I guess you could say I became a Vodafone employee by accident. I was working as Head of Sales at Yes Telecom when the company was acquired by Vodafone back in 2016.
The big question from my perspective was whether I wanted to go from department head and board member at a thriving SME to being a small cog in a much larger organisation. I was worried about losing my autonomy. Most of all, I really didn’t want to have to move back down south.
Before then, I’d spent most of my life on Merseyside, aside from a six-year stint working for Cable and Wireless in Bracknell. As a proud northerner, the plan was always to move back to the North West to raise a family and I am indeed happily settled in Cheshire.
Luckily, the merger turned out to be a great move for me in more ways than one. Yes Telecom became the foundation for the new Vodafone Partner Services business, which was based out of Manchester. Not only did I get to stay put, I was given a key strategic role in helping to set up the new venture. It was an opportunity to move out of sales and develop a grounding in general management.
In 2016 I moved into my current position as Vodafone’s Regional Chair for the North West, running the Senior Management Board responsible for everything we touch in this part of the world.
It comes with its fair share of responsibility. Ultimately, I’m the person making sure we’re delivering the best outcomes for Vodafone customers and employees in the region, and for our local communities and partners. As it’s a brand new position, I’ve been able to make it my own and put my own stamp on it. I have the freedom to follow my instincts and apply my talents where I feel they are most needed.
A lot of my time is spent working with government and local authorities, thinking of ways to bring jobs and growth to our region. I was responsible for Vodafone’s collaboration with the government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative, for example, which is really starting to bear fruit.
Work is a big part of my life, as it is for most people, but my family comes first. I’m glad to have an employer that’s respectful of that and supportive of my life outside of work. I’m trusted to run my business how I choose, and it means I have the flexibility to spend time away from the office if I need to.
I’m also able to get out and about in the community and dedicate time to CSR programmes that are of personal importance to me, such as gender diversity. It may sound a little unusual, but it was my love of football that kick-started my passion for feminism and for mentoring. A friend of mine had just become captain of the college women’s football team and she asked if I wanted to coach them.
What I liked about this group of women was that, unlike many men’s teams, none of them seemed to think they were the next Pele or Maradona. They had a selfless camaraderie and a hunger to be the best that they could be as a team.
Wherever I’ve worked since then, I’ve tried to help advance the role of women. Like football, the corporate sales environment is quite male-dominated; and just like in football, there’s no reason why women can’t have the same skills and responsibilities as men. Unlike football, physical stature doesn’t offer men an advantage when competing with women.
It’s now widely recognised that we will have more successful businesses, happier customers and a healthier economy if we promote gender diversity and accelerate more women into leadership positions.
Mentoring women is something I am passionate about and I’m extremely lucky that my job allows me to pursue this passion. I’m currently working with the Vodafone Talent team to expand the mentoring programme so that anyone can be given formal training to become a mentor if they want it.
I always wanted to be someone who could make a difference. Thanks to Vodafone I’m now in a position to do just that.
Rob recently won the Best male mentor at the Women In Sales Awards for his mentoring work with women in the North West. You can hear more about his work in his recent podcast - https://twitter.com/VodafoneUKComms/status/938033676025319424