“Suma has given me the opportunity in life to work in the roles that I love, to be paid fairly, to be treated as an equal, and to grow as a person…”
Prior to that, I had worked in retail as a senior manager for a number of years but had reached a point where I could no longer progress my career. At that juncture, I spoke to a member of Suma about his experiences at work and its ‘different’ ways of working. I was enthused to become a part of this growing business. I have always held the mentality that I didn’t want to be a small fish in a big pond; I wanted the work I did to matter and make a difference.
With an open mind, I joined the Suma warehouse picking team. Due to my previous experience, I quickly got up to speed and eagerly sought to learn more. The warehouse coordinator was more than happy to support my growth and before long, I found myself loading trucks, receiving and checking deliveries, and training to operate our fork-lift and reach trucks, and even moving our wagons around the yard, backing them onto the docks for loading.
I performed these roles for a considerable time and was also involved in a research project to explore the viability of removing products from our mezzanine floor or introducing a lift or conveyor system to facilitate the movement of goods between floors. It was during this time that my Excel and IT skills were noticed, and I was soon asked to apply for a cover role as a National Accounts Managers while also supporting our Export team in their admin tasks.
I began these roles while still multitasking in the warehouse, and I further developed my skills. I attended external training on Customs and Exporting, while travelling around the UK to meet a number of our larger UK customers. The export sales at the time were seeing significant growth, and they were in need of additional Export Territory managers. I jumped at the chance of this new challenge and saw myself covering customers and prospects in the Middle East and Iceland, visiting Dubai, Germany, and France to attend trade shows.
After a few years in our Export team, I decided that I wanted a change of scenery within Suma, to pursue something that had always been a great interest of mine: Graphic Design. I had previously designed websites and some small Artworks as a hobby, but my background comes from a Business Management degree rather than anything involving creative arts. I demonstrated my ability alongside my willingness and desire to learn and improve my skills. Suma supported me in becoming a better graphic designer through self-guided courses, and training in-house through external providers.
I have been a happy member of the design team for around 5 years now, and continually develop my skills, learn new practices, improve my software skills, and have just completed a short training workshop in Videography, with an intermediate Photography course starting in the very near future, providing me with the skills to take professional photography around the co-operative for marketing and design use.
My happiness in my previous job was completely lacking and caused many sleepless nights, through increased stress and feeling like a very small cog in a large machine. Over the past 12 years at Suma, I’ve had the opportunity not only to learn and grow, but also to co-ordinate our commerce teams on two separate occasions, and twice represent the co-op as a member of the Management Committee, before it became its current entity of The Suma Board.
The one piece of advice I will always give new starters at Suma, who are heading into membership, is to pursue what makes them happy, while being able to add value as an individual to the co-op. I am now able to enjoy going to work, and have an excellent work/life balance. 12 years in, and I am still an active member of the warehouse, where I first started at the co-op, multi-skilling, driving heavy machinery and being much more than a little fish in a big pond. I enjoy the feeling a good day’s work gives, knowing that my contributions benefit our co-op and the members I enjoy working with every day. It makes me very happy to know that I have been a part of the growth of Suma co-operative, and I will never cease to keep adding to my skills, and offering my opinion and experience in ways that can keep our business moving forward and growing successfully. Suma has given me the opportunity in life to work in the roles that I love, to be paid fairly, to be treated as an equal, and to grow as a person. These are things that I do not think would happen in a business away from a co-operative movement, and are just a few of the reasons I would recommend anyone to look at how co-operatives can work, and the benefits of the co-operative movement.