At university, Emma was president of the German society, and volunteered at a local theatre. Emma loves travelling and has lived in both Munich and Berlin. Emma loves theatre, spinning, swimming and food, which helps in her current role as a food buyer.
Why did you choose Lidl?
I knew from being a German speaker that Lidl was a very reputable employer, with great benefits, and one of the top employers in many lists. I was also keen to work somewhere I wouldn't lose my language skills. I liked that it would be challenging but it's also a role that brings a lot of responsibility – I could really get my teeth into the role.
What does your role involve?
Now that I have category responsibility I'm in charge of all frozen pizza, fresh pizza, pasta, pasta sauces and all pastry products like Cornish pasties, sausage rolls and pies at Lidl. As the buyer of those categories I manage the supplier relationships, supply issues, and decide the range that we might want for the year. And because we work in convenience, we do range reviews more often, so we can make sure we've got a good assortment for summer or winter. We create briefs that we send out to our suppliers, saying 'this is the kind of food that we want to have in our store for the next year’, and they will send in samples. We'll do sampling rounds, to make sure we get the product exactly as we want it e.g. with the right ingredients, the right flavours and the right textures. Once we've agreed all of that, we'll go into negotiation to make sure that we're able to get the best price.
What did you wish you'd known before you started at Lidl?
It is hard. You have to have a real desire to get stuck in. There will be long days, you're always juggling ten plates and you need to keep them spinning at all times. It's a difficult job, but it's so high energy – there's never a dull moment.
How was your first few weeks with Lidl?
I was very nervous, but they put on a great deal of training in that first week. I got to see nearly every department - supply chain, artwork, quality assurance, procurement, marketing – and all the graduates on the buying scheme had a chance to get to know one another whilst getting a full overview of the business. That really helped me to feel settled in and contextualised the work that came later.
I spent around 6 weeks in admin, learning all the processes that go on behind buying. Then I was in store for two weeks, working as a store assistant, then I worked in a warehouse in Livingston for two weeks, and then came back to work in Head Office. In July 2017, I spent two months on secondment with a buyer at Lidl International HQ in Neckarsulm, Germany, to learn about the relationship between Lidl in individual countries and Lidl International. Then I came back to Head Office and started buying work on my categories.
What has been your highlight of working for Lidl so far?
Probably my time in Germany, because I was working right alongside the buyer, in his office, and there we did negotiations, tastings, all the meetings with new clients. It was a great chance to understand Lidl in a wider context. I now feel much more part of a truly international organisation, and able to work collaboratively with colleagues across the business.
Have there been any surprises during your time at Lidl?
There's massive variety across the placement, with so many different business areas to master. With lots of really passionate people, especially in buying – it's amazing how much we really do care about what we do, because we're so involved in every stage. I feel competent, confident and ready for anything life throws at me.
How do you see your next steps in terms of your career?
I definitely want to stay and progress from Junior Buyer to Buyer, then Senior Buyer, maybe a Head of Department one day. Because Lidl's always growing there are always opportunities to step up and take on new roles, new product groups – even within buying there's always something changing and moving.
What advice would you give future applicants?
Prepare very thoroughly for the application process. Make sure you know everything about the business and about the role that you're applying for. Come in with a very open mind, be ready to work hard, be adaptable, be collaborative and you'll make it.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome at Lidl?
For me, my biggest challenge was absorbing all the new knowledge and making the best of what I already knew in that new context. Also, within buying you have to be fairly tough to negotiate, certainly more assertive than you probably are in normal life, so that was a steep learning curve for me!
What is it like working in Head Office?
It's good - very busy, but enjoyable. We're a great team here and the atmosphere is great. Everyone in buying has a lot of responsibility, so to be the kind of person that can thrive there, you naturally have to have a lot of enthusiasm. Because we all look after our products so closely and so carefully, we really take pride in them. So there's good energy - it's easier to work around people like that, because it naturally motivates you.
What is the support like at Lidl?
Lidl has a system in place, so that you can go an speak to people anonymously if you need to, and there's a really open atmosphere – I feel I can talk to my manager about anything, if I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed, the support system is there.
What’s your training been like?
It's all-encompassing. Going through Quality Assurance training you understand how supplies are audited, what different food safety standards there are and which different regulations there are. You look at how we test products, then you learn how the design process goes ahead. You have to build a total view of the market - different products experience different seasonal peaks and troughs, so there's a lot to learn there.