ALUMNI PROFILE: ANDY NEWBERRY, WESTCOAST’S GROUP OPERATIONS AND LOGISTICS DIRECTOR
We met Andyat the Class of 75 reunion and couldn’t miss sharing his career experiences. After his A-levels, a degree in Geography and PE and some travelling, Andy applied to be a pilot in the RAF but discovered that he was not only colour blind but was too tall to fit in most aircraft! He went on to work with Dowty Information Systems and other communication companies before moving to Westcoast, a smaller player in the industry, who at the time had a turnover of £200million. Fast forward 20 years and Andy is Westcoast’s Group Operations and Logistics Director and the multi-country company now has an impressive £4billion turnover!
Please read on to find out how Andy left rural Wensleydale and Richmond School behind him and worked his way up to his current director position. Andy said: “I can’t say that I had a ‘career plan’. I believe that I worked hard at things I enjoyed, took calculated risks, added value to the teams I found myself in, and kept my fingers crossed for a little luck along the way!”
My first four years at Richmond School were difficult, a 12-mile journey each way from Wensley every day, made making friends tough and the weather in winter made the journey extremely hazardous. My parents moved to Richmond as I started Sixth Form, something that changed my outlook forever – now I was in the thick of it and could be part of something. I could join sports teams which I was excluded from in earlier years because I couldn’t make the journey for Saturday training. I have happy memories of times with friends and growing up, which included a summer in America and the opportunity to start becoming self-sufficient.
Studying for A-levels was very hard for me and I realised that the academic achievement needed in order to go to University was going to be out of my reach. Five years living an idyllic life in a small village surrounded by role models who worked in agriculture, forestry and game keeping had set my expectations. I wanted to be a gamekeeper, something my parents were not supportive of! I now set my goals on attending a Polytechnic. I loved PE and Geography so that is what I chose to study.
At North Staffordshire Polytechnic, I spent a wonderful three years, living independently with new friends. As well as studying, I joined lots of sports clubs and I learnt how to look after myself. I got jobs during holiday breaks to make sure I had enough funds and didn’t leave with any debt. Then, degree in hand, I had the difficult challenge of finding employment at a time when nearly 10% of the working population was unemployed. Instead, I decided to embark on travelling.
For nearly two years I worked my way around Indonesia, then Australia and New Zealand picking up new skills that I hoped would be useful when it came to starting that first real job on returning to the UK. Actually, I was tempted to stay in Australia as I had worked in the building trade, firstly as a labourer and latterly as a carpenter – something I really enjoyed. I still wonder if that would have been the right decision – sun, sand, warmth and good fun.
On my return home, work prospects were still challenging, I applied to the RAF, as being a pilot sounded exciting but found out I was colour blind and too tall to fit in most aircraft. I ended up being accepted for a commission in Logistics. This was never going to last as I quickly realised, I didn’t like being ordered around doing what seemed like pointless tasks! This was a lesson in what ‘I didn’t want’ in a career.
I took a chance on talking to someone I had interviewed for my dissertation at Poly. It paid off and I got a temporary role with Dowty Information Systems. I stayed for five years being promoted regularly to more responsible roles. Dowty went from being a small innovative manufacturer of communications equipment to the largest player in Europe. I had picked an industry on the up and an amount of luck meant I got some good training and experience. I worked short-term for a couple of other manufacturing companies, before finding Action Computer Supplies which offered, catalogue sales of IT goods and distribution to end users. I felt it was going to be the next big thing; it was Amazon on a small scale before they existed. Six great years and huge growth and experience as a Logistics Manager. However, things changed after acquisition by a large US corporate. Time to move on.
I met up with a supplier contact and learned of an opportunity with a small logistics and distribution company. The company, Westcoast, had realised that in order to compete with all the global players in this market, they needed to grow and fast. At the time I joined they were turning over £200 million, a tier two player competing against others with sales of close to £1 billion.
Working in a competitive environment means you must take risks and find innovative ways to do things better than others. I embarked on the challenge using all my experience and skills, working with all the teams involved, enthusiastically aiming towards making the goal of being the biggest a reality. Twenty years later, after successfully navigating the financial crisis, many changes in the IT world, a pandemic and countless other hurdles, I now find myself to be Group Operations and Logistics Director in an multi-country company with a