How did you get started in your role?
I graduated from UCC in 2020 with a degree in food marketing and entrepreneurship, and I became aware of the Aldi Graduate Area Manager Programme through Aldi’s presentation at a career fair in UCC. I was really impressed with the quality of the programme and the investment Aldi makes in programme participants. I also had an opportunity to speak with two experienced Aldi area managers at the event and right then, I knew this was the job for me.
Why did you choose to work with Aldi?
I was impressed with the programme’s detailed structure and how it included spending time at every level of the operational business, starting as a trainee store assistant. I also really liked the fact that I would shadow experienced area managers, which I felt would help form a true understanding of what Aldi’s teams do, which I knew would prove really valuable in my career.
Formal training in Logistics, HR and Buying is also provided. I felt I was up for the challenge and that Aldi’s Graduate Area Manager Programme would be the perfect way to kick-start my career.
What are you working on at present?
I’m currently based in Cork city, where I have responsibility for four stores in Ballincollig, Mayfield, Midleton and Passage West. My day-to-day tasks include reviewing the stores’ weekly performance against KPIs, preparing communication packs for stores weekly, scheduling interviews for new staff recruitment, and completing shop floor walks to ensure the store is clean and of a high standard, ensuring an excellent customer experience. There are also meetings with store managers, directors and other area managers.
Like so many others, I transitioned from full-time education to my career in the middle of a pandemic.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is definitely working with my amazing team. Like so many others, I transitioned from full-time education to my career in the middle of a pandemic. The team were great in helping me onboard and I was very lucky that the team of area managers made a huge effort to get to know me and the other graduates and made us all feel part of the team from the get-go.
In addition, no graduate employer pays as well from the outset as Aldi, and the starting salary for graduates is €65,000. There are also a broad range of benefits, including a fully expensed company car.
What is a defining career moment or high point? Is there a career moment you are really proud of?
For me, it was definitely when I was given my own area of responsibility in June 2021 following the programme. I was given responsibility for three stores, and it was fantastic to put my comprehensive training into practice. It was a little daunting at first, but the whole Aldi team was so supportive and helped me really learn the most I could.
The programme gives graduates a huge level of responsibility early in their career, which has proven immeasurably beneficial. Managing two to three stores is essentially responsibility for a multimillion-euro business. Aldi will train you to the point where you feel completely comfortable, which has done wonders for my professional experience and confidence.
Where do you see the retail industry five years from now?
Sustainability is certainly one of the biggest areas of focus for retailers, and Ireland, in the years to come. I’m lucky to work for an organisation that takes this so seriously, and Aldi has made great headway in this area in recent years. Some of our achievements to date include removing 2,150 tonnes of virgin plastic from our store network and donating the equivalent of over 2.3 million meals to our charity partner, FoodCloud. As well as this, Aldi holds the title of Ireland’s “Most Sustainable Supermarket”, according to the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2021, and recently won the title of Green Retailer at the 2022 Green Awards.
It’s really important to develop strong relationships across the teams, as we all thrive as one unit
What’s the best piece of professional advice you have received?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to never underestimate the importance of building concrete relationships with the people you work with. I work with Aldi store staff, area managers, store operations and head office. It’s really important to develop strong relationships across the teams, as we all thrive as one unit.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?
When I first began Aldi’s Graduate Area Manager Programme, it was my first full-time, “grown-up” job. There were a lot of times when I doubted myself due to inexperience but, looking back, I can appreciate how great the training was. It’s impossible to know everything from the outset, so my advice would be to trust in the process and not be so hard on myself.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of interviewing for this position?
As with every interview process, it pays to do the research! Luckily there is lots of information available on Aldi’s website about the position, from the interview process to a breakdown of what each week of the graduate programme will look like.
What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?
The responsibility of an Aldi area manager is wide ranging, so a variety of skills are required. Most importantly, adaptability and flexibility are essential as no two days are ever the same, and very frequently plans need to be adjusted to address the needs of the business as they arise. As I work day-in, day-out with people, communication skills are critical. From figuring out and overcoming hurdles to simply being able to work alongside others, people skills are essential to thrive.
What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?
I’ve learned not to be afraid to reach out to others for help. In this industry it’s all about working together. I’m so lucky that I find myself surrounded by fantastic peers in Aldi, who are always willing to lend a helping hand, and it works both ways.
When I was going through the application process, I sought out and met with several Aldi area managers to learn from their experiences and daily work
If you were applying for the area manager role today, how would you prepare?
I would recommend reaching out to people working in the role already as they can provide the best insights. When I was going through the application process, I sought out and met with several Aldi area managers to learn from their experiences and daily work. This really helped me understand if it was the right path for me.
Which industry professionals should people be following on Twitter/ LinkedIn?
Lorna Conn, the chief executive of CPL, gave an empowering keynote address at the UCD Women in Leadership event in March, an event that Aldi was a proud sponsor of, and so she would definitely be my recommendation to follow on LinkedIn. In addition, I would encourage everyone to follow Aldi across its social channels as it will give a great indication of what we do, moves we’re making in sustainability, and you’ll get to know the key personnel working with Aldi!
Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?
I’ve found The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande to be a really helpful read. It guides you on how to break down complex high-pressure tasks into small steps that can easily be achieved.
For more information on Aldi’s Graduate Area Manager Programme, take a look at Aldi’s dedicated website: https://www.ALDIrecruitment.ie/area-manager-programme/graduate-area-manager-programme