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Day in the Life

A Day in the Life with Harriet Wilson

By Katherine Furness
27th January 2021

A Day in the Life with Harriet Wilson

This month, we heard from Harriet Wilson about a day in her life as Agriculture Manager – UK & Ireland for McDonald’s.

What’s your typical morning routine?

I think for the first time in my life, since being at school anyway, I can actually say that I have a routine. My career so far has seen huge variety day to day. Variety is probably one of the best things about my job – travelling around the country working with suppliers and farmers.

Lockdown has now given me routine. Unfortunately I have never been an early-riser, so after a couple of alarms our West Highland Terrier “Whiskey” wakes me up because she wants her breakfast (she absolutely rules the house). The kettle is the first thing to be switched on and after feeding the dog I usually take a cup of tea up to my sister, Sammie. She moved in with me during lockdown, and has started a new role in the USA – so she is still in the UK working on USA time.

I then log onto my laptop and check over my diary and any early emails before grabbing some breakfast. Then I try to make my hair look presentable for MS Teams and away I go.

If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Busy, Organiser, Passionate

What’s the first thing you look at in the morning on your phone?

During January, we are really trying to get fit, so the first thing I probably look at currently is MyFitnessPal to log my breakfast.

What do you do in your job at McDonalds?

I always say my job is to protect and promote the brand by sourcing products to high standards that are expected by customers. Coming into my new role at McDonald’s however – it’s also about how we leave a legacy. So my job is about giving customers a great experience through sourcing ingredients as sustainably as possible. For me this means sourcing high quality ingredients produced by progressive, resilient farmers to leading animal welfare & environmental standards.

Our McDonald’s Farm Forward programme is our delivery mechanism, built around the 3Es of Sustainability – Economic Stability, Ethical trading and Environmental Protection. Here we invest in research and innovation to share best practice with our dedicated farmers and suppliers and share wider to make industry progress. So my job is about working with lots of amazing people to make a positive difference to the food and farming sector.

What one key challenge have you had in your career, and how did you overcome it?

I love to be fully immersed in a team and at the heart of activity – so a challenge I have always come up against is delegation. I also love helping others to develop. I remember someone saying that a lack of delegation has the potential to hold back others development. This really resonated with me and so it is always something I focus on now – not simply delegating work but ensuring my team have really clear responsibilities because I want them to feel empowered.

Best piece of advice would you give to an aspiring youngster wanting to get into the industry?

The people around you are so important. The people around me make me passionate about what I do. So my advice is based on the power of your network:

  • Get as much work experience as possible. This helps you understand the things that make you tick, start to build your network and it helped me with confidence and ability to build trust with people in my first job.
  • Communication is key. Adapt your style of communication to the circumstance and try to find common values or interests with people to build rapport.
  • Have role models, mentors and never stop building your network. I have some great role models, whether in high-flying positions, through Meat Business Women or my parents working hard on the family farm. In this case it’s about cherry-picking the best bits of those people to apply to yourself, rather than trying to fit into the shoes of one role model. We need to be the best versions of ourselves, not a second rate version of someone else.

What’s your favourite thing to do when not working?

In a non-Covid world, I love showing our beef cattle at Agricultural Shows and spending time with friends after the showing has concluded. My favourite holiday by far is to the Royal Welsh Show, where a large group of us descend each year with a livestock trailer (with cattle or sheep on board) and our trusty caravan.

However, more recently my social life and outings are usually local walks or riding my friend’s horse at a weekend. This is also a great excuse to get out of weekend sheep jobs!

What’s your best piece of business advice?

Back in October, I heard Emily Miles (CEO for FSA) speak about self-doubt at the Meat Business Women Conference. I have the habit of self-doubt and the experiences she shared really hit home with me. Her takeaway message was that instead of focusing on your deficit, focus on what you have to offer. This is something we are focusing on at McDonald’s too – focusing on building our strengths as individuals and teams. And I think this is good advice for businesses too.

Some self-doubt can be valuable because it leads to you asking questions and being open to creative solutions. On the flip-side, a lack of self-doubt can lead to over-confidence which can be the source of error.

We hope you’ve found this insight into another area of the agricultural industry interesting as ever. Get in touch if you’d like to get involved in our Day in the Life feature.

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