I joined Co-op as an Area Manager in October 2020, leading a group of stores for 18 months, before recently moving into my new role of Category Buying Manager. What attracted me to the Co-op was the way their ethics and values aligned to my own.
Advancing diverse talent
Not long after joining Co-op, I secured a place on the first Advancing Diverse Talent programme. The programme is designed to support ambitious colleagues from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – removing barriers to our development and helping us to realise our potential.
The biggest thing I took away from the Advancing Diverse Talent programme was the power of forging meaningful relationships and playing to my strengths. It inspired me to design and deliver a similar programme for store colleagues in my region. It also helped me to make the connections which led to the next step in my Co-op career.
A squiggly career
At Co-op we promote squiggly careers. A squiggly career is one that doesn’t follow a traditional, linear route up the corporate ladder. Colleagues are encouraged to consider their learning and development needs, and leaders aim to provide opportunities for people to move cross-functionally.
I’d always wanted to get involved in the commercial function that underpins all retail businesses, and because Co-op recognised and valued my transferrable skills, I was able to achieve my goal in a short space of time. Transitioning to commercial has had its challenges, but I’ve really enjoyed broadening my knowledge and being involved in a wider range of work which has helped me to grow as a leader.
Being a role model
As a young, Black leader, I’ve worked incredibly hard to become a visible role model. I’ve worked on several initiatives at Co-op through our colleague network RISE, and through our partnership with the Black Young Professionals (BYP) network. I’ve had lots of opportunities to engage with colleagues across the business, most recently at our leaders’ conference. I’ve also chosen to share my story across Co-op store radio, and as a speaker at BYPs first event with Co-op. This has reinforced my own sense of belonging and allowed me to positively contribute and role model a culture of inclusion in the business.
One of the things I’m most proud of building and delivering is an ‘ethnic minority mentoring circle’ to develop talent at grassroot levels. Another is IGD Reverse Mentoring where I worked with senior leaders and shared my lived experience to help shape our diversity and inclusion initiatives.
I love working for Co-op because we have a clear purpose. I’m proud to work for a company that commits to racial equality. In the future, I want to help pave the way for Black talent and magnify our diverse leaders.
I feel I have a responsibility to give something back, and make sure people who look like me know that at Co-op, they’ll find a culture that helps them to achieve their career goals.