Life is just a series of lessons shaping the road ahead…

By Heather Grisedale

“Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you’re usually right.” Henry Ford

Over recent years, this quote has become my personal mantra, whenever I put myself into something where I get that little devil on the shoulder saying, ‘I can’t’, I argue with it and say ‘I can’…

When I look back over the last 25 years, from when I was coming up to my final years in school, and through my early career, I never once thought this is what I’d end up doing for work. So, I thought I’d take you through my journey and what I’ve learnt…

At school I did ok, not massively academic but I knew which subjects I enjoyed and which teachers I liked leading classes. When it came to ‘deciding my career’ it felt so grown up and so scary, making what felt to be a life changing decision at that time, I mean… ‘what if I chose the wrong career for me’, ‘what if I hated my job til I was 60, all because I chose the wrong thing now?’ Most of my friends had clear ideas of what they wanted to be (or so they said!) I on the other hand didn’t have a clue!

Work Experience week and I was sent to a Vets as a ‘vets nurse’ for the week – I love animals so that was seen as a ‘good choice’ for me. I cried for most of the week as it was so sad seeing all the sick animals. So that ruled that job out. My GCSEs came & went – I did ok, nothing outstanding. I decided to go to 6th Form as all my friends were (although I wasn’t interested in going to University).

Life Lesson 1: I should have gone to college instead of following the crowd & picking the easier option of 6th Form with friends – hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Fast forward 18 months and nearing the end of my time at 6th Form, and I was successful in getting a part-time job at the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in Grange over Sands. My boss, Jean, was a very confident lady with strong values and beliefs about delivering great customer service. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was a fabulous teacher, and many of my beliefs and work ethics were shaped during the 4 years I ended up working for Jean.

Life Lesson 2: Be that brilliant ‘first boss’ for someone new into the world of work, you could shape and influence their whole career/life for the better.
I loved working at the TIC. Every day was different – so many different questions and things to do, it fascinated me! I loved the interactions with the customers and solving the problems they had, it gave me such a buzz. For the latter 4 years of my career in the TICs, I worked in Ulverston, Kendal, Windermere and Ambleside offices too. I very much felt like ‘Customer Service’ was my thing.
My next role was an 18-month fixed term contract at Cumbria Tourist Board – supporting with the rollout of their ‘Destination Management System’ with accommodation and visitor attraction providers across Cumbria. My first real taste of ‘winning hearts & minds’ and ‘influencing others to achieve a goal’ by delivering training and offering support to people coming onboard.
This then led to a role with James Walker, a global seals & packaging manufacturing company. My first taste of a different industry.

Life Lesson 3: I didn’t need to know what industry I was going to work in when I left education, people are people in every industry, and skills are very transferable!
It was during my 8 years at James Walker that I was introduced to the late Chris Daffy, (who turned out to be the most inspirational and influential man I’ve ever met), as I was looking for the missing piece of the jigsaw:

‘Why, when trying to improve customer service for the customer, were we not progressing as we expected to… What was I missing?’.

Chris gave me that – I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture; the whole customer experience; the end-to-end journey…which included employees and their experiences too…
Wow! Massive awakening!
Ten days (over 3 months) on one of Chris’s open programmes was life-changing for me, my thought processes and the way I was to think about work in the future. I got to understand myself more (Book: Marcus Buckingham: Now Discover your Strengths – very enlightening for me!) and I got to understand business more (Book: Simon Sinek: Start with Why – who knew a business needs a core purpose; a reason for doing what they do and the impact that can have on a workforce?)

Life Lesson 4: I actually enjoyed, (even began to love),  learning new stuff…!!   I’d never thought of myself as a learner before my time spent with Chris.
I’ve done lots of learning since.  I became a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) in 2015, I left James Walker in 2016 and have worked in various Customer and Employee experience roles since, (Jewson, M-Sport, Brenntag & Cumbria Waste), all the while trying to learn new things and develop myself. My CIPD Level 3 was the next big piece of learning for me in 2019. This was to get me a role more focused around Employee Experience and building a business from the inside.
The last big piece of learning for me was something totally out of my comfort zone and part of my back-up plan: I took my HGV class 2 licence in Oct 2020 and my HGV class 1 in May 2022 – being able to drive a 44T artic lorry gives me a real buzz and if I ever decide I want a career change, I have something to fall back on that excites me!!

Life Lesson 5: I’m glad I have the mantra mentioned at the start of this article!
My current role is as the Site Experience Lead at Pladis Carlisle, (the McVitie’s factory), so working in supply chain to help us improve the experience our people have within our workplace.
Finally, aside from the couple of books listed above, there are a couple of others that were instrumental in helping shape my thinking over the years that I often pick up and dip into, so have a look in my further book recommendations at the end of this newsletter.
There are so many great materials out there to read for personal development though, I have an ever-growing bookshelf at home!
Life is a journey.

“Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you’re usually right.” Henry Ford