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Your career: A eureka moment

albert einstein_cartoon_11_05_12For Sylvia Jones, joining Morrisons has meant a varied career that has seen her go from strength to strength.

Sylvia Jones, 56, has always had a strong work ethic, and a determination to tap into all of her strengths, but her career path has taken many twists and turns before bringing her to where she is today, at senior management level in Morrisons.

‘I started my working life 39 years ago, slicing and serving bacon on a deli counter,’ she explains. But through sheer graft and a positive mind-set, Sylvia gradually built up her career, developing new talents along the way.

On thinking back to her 1983 beginnings at Morrisons, Sylvia reflects, ‘I am a loyal person by nature, and knew that I would be working with Morrisons for a long time. I felt it was the right place for me and that I would be supported and my work valued – which it has been throughout.’

wm sylvia_jones_11_05_12A foot in the door

Sylvia first joined the company as an admin manager, a role that was new to Morrisons at the time. Through her serious hard work and planning she established the shape of this new title, setting high standards for all the future admin managers who later followed in her footsteps, and the job title developed into something both respected and valued, thanks to her input.

Going the extra mile

Sylvia was quickly recognised as a strong member of staff, and was now making her mark in the company after demonstrating that she had the skills required to lead a project well. When she was offered the daunting task of implementing the very first Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) conversions across 52 stores, it was a trail blazing venture, but she seized the challenge with both hands, and 18 months later, the task was complete.

This was down to some long days on her part. ‘I remember at the time I was driving from store to store in my old Ford Escort, making sure that the operations were running smoothly. You could say I was quite literally going the extra mile to make it happen!

‘I can’t take all the credit though,’ she protests. ‘After that initiation, I built a fantastic and reliable team who helped to maintain the project.’

Years later, and, Sylvia still manages a large team of people, who she affectionately refers to as ‘her family’. She explains: ‘I grow and nurture every member of my team, the majority of whom later go on to be great, and some members go on to be even bigger than that.’

A recent member of her team, who Sylvia had trained since he was a graduate, has just progressed to a senior management level, and Sylvia speaks of this with great pride as she recognises her own involvement in his successful career progression.

Sylvia is also supported by another family; at home she has enjoyed the backing of a caring husband for most of her working life, and this is something she is very grateful for.

Personal Growth

On the surface, Sylvia looks like a confident, successful woman who has achieved greatness in her career, but it has been a tough personal journey for her to reach this point.

‘When I joined Morrisons in the 80s, similar to most places at the time, senior management was predominantly male,’ she explains. ‘So in spite of delivering large scale operations, I initially felt that as the “token female” I should also take on the task of organising the tea and taking the minutes in meetings.’ A task that she soon realised was not actually part of the job description.

Much has changed at Morrisons since then and two years ago, Sylvia was approached by a new member of senior management, Toni Eastwood, who asked her to evaluate her own contribution within the organisation. ‘This was my turning point, the eureka moment I needed. I realised I deserved to be comfortable in my own skin as a woman, and as a valued employee.’

Sylvia was then asked by Toni to speak publically at a meeting chaired by top recruitment director, Norman Pickavance. She was naturally a bit apprehensive at first, but in true Sylvia fashion, decided to make the most of it. Her explanation of the three S’s associated with men – namely smoking, swearing and scratching – all actions she had previously believed she should emulate, inevitably brought the house down.

All the way to the top

Sylvia has now broken through her self-doubt thanks to her own tenacity and the subsequent mentoring support she received from Morrisons.

This has allowed her to feel like she has achieved complete recognition as a senior employee, and is more confident than ever.

Today, Sylvia has had a career with Morrisons for 28 years, and has now worked her way up to the title of retail programme director. She is responsible for the delivery of new business initiatives; large projects such as the major five-year systems replacement programme, Evolve, that is currently running – where she is the retail representation; along with validation of all process procedures that go into store operations.

Sylvia is also the ‘go-to’ person in Morrisons for anything which impacts the store teams. This includes new concepts, online services as well as customer relationship management.

Words of advice

When asked how she feels about her long career with Morrisons, Sylvia replies: ‘I definitely feel like it was the right journey for me, and I have loved every minute of it.’

And her advice to younger women entering into a career? ‘You need to be determined, work hard, show you have a ‘can do’ attitude, don’t let the challenges that life throws at you deter you from your goal and most importantly – be yourself.’ Wise words from a woman who has earned a long and successful career doing just that.


This article was first published in at home with Lorraine Kelly in April 2012. [Read the digital edition here]


Photograph: Shutterstock 

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