Maddy Howlett – British Gas Services, Female Graduate Programme Alumni

I joined the Centrica Graduate Scheme in 2002, shortly after graduating from Warwick University with a degree in Engineering and Business. I knew I wanted to work in a leadership role within an operational business, and this really shaped my decision to join Centrica.

I joined as an operations graduate and as such spent 18 months within British Gas Services carrying out front-line placements such as dispatching work to our engineers, taking customers’ calls, dealing with complaints, and managing a frontline team. I really fell in love with the Services business, and while I’ve worked across functions in several roles, I’ve spent the vast majority of my career within Service and Repair.

I have worked in a wide variety of roles, including looking after our national Business Intelligence team, working with our field Trade Unions to design engineers’ reward schemes, carrying out long-term financial planning, leading on our Technical Excellence programme to improve engineers’ work quality, optimising our customer journeys, and delivering business change programmes. I haven’t followed a strongly defined career path, but have always tried to get as much different experience as possible to give me a broad range of skills, and I love to work with different teams and challenges. Several of my roles have started off as projects but then developed into bigger roles and responsibilities, whilst for others I have gone through the normal recruitment process. For two roles, I knew that the people already in the roles were looking to make a change, and so worked with them to do our own job swaps.

My long-term aspiration is to go into a General Manager-type role, and my career choices in the last three years have been focused on strengthening my operational leadership experience, firstly as a Head of Customer Service leading up to three call centre sites including one outsource provider, and more recently as Head of Customer Planning, leading 450 colleagues in Dispatch and outbound customer contact teams across five sites. My next development area is commercial experience, so I will be looking to fill this gap with a future role.

These are the biggest learnings for me from my time as a Centrica grad:

  • Don’t worry about being different to other people. I’ve often been in roles where I’ve been younger/non-technical/female and although it’s daunting at first, most people accept you on your own merits once you start to deliver.
  • Delegation is an absolute must, especially when you aren’t the expert! The leaders I’ve most loved working for are the ones who empower, support and give you the responsibility to deliver, and I hope I do this for my own team.
  •  Network, network, network!
  • Ask for help when you need it, and make the most of support offered.
  • Be open to opportunities, but also make your own… if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing then work out what you do want to do and make it happen!