What we think
This is where you can peer into our minds and learn a bit more about us as recruiters, consultants and humans. Expect plenty of insight into Consumer, Retail, Recruitment, and life in our Leeds and London spaces. Some tips from the top and the odd guest appearance. Enjoy and please feel free to leave us a comment!
Career interview: Kirstin Knight, Cosine & Hyphen7th February 2022
In keeping with our 20th anniversary celebrations, Kirstin Knight has joined us in our reflections of the last 20 years. A journey through Operations, Merchandising, Marketing, Buying and Planning at Sainsbury’s and Kantar, Kirstin’s career follows a fascinating route through the retail world to her current role as General Manager at Cosine and Hyphen. With such exemplary experience in our sectors, we knew she’d have some great advice too! Thank you Kirstin for your time.
Hi Kirstin. Can you tell us about your current role and the steps you took to get there?
Currently I am the General Manager at Cosine and Hyphen which is an outsourced Sales and Experiential agency. I love my role now and the people I work alongside. It’s been a tough couple of years but I have learnt lots and our business is starting to thrive now.
I started my career at Sainsbury’s when I was lucky enough to be selected to join their graduate scheme and I spent over 20 years in various store and head office roles. Sainsbury’s was a great place to start my career and it provided an excellent grounding in everything to do with retail. After 20 years I made the difficult decision to leave Sainsbury’s and move agency side into a new role at Kantar Worldpanel as their Retail Director.
As Retail Director at Kantar Worldpanel, I was responsible for leading the UK retail division to deliver a “best in class” insight and data service. By implementing a new vision and strategy that was retailer and client focused I was able to lead that team to deliver double digit growth. I look back now at my time as Retail Director with great fondness as the team were outstanding data and insight experts and all they needed was the right environment, leadership and coaching to flourish.
After a few years as Retail Director, the Operations Director role became vacant and this really interested me. After some resistance to the cross-functional move on the part of the business, I did manage this and I then went onto to lead that division with responsibility for over 200 people and the running of all their services, products and panels. This role was one that presented me with a few leadership challenges however I managed to deliver the right results from a diverse team of people and I enjoyed steering a large team through difficult times. It was all about cultivating a positive environment and one that allows people of all backgrounds to flourish and grow. I spent three years in that role and it was at this point that I started to think about my next move. I reached out to Gabby to talk to her about my career and future aspirations.
Sounds like a really varied journey. How did Gabby help you?
Gabby was great and she really listened. She spent a lot of time getting to know me and listening to my key drivers and core values. This was hugely important as I was very clear that I wanted my next career move to be someplace that had a strong set of core company values that people lived and breathed. Gabby is one of the few recruitment consultants I have come across that actually invests time in creating a relationship and she consistently engaged with me on any opportunities. Seven in my experience say what they say they are going to do and follow through on all conversations and opportunities and I would recommend them. Indeed, in my current role, we use Seven to support our internal recruitment team especially in the current market which is challenging.
Very challenging indeed we’d agree! Seven was established as a business in 2002. Where were you working at this time and what was your biggest learning from that role?
In 2002, I was working as a senior buyer within Sainsbury’s. I was given tough sales targets to achieve and we were undergoing re-tenders to try and improve our quality on own-label and improve the margin. Looking back, I think the most important thing to be successful is to work hard at developing strong working relationships even if it means missing out on a short-term cost reduction as long-term reliability is a much more valuable asset for a business.
And if you could go back in time to 2002, what piece of career advice would you give yourself?
I think my most important piece of advice would be to look after yourself and you can’t do it all. In 2002, I was married and with no children. I then embarked on the “motherhood journey” and the juggling of a career and kids started. I have learned over the years that self-care is so important and as a working mum, sometimes you have to make compromises but that’s ok! All I would say is choose your compromises wisely and then don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t worry about the “perfect” parent brigade. My kids have turned out just fine – happy and healthy which is all most of us can hope for. Additionally I would also tell myself to listen and be present even more for your team especially in this new virtual and hybrid work world. The pandemic has really brought that to the forefront. Again, what has really driven this home to me is my kids and how they have dealt with things. My kids have spent a large part of their schooling online where they were often “muted” – and these are our future generation, one that have been silenced. And this for me has made me think hard about how I interact with my team.
That is really sage advice and so relevant right now. Certainly many of us are considering the effect of the last two years on ourselves and those around us. Communication and how we interact will be intrinsic to how we all move forward. Thank you Kirstin!