It was a real challenge for me leaving my 18 year career in the Royal Air Force. I enjoy working with, and leading, groups of people and my preference was to work in some kind of operations / project management role. But I had no idea about which sectors, company or specific role I would be interested in or suitable for.
I had just tentatively arranged some work experience independently when I read about the Military Work Placement Scheme. I immediately put my name down for it, and was lucky enough to go on a two week placement with logistics company Gist. This gave me the opportunity to learn about life in the logistics industry and about Gist in particular. But more than that, over the 2 weeks I was able to get to know the people. Right from the start the managers at Gist were completely open and honest and ever willing to answer my questions which really helped me to gain a balanced view of the work involved and how I might fit in.
Gist was inducting some people on short term contracts running up to Christmas and I attended the same induction. This was an excellent introduction into the company as a whole, and the site in particular. I then got to sit with the Deputy General Manager as he went through the previous week’s performance in detail. The fact that I was able to ask difficult questions to really get into the detail to understand the business was outstanding. Being taken into their confidence so quickly, having been on site for less than 90mins at that point, really gave me a positive view of the company and of its people.
I spent much of the time shadowing the Operations Managers, but I also wanted to understand the shop floor picking operation so they trained me to do that over half a day. Once I got the feel for this, I was keen to see a similar operation done differently, and so they arranged for me to visit another site where part of the picking operation is mechanised. Throughout the placement the company was really accommodating to my needs and interests.
On the last day of the placement, one of Gist’s senior HR managers came out to meet me with the General Manager. They arranged a formal interview for the following week with another General Manager and their Head of Talent. During the interview we discussed the brief I had written and a couple of days later Gist offered me a role as a Site Operations Manager.
I started work on 3 December, exactly 4 weeks after the start of my initial placement, and just in time to see operations ramp up to meet the Christmas peak. This was a great opportunity to see the company working at full speed.
From my point of view the placement was an excellent opportunity to see what the logistics industry, and Gist in particular, is all about. From the Company’s point of view, Gist were able to get to know me, both in terms of skills/experience and crucially, as a person, much better than they could have done through interview alone. Without specific logistics experience I think it unlikely that I would have been invited to interview had I applied for a role, at this level, in the normal way.
I’ve now been with Gist for 12 months and what a 12 months they have been. The business is very fast paced and I have had a steep learning curve to understand the detailed business processes whilst managing the routine operation and the various mini-peak periods through the year. Throughout, I’ve had the opportunity to make a real difference at my site; from detailed resource planning and performance management processes to developing the management team and leadership of a project Involving staff in improving the site that has been rolled out across the network as best practise. More recently, I have been seconded to another depot to help manage the growth phase of the customer’s very high profile export business. This has been another great opportunity to make a difference that has allowed me to get to know both our business, and our customer, better.
As we enter our peak period for 2013, now my second with the company, I can reflect with some pride on a successful transition from a military career to a civilian one. I learn something new everyday and my previous experience continues to stand me in good stead, supported by a willingness to learn, and of course, hard work.The Military Work Placement Scheme is run by Skills for Logistics with co-investment from the UKCES Employer Investment Fund. For more information about the scheme, please visit the Skills for Logistics Website.