Godfrey started his career with British Sugar after graduating from university. His initial plan was to work for 12-18 months to gain experience before doing a Masters. But 21 years later and with roles working in the both the UK and Zambia under his belt, Godfrey is now looking to make his mark on the British Sugar factory at Newark. He comments:
“My life experience has taught me to be sure you add value and made a difference before you move on, deliver something you are proud of."
“Over the past two decades, I have held many roles within British Sugar from my first as a Process Technician at the former Kidderminster factory to my current role as Newark Factory Manager. If I was to sum my career up, I’d say it has been like a series of ‘stepping stones’; with each experience testing my knowledge, building my experience and pushing me outside of my comfort zone. However, I am a firm believer though that each role has set me up for my next and I have made the most of every opportunity that has come my way.
“Seven years ago when I started a new role as Senior Operations Manager and later, Head of Factory Operations both for British Sugar in Peterborough, I had oversight of the business’ four advanced manufacturing plants in the UK. Having previously only worked on site at factories, this learning curve opened up new networks to explore, particularly across all of AB Sugar’s international businesses. It is this exposure to international colleagues that I believe led me to receive a life-changing call – the offer of a Factory Manager role in Zambia with one of Illovo Sugar Africa’s operating businesses.”
Touch-down in Zambia; new job; new factory; new team
“If you’d of asked me when I first started out at British Sugar as a graduate whether I thought there’d be a point in my career where I’d be living in Zambia, managing a sugar cane mill; I’d have told you ‘no chance’. But when the opportunity arises, you simply can’t turn it down!
“For me, my time in Zambia was a great growth opportunity both professionally and personally for my family and I. I sat on the Executive Team which meant being involved in a lot more than just manufacturing sugar products. There was conversations and decisions ranging from legal to route to market, sustainability and finance. I was also tasked with developing a team I’d never met before – where do you start? Well you dive into the deep end and accept that your whole management style will change and evolve. Ultimately the most important factor to remember is that communication is key, be open, be genuine and be approachable.
“After three years in Zambia, I returned to the UK to take on the Factory Manager role at Newark Factory for British Sugar. From the off-set I wanted to utilise everything I’d learnt from Illovo around running a business into my plans for the factory moving forward. My time spent in Africa gave me a broader understanding of the link between what we do as the producer, and the impact it has on agriculture, our communities and customers. In a sugar cane mill in Africa, compared with sugar beet factories in the UK, the mill often generates the power to grow the crop, and is the lifeblood of the local community providing employment and in some cases healthcare, education, housing and other infrastructure too. This impact reinforces why I enjoy the job that I do so much.”
My advice for those starting out…
Be patient but be prepared to seize opportunities as they come up, whether domestic or international. Take the time to enjoy your successes and ensure you have a strong foundation to build on. Be prepared to push yourself beyond your comfort zone but, most importantly…enjoy it!