Hi, my name is Megan Yeates. I’m 23 and currently on the Lidl Graduate Management Development Programme in the Logistics stream. My claim to fame is that I am currently ranked as number one in the world for Freight Forwarding, after winning Gold at the Worldskills competition in Kazan, Russia in 2019!
I was only 17 when I completed my leaving certificate. Like many people in 6th year, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do leaving school. I had skipped transition year (which was optional at the time) and gone from my junior certificate straight into leaving certificate cycle. When it came to filling out the CAO, I panicked and put down course choices in colleges that I thought I would like to attend. I got offered my first choice which was Philosophy, Politics and International Relations in UCD. I decided that I wasn’t ready for college as I felt so young and had so much of the world still to experience so I deferred for a year successfully. During this year I worked full time in L’Occitane in Kildare village, where I had previously been working part time through school. By Christmas of my gap year, I decided I had a clearer idea of what I would like to pursue in college. At the time I was working as a supervisor in my job and I enjoyed my role, particularly controlling the stock and inventory. This lead me to decide a business degree would be most suited, however I didn’t want a very standardised or generic degree, I wanted something specialised.
I began my search the easiest way possible, by using google! I’m originally from Dublin, with family still living there and I had a full drivers licence. I live in Kildare but I felt studying in Dublin would suit me best, and I spent most of my time there anyway so it made sense. I had attended open days and looked through college prospectuses the year prior and had no interest in doing it all again. I was limited to what I could apply to due to the points required. I had always been a very hard working and high achieving student. However, during the final few weeks leading up to the leaving certificate I became very complacent and this was reflected in the points I received.
During my internet search I came across the Bachelors of Science (Hons) degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management in TU Dublin (Formally DIT). Straight away I knew it was something I would be interested in. I didn’t have a clue what Logistics or Supply Chain was, but I liked the variety of modules the course offered and I knew I enjoyed business from my practical experience working. This was the only course I had on my CAO the second time around and thankfully I got offered a place! I hadn’t studied any business subjects at leaving certificate level – I had actually studied applied maths, physics and chemistry and quickly realised that while I had an interest in them, I didn’t want to pursue science long term.
I started my degree in September 2015 and quickly realised there was quite a big gender split in my class, with approximately 85% male vs 15% female. The more I spoke to people about what I was studying, the more I realised the Logistics industry was perceived as a male dominated industry which involved dirty warehouse and trucks. This couldn’t be further from the truth! While studying I stayed working part time in L’Occitane in Kildare village and split my time between commuting on the green bus from Kildare to Dublin, or spending a few nights a week staying with family in Dublin. I loved my time spent in TU Dublin. I got involved in societies and in 3rd and 4th year I was elected class rep. I feel I received a full holistic education during my time spent there. In the summer of my 2nd year, I got the opportunity to complete my Certificate of Professional Competency Management (CPC) exams externally with support from the college. My Transport lecturer, Eileen Doran, helped me prep, by explaining past papers and encouraging me every step of the way. I’m delighted to say I passed with flying colours and it has been a great talking point on my CV especially when I explain how young I was when I sat them. My course also allowed the option of either a semester abroad studying or a work placement. I chose the work placement and after applying to a few different multi national companies, I got accepted into DHL Global Forwarding, in their road freight department. This was a great opportunity to apply my academic knowledge to the real world. I was given the opportunity to stay working for DHL part-time once my work placement finished while I was studying in my final year. I actually completed my thesis on a project I was working on in DHL at the time titled, “The Impact of Outsourcing Processes to a Shared Service Centre for a Global Company.”
In semester one of final year I straight away began applying for graduate programmes. I knew I wanted to complete one as it would give me the opportunity to continue learning while experiencing the working world which would help me find what niche I was interested in before settling into a permanent career. Lidl had always been the graduate programme which I had my eyes on. It is held in such high regard and I had seen them on the Grad Ireland list of award winners countless times. I attended graduate fairs and talks when employers would come into the college. I applied for Lidl and Musgraves at the same time and was called to the assessment centres for both. The week before Christmas I was very lucky to receive phone calls from both offering me a place on their programme. After weighting up my options I decided I would accept the contract with Lidl as it suited me best at that point in time. I signed my contract on Christmas eve 2018! I graduated my course with 1st class honours in 2019 and I was so proud that I had regained my work ethic and worked so hard over the 4 years.
Coming to the end of my final year, in February of 2019, our course coordinator , Declan Allen, came into one of our classes and spoke about WorldSkills and Irelandskills Live which would be taking place in March 2019. He was looking for expressions of interest to take part in Irelandskills Live which served as a national qualifier for Worldskills. After initially fearing I did not satisfy the age requirement, I found out I did and applied. I was then shortlisted for Irelandskills Live which I went onto win. As a result I was put forward to represent Ireland at WorldSkills Kazan, Russia in August 2019. I made the selection and left my job with DHL to train fulltime for WorldSkills. I was given an unbelievable opportunity to train with some of the best in my industry over the summer while preparing and I was so lucky to have Declan Allen as my expert trainer. I underwent 10 weeks of intense fulltime training before flying out to represent Ireland at WorldSkills. After 3 tough days of competition I was announced as the inaugural gold medal winner for Freight Forwarding.
I came home from WorldSkills and had 10 days before joining Lidl. I joined the graduate programme in September 2019 and I have loved every minute of it. You get to learn from the ground up. The first 5 months centre around attending department open days and completing your operational training in store and in the regions. I have worked every role from customer assistant, to area manager. Currently, I am based in the Lidl Newbridge Region Distribution Centre. I work on Logistics based projects, along with supporting the warehouse teams during these crazy times!
The one message I would like to get across is that Logistics and Supply chain is not all dirty warehouses and trucks (our warehouses are very clean!) In my roles, I have done a lot of desk and project work. There are so many opportunities in the sector and so many exciting challenges. I would love to see more women joining and hopefully creating a better gender balance. I am privileged that I have had the opportunities to attend events and talk about my experiences and share my story to encourage others. Especially anyone who knows they would like to do a business degree but would like something specialised while also having lots of variety. In these difficult times, the Logistics industry has proven its importance; from importing essential PPE, to keeping the grocery stores shelves stocked, and everything in between. Everyone in the Logistics and Supply Chain industry has played their part to keep the country moving. I am proud to call myself an #Essentialworker.
PS: I’ ve wrote a blog about my experience at WorldSkills, which can be found here.