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Sam began her career as a cashier at a tiny branch in Lutterworth. She was 21 at the time and looking for a stopgap to figure out what she wanted to do next. Ten years later, she’s still at Barclays and has just been appointed Customer Care Director. Keep reading her blog, where she talks about her journey so far and the support she’s had along the way.
I joined Barclays as a cashier after returning from a year in Australia. I’d booked a one-way flight to Sydney – after finding out I’d done quite badly in my A Levels – and taught dance and worked in bars and restaurants so I could earn money to travel around. When I applied for the cashier role, I just needed to get a job, get some money coming in and get a bit of stability while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Ten years later, here I still am.
My original intention was to go to university, but when looking into unis and courses, I had no idea what I wanted to do. My grades also meant that I had limited options. At no point in Barclays was I asked for my A Level results or looked at differently because I didn’t have a degree. Whilst Barclays is a bank, you don’t need any financial service background because you’re taught everything on the job. That was true ten years ago and it’s still true today.
Barclays had a presence in my life from a young age: my mum had an account, and I opened my first bank account with them. Otherwise, I didn’t know about banking. I remember my first day like it was yesterday – walking in the front door wondering what on earth I was doing. I rocked up, 21, full of energy and thinking: ‘Right. I’m going to throw everything I can at this.’
One of the big reflections from quite early on, is that I moved quickly around different places. If I was asked to cover a different branch, I'd go. If I was asked to do a different development opportunity, I'd do it. I just wanted to make the most of it and that's been quite a theme throughout the whole of my career. It’s advice I give now: say yes to anything that gets thrown at you, no matter how scary it feels or how challenging it might be.
My position as Customer Care Director involves leading a team of a little over 200 colleagues across our physical and virtual presence – all with the goal of delivering incredible customer service. My role is to motivate and support them; to get across a cohesive vision of our goal – what their role is, what we’re here to do, our purpose and how we’ll have fun along the way. For me, that’s all about storytelling.
Everyone comes to work for different reasons. I think if you can understand what those reasons are, then you can harness that and get the most out of the team. So that’s another thing I do in my role. I want to inspire my colleagues. I remember ten years ago meeting the Customer Care Director at the time, sitting opposite him, and thinking, ‘I want your job one day’. It seemed like the best job in the world and so now, to be doing my dream role is really special. I still pinch myself and I’m so grateful.
How did I get here? A lot of failure. I’ve said yes to every opportunity, but not always got roles I’ve applied for. I’ve just always made sure to work hard to understand why and fill those gaps so that the next time I apply, I’m ready. I’ve also moved sideways a lot too. Those roles gave me a breadth of experience and a wider knowledge of the organisation. Everything I know about banking, I’ve learned here. Even after ten years, there are still so many departments and business areas that I haven’t seen. There’s so much to explore.
As well as the encouragement of my loved ones, I’ve been given support from many colleagues throughout my journey. Leaders who’ve pushed me more than I would have pushed myself. People who’ve opened doors for me. I’ve also learnt so much from different leaders and mentors, and my development was always their priority. I’ve also been lucky enough to benefit from networks and schemes created and provided by Barclays. If you want to grow your skills and experience, and future-proof your career, you’ll be given the chance to do so. From a development perspective, there are so many resources available.
I make time to spend with my colleagues, which is the part of the role I enjoy most, and I’m able to be a mentor to others now too. My experience has consisted of leaders taking risks on who they hire and opening doors for others. So now I make sure I do the same.
I firmly believe I was hired for my personality and my ability to talk to people. I was never expected to have any financial knowledge or even to be good with my own money. It’s people skills and attitude that is most important. It’s energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn that we’re looking for. If I – at the age of 20 – can go from being a dance teacher to having an incredibly successful career at Barclays, then anybody can.
My advice would be – don’t think about Barclays as a financial institution. Think about it as a place where you’ll get a huge amount of experience, loads of development and – if you give it your all – endless opportunity.