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Greg Surtees

Career Path: International Business Resilience Manager, Tesco
Location: Welwyn Garden City, UK

After leaving Northumbria I joined Kent County Council’s payroll team as a temp, and while there found a role in the Emergency Planning team. I was attracted by the prospect of helping people in the community. While there I responded to a range of separate incidents such as tidal surges, fluvial flooding and bomb scares which was a fantastic, but steep, learning curve. I then joined Homerton University Hospital as Resilience Manager focusing a lot more on how to keep vital services such as A&E and ITU running and planning for all sorts of incidents - whether a terror attack or an outbreak of Ebola.

The great thing about Business Resilience is you work with colleagues from all parts of your organisation so it’s a great opportunity to learn how organisations work from top to bottom and meet a lot of great people. You also get involved in a lot of different issues, the separate disciplines I've worked on in the last few years alone include business continuity, crisis management, risk management, health and safety, fire safety - I even spent three days on Dover beach learning how to clean an oil spill in the sea.

What are you doing now?

I joined Tesco in 2016 as International Business Resilience Manager where I support colleagues in our Asian businesses (India, Thailand and Malaysia) on managing their resilience programmes and worked towards setting group level strategies to make Tesco as resilient as possible.

What was it about Northumbria that made you decide to study here?

The topics available for study in the BA History appealed to me as there was a wide range of options that covered a broad timeframe. The location of the city campus also helped, being right in the city, and it generally seemed a modern and welcoming place.

What was it like studying at Northumbria?

Studying at Northumbria was great - so good I stayed on to do a Masters! On the History course there was a good mix of lectures and seminars. We did team projects in the seminars such as presenting our research and had a lot of good and interesting debates. The support I received from my tutors was exemplary and I couldn't have asked for more support. Having a library open 24 hours was incredibly useful too as I’ve always been more of a night owl.

How connected was your course with industry?

There wasn't much of a connection with industry, but that is understandable in a very academic subject. We did do a placement in second year - I spent six weeks at the North East Aircraft Museum in Washington where I did research on North East links to airships in the early 20th century, and helped on the practical aspects of running the museum by helping replace the exhaust of a Vulcan bomber and helping dig a trench. In our MRes course we had to set up a one-day research symposium which we each had to present our work in and we had visits from guest lecturers as part of the day, that was a really interesting experience.

How did studying at Northumbria help you achieve your career goals/ give your career an edge?

My time at Northumbria gave me confidence in a number of ways - it got me used to making presentations to large groups of people and being comfortable doing so. I also developed my people skills while at Northumbria - this is a huge aspect of my work as 90% of what I do involves working with colleagues to develop plans and processes for what can be quite a dry subject otherwise.

What was the best thing about your course?

Our MRes course seminars was made up of a mixture of History, Gender Studies and English and we formed a close knit group as it was a quite small collection of us. Having that close group to support each other and work on projects with was fantastic and definitely something I miss.

Which skills/ knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now throughout your career?

The MRes in particular taught me how to manage and prioritise my workload as it was a largely independent study. It forced me to plan my year ahead and plan how and when I would approach the project and these are skills I'm still using today. Northumbria taught me how to be a critical and analytical thinker which is an integral part of my work now - looking at the bigger picture while keeping the detail in mind too.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Northumbria University?

It's hard to pick one aspect that I enjoyed the most as I loved all four of my years at Northumbria. I met so many great people from a diverse range of backgrounds and forged friendships that continue to this day.

What advice would you give somebody who is thinking of studying at Northumbria?

Have a look at the course and what modules are being offered as that was a big part of what swung it for me in competition with other universities. If the course fits, then give the campus a visit either on an open day or any day and get a feel for the surroundings as you could be spending three years, minimum there.

How would you describe your time at Northumbria in three words? 

Fun, memorable and exciting.

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