Johnstons of Elgin’s Hawick knitting mill operations director on working his way up through the ranks
What does your diary look like today?
My first job of the day is walking the factory floor to make sure everything is in order.
I then have a weekly meeting with each department manager for a mutual update on production status. Then I have a development meeting with design and sales, and will discuss forward production capacity load by department with the planning team and get information on priority customer requirements.
What meeting are you most looking forward to today?
The design and development meeting because it’s always really exciting to learn about new opportunities, and given the huge variety of customer requirements these days, it always presents me with a new challenge.
What task do you wish you could postpone?
Completion of staff assessment forms – a necessary and important part of the job, but very time-consuming.
How did you get to where you are today?
Before I left school, I cleaned knitting machines at weekends to earn some pocket money. Upon leaving I secured an apprenticeship as a knitwear mechanic, working on the most basic knitting machinery right through to the latest Shima knitting machine technology.
This early grounding in machinery has been invaluable as my career has progressed, because the knowledge it has given me has allowed me to develop into the overall operations side of the business.
What has been your career highlight?
Starting my own business and developing an entirely new woollen fleece product that culminated in supplying customers worldwide, but most notably working with Warner Bros for the Harry Potter films.
If you could change one thing about your career path, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change how I’ve got to where I am because the hard work and dedication has made me the operations director I am today.
Who is your mentor?
This is the company’s director James Sugden, although this predates me joining Johnstons. His knowledge and passion for Scottish textiles is second to none. This also gave me the chance to work with our knitwear managing director, Nick Bannerman, who has given me invaluable support and continues to mentor me.
What’s the best piece of advice he ever gave you?
Come into work with the attitude that you are going to make a difference.
How do you see your career progressing?
I will continue to develop the operations director role.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard, learn from the bottom up and don’t be scared to take advice.
Salaries for this position range from £120,000 to £170,000 plus benefits (estimate provided by Henry Fox)
2011 Operations director, knitwear, Johnstons of Elgin
2008 General manager, knitwear, Johnstons of Elgin
2003 Managing director, Lochaven
2002 General manager, Haven Products
1998 General manager, Riverford Mills
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