year!

I knew that Wincanton was such a broad company, but until that initial conversation I didn’t really appreciate how it forms parts of other companies. That really made me want to apply.

When I got into the graduate scheme, I was given numerous different options for paths to follow through the business. I always knew I wanted to travel around the country, so when I saw a role with B&Q at their Head Office in Southampton, I thought ‘this is the one I want’. I applied and was lucky to get it.

I worked there as a Logistics Project Manager in their Home Delivery Network. Being based within their Head Office was great, I really enjoyed it. I used to joke that if you cut me open I’d bleed B&Q orange, not red… or Wincanton blue!

I worked on a broad range of projects and found that what I was doing was much more focused on B&Q rather than Wincanton, so I knew that my next role should be Wincanton-focused. I wanted to work on a Wincanton site, within a Wincanton network; I wanted to be blue again.

I can remember seeing a defence logistics presentation on the induction day at the start of the graduate programme and thought ‘I’d like to work in this area’, so I was really excited to start on one of Wincanton’s contracts in this area earlier this year as the next step of the programme.

I’m also part of the Chartered Institute of Logistics (CILT), which is an amazing organisation that everyone working in logistics should be a part of. I’m lucky to be a young person’s representative, which means I can voice my opinion and talk about issues that I know are relevant right now.

You talked about ‘bleeding orange’ and being from Wincanton, but part of another business, how did you find that way of working?

That was one thing I always found quite challenging. It was strange being a graduate fresh out of university, working for Wincanton but being part of a B&Q team, based on their site. I had to adapt to both Wincanton and B&Q’s values pretty quickly, which was a lot to take in in my first full-time job.

But it was definitely a challenge that has really helped me. I was able to speak to so many people, work with so many different colleagues and see so many opportunities. It was difficult, but it’s helped me already and I’m sure it’ll be really valuable in the long-term too.

How did you find being a young graduate working in a role with lots of responsibility for a new company?

I really enjoyed it! Because I managed projects rather than people, it meant that I got to work on lots of different challenges and really learn while working.

I worked with lots of different teams, from finance through to supply chain, data and retail, in an environment that it was fine to ask ‘silly questions’. Obviously I was new to what I was doing and unsure about certain things, but that was never seen as a problem. Everyone knew I was there to learn, and the open and transparent way things were set up really helped.

What attracted you to a career working in logistics?

It’s quite an interesting story. I couldn’t choose between geography and business as subjects for my degree. I initially got into my first-choice university to study geography with business, but on the day I found out that I’d got in I thought ‘I don’t really want to do this’.

I looked at courses through clearing and found the Logistics with Supply Chain Management course at Aston. I saw that there were aspects of business and geography involved, and even though I hadn’t really thought about logistics before, I was excited. I loved the course once I got started and knew this was a career I wanted.

It’s quite funny looking back because I don’t think many people think ‘I really want to go into logistics’.

What has surprised you most about working in logistics?

I think how broad it is as an industry. Even within just one business, like Wincanton, I can be working on projects that involve finance through to human resources. Logistics is lots of different things, not just a single process.

Every single company needs logistics, as without materials, goods and just about everything around their office, what they’re doing can’t happen. I didn’t quite realise the extent of this when I was in the classroom.

What motivates you each day in your job?

I think it’s just to do better and be better in everything I do, if that makes sense. I always want to grow and gain more confidence, which I think I have done so far. I learnt so much theory at university, so to be able to put it into practice and see the results always makes me want to do more.

You’re part of the Wincanton graduate scheme, how did you find out about this?

I found out about the scheme through the Novus Trust; I will always vouch for them. They’re brilliant in everything they do and I’m so happy that Wincanton has such a strong connection with them. After speaking to some employees from Wincanton and doing a little research I realised that there were so many opportunities within the business that I wanted to be a part of the Wincanton community!

A great thing about the graduate scheme is that you get the apprenticeship aspect on the side. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re organised and committed to it, plan your time and pay attention, it’s not as daunting as you may think alongside a full-time job.

You recently won the ‘Rising Star Award’ at the Talent in Logistics Awards 2019. How did this make you feel?

Because of the work I do outside of my role for the Novus Trust I was nominated for the award. I went along to the ceremony and really didn’t expect to win; I was just there for a nice evening out. But the next thing I knew my name was read out. I was like ‘oh my gosh, that’s me!’. It was quite surreal. Thankfully I didn’t have to give a speech!

What advice would you give to any young people thinking about a career in logistics?

I think just go for it. It’s a really interesting industry; it’s not just trucks on a motorway or big, dark warehouses. There are so many different areas within logistics and it’s a part of everything; from the clothes we order online, through to the food in our fridges.

Organisations like the Novus Trust and Think Logistics are helping to spread this, but I think it needs to be brought to the forefront by more companies like Wincanton. Young people are their future, after all.

We are currently recruiting. For details of roles available, please visit careers.wincanton.co.uk

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