What is Operations Management and is Ocado Group's graduate scheme your route in?

Current and previous Operations Management graduates at Ocado Group offer their insights into what the Operations Management programme involves.

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Ocado Group collaborates with some of the biggest names in food retail across the world, so it’s little wonder that its operations must stay slick. If you like ensuring that everything and everyone runs smoothly, the Operations Management graduate scheme at Ocado Group might be a great fit for you.

What is Operations Management at Ocado Group?

Operations Managers at Ocado Group tend to work in fast-paced Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs), which receive products and orders and arrange deliveries. By overseeing these functions and supporting the people undertaking them, Operations Managers make sure each one takes place as effectively and efficiently as possible – as a result, so does the entire process.

‘I knew I wanted to work in operations because I’m quite a logical person and I enjoy finding solutions to issues. I also like the sociable aspect of the scheme as I am very people-orientated,’ says Naomi, now a Development Senior Operations Manager at Ocado Group after completing the graduate scheme.

For Nick, an Operations Management Graduate, Ocado Group stood out to him because of its ambition to grow and to change the way the world shops. ‘Working as part of a company that has bold plans for its direction and global expansion is really exciting and with it comes huge opportunities for personal development,’ he explains.

What does the Operations Management graduate programme involve?

You will spend two years as an Operations Management Graduate at Ocado Group, during which time you will undertake four six-month placements. The first year will be focused on Ocado’s CFCs, discovering all there is to know about the entire operation and overseeing people and production in specific areas.

The second year builds on your expertise: you will experience different parts of the business so you can explore your interests and find a career path that suits you. You could, for example, work on the Ocado Smart Platform or Ocado Zoom (the company’s on-demand grocery service) or complete a placement in Delivery Operations or Supply Chain.

What will Ocado Group’s graduate programme provide you with?

The graduate programme is a certain start to a career at Ocado Group: ‘Full-time employment at Ocado is guaranteed after the scheme,’ explains Operations Management Graduate Ioan. ‘If the position you really want is not available yet, there is the option to extend the scheme temporarily so that you can wait for the right move for you.’

On top of a permanent job from day one, the Operations Management graduate programme also gives you…

Flexibility

‘The greatest thing about the scheme is the variety and flexibility you have when experiencing other parts of the business,’ adds Ioan. ‘It has helped me to gain a wealth of knowledge that, without this level of exposure, I never would have got.’ This is enabled through the four rotations you undertake, allowing you to get an insight into different areas of Ocado Group’s operations.

The graduate scheme structure was slightly different when Naomi joined, but her manager at the time allowed her to shape her experience to what she wanted, enabling her to get a feel for all areas of Ocado Group’s operations.

Training

As well as the opportunity to shadow experienced Operations Managers, Ioan explains how the training on the programme goes beyond what’s needed for your basic role: ‘You initially get trained in every process that the workers you manage do,’ he explains, ‘meaning you will know how each task should be completed.’

Not only will this level and depth of training enable you to support the people you manage more effectively, but it will give you a broader view of the different roles involved in operations at Ocado Group, particularly as you move into new placements and take on responsibility for people with different roles. It will help to set you up for any role associated with operations.

Naomi is also pleased with the training she has received, both operational and personal. ‘I completed all of my operational training within the first six months, including health and safety, people management and food safety,’ she explains. ‘I’ve received more training and coaching on top of this. I’ve been put forward for an internal coaching programme as well as an external mentoring scheme with 30% Club, focused on increasing the number of women on boards and in senior management.’

Career progression

You only have to look at the experiences of previous graduates at Ocado Group to know just how broad your career options are after completing the scheme. ‘We have previous Operations Management Graduates that have gone into testing, operational excellence, supply chain excellence and transformation,’ says Naomi. ‘Equally, we have lots of graduates that have chosen to stay in operations and have done very well.’

Whichever route you choose, you will be supported to progress quickly. ‘After the graduate scheme, I was offered an Area Manager position for five months, four of which I was stepping up into the Operations Manager role,’ says Naomi. ‘After working as Operations Manager for a year, I was given the chance to move over to a new site in Purfleet. I was the first ever Operations Manager there and being part of the launch is the highlight of my career so far. The CEO of Ocado Retail, Mel Smith, and our Operations Managing Director, Brian McLory, were both on site for the day!’ After six months, Naomi was offered another step up to Development Senior Operations Manager at Purfleet, managing a team of Operations Managers, as well as forecasting, recruitment, budget and volume planning for the site.

Opportunities to influence the future of Operations at Ocado Group

Not only will the graduate scheme support your future, but it will give you the opportunity to play a role in the future of operations at Ocado Group. ‘I am currently working as part of a task force that is looking at how we keep our frozen goods frozen, at a time when the country faces massive CO2 shortages affecting dry ice supplies’ explains Nick. ‘This has been exciting as it's looking at introducing new processes into the existing operation.’

Such insights into the cutting-edge of operations management broaden your horizons, support you and give you room to innovate throughout your career.

A grad community

Once you join Ocado Group, you’ll benefit from a large and active graduate community that is on hand to support and encourage you every step of the way, whether that’s by talking on a group chat or attending social events organised by the company. Some graduates even opt to live together.

‘When I started, Ocado had organised lots of events and communities that I could join,’ says Naomi. ‘As I’ve moved through the scheme, I’ve formed natural groups of friends from not just my scheme, but other schemes. I’ve also made great friends who are from different graduate intake years as I see them a lot in my role.’

What do you need to become an Operations Manager at Ocado Group?

When it comes to qualifications, a bachelor’s degree in any subject and from any university is the only requirement to join the graduate programme. There are some other important qualities, though, that will help you to become a successful Operations Manager:

Adaptability

Keeping Ocado Group running is a 24/7 job – so, in return for Ocado Group’s flexibility on the placements you do, you will need to be flexible with the times you work.

Ioan gives an insight into what your shift pattern could look like: ‘I currently work in shifts, which are normally four days on and four days off, working 12-hour days. This is site specific, however, and those working in legacy sites will normally be working three days on and two days off.’

Meanwhile, Naomi works five days a week, currently Sunday to Thursday. ‘Throughout the last three years, I have worked day and night shifts and I have previously worked a shift pattern of four days on, four days off,’ she recalls. ‘I spend a lot of time working with and getting to know my colleagues in operations, which makes my working environment very relaxed and friendly.’

Communication and collaboration

‘Every interaction you have with your colleagues can have a huge effect on how we all feel about the working environment that we create,’ reflects Nick. Communication is key to building supportive and trusting relationships with the people you manage. As well as being able to relay information and instructions clearly through verbal and written communication, this involves listening carefully to others, considering their ideas or thoughts, and working through challenges they face collaboratively and sensitively.

Motivation and resilience

There’s no doubt that the fast-paced working environment and levels of responsibility involved in operations management can be difficult at times. Nonetheless, as long as you can demonstrate the above qualities, are willing to develop them further, and feel enthusiastic about the role and Ocado Group, there’s no stopping you progressing in Operations Management or using the skills you’ve gained to move sideways into a different department.

As Ioan says, ‘It is a challenging scheme but, if you can succeed, it will open many doors for you in the future.’

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