Darren is an Operations Manager at EE. He is the Enterprise Adviser for Hele’s School, Plympton.
I left school after one year of A Levels and I needed to find myself a job, so I started working in food retail as a trainee manager. The job included a supervisory training course at Plymouth College. Completing this training got me the opportunity to become an assistant manager for a jeans retailer, which I really enjoyed. I stayed in the business for 13 years working in various roles from store manager to assistant contracts manager.
After this, I wanted to buy myself some time to figure out what I wanted to do so I applied for a customer service adviser role at Orange (which is now EE). I was taking inbound calls for people on pay-as-you go phones. I enjoyed working for the company so much that I am still here 17 years later! I worked my way up through to team leader and then operations manager.
My current role is mostly managing people and I find it very rewarding to see people’s performance improve and to see them grow as individuals. We’ve won lots of awards for the best customer service.
I’m responsible for meeting service level targets, making sure we have the right people in the right place at the right time to answer calls. I coach our team leaders and a large part of my role is ensuring people enjoy coming to work. We try to make every day different by creating an element of fun and we also make sure that everyone has the right tools and info they need to resolve customers’ queries.
We’ve won lots of awards for being one of the best companies to work for and my advice for anyone interested in working for us would be to look at opportunities for apprenticeships. It helps people make the transition into a customer service environment, building their confidence with talking to people, problem solving and being able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
When we are recruiting we look for people who get a buzz from using new technology and it’s good if students have good results in English and Maths.
Once you work for EE, the opportunities are huge. Almost everyone starts as a customer service adviser and then there are opportunities to go into IT, training, marketing and a whole range of other specialist jobs.
We value the skills you develop in customer service: problem solving and communication are needed for all the roles across the business and we will recognise someone who wants to progress. We do a personal development plan for all our team
members and there are always opportunities for training and for secondments, where you can try a job for 6 months to see if it suits you. This is a great way to expand your horizons.
Being an Enterprise Adviser is an interesting opportunity to support students with the first steps into work. My son has just gone to University so I know what it’s like for a teenager looking for that next step.
I enjoy having the opportunity to influence students, creating a buzz about the future and helping and supporting those with challenges. I want to show them that there are opportunities available for them. We’ve been giving students a chance to develop their life-skills and attributes that employers will value; for example, by giving year 8s a chance to do presentations.
I’ve taken part in careers events and talked to parents involved in local communities. The school is really passionate about wanting to give the students the opportunities that will help them get the best out of themselves and I am there to help them with my business experience and knowledge about apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships at EE are great. You start on a good salary and get support with your admin time. People don’t always see customer service as a career choice, but I hope to change people’s perceptions of that. The scope once you’re working here is huge.