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Posted: 11 August 2014
Blog category: Meet the Team
Qualifications: Higher National Certificate in Business Studies; Associate of the Chartered Building Societies Institute; Emergency First Aid certificate; Master of Beer; BII award in Cellar Management
Career: After leaving school at 16, gained a clerical apprenticeship with electricity company Seeboard; joined Halifax Building Society as a customer services assistant in 1979, working in a variety of roles before taking redundancy in 2009; hired for a three month contract with Brakes as a credit analyst in 2010; joined Shepherd Neame in March 2011 as a part-time tour guide, promoted to senior tour guide in January 2014
Hobbies and interests: Gardening and spending time with family, as my wife and I have two daughters and two grandchildren
Favourite Shepherd Neame beer: Late Red
Favourite non-Shepherd Neame beer: Jaipur by Thornbridge Brewery based in Derbyshire
What does your job involve?
I work 20 hours a week, and my main role is to give public and private brewery tours. As Senior Tour Guide, I also oversee the training for new guides. I take part in the brewery’s Evening Tour and Ale Samplers’ Suppers and Beer & Food Matching Evenings, when I give tours followed by tutored tastings, then help to serve the guests’ meals. I also give talks on responsible drinking, science in brewing and business studies for students.
What personal characteristics help you in your role?
I was a union rep during my time at Halifax, which involved speaking in front of more than 500 people at conferences, so I am confident standing in front of a group and giving a brewery tour. I am a very sociable person, and due to my many years in customer service, am used to getting on with people from all walks of life. The fact I have lived in Faversham all my life also helps, as there isn’t much about its history that I don’t know. I have also visited many Shepherd Neame pubs during that time, so when visitors ask me about old beers, I can draw on my knowledge – I have probably drunk them in the past!
What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
When a visitor says they have learnt something as a result of my tour, as I feel like I have achieved something. I also gain great satisfaction from my work overseeing the guides’ training, as it fantastic to see their development. I could never get passionate about working in a bank, so it is great to finally have a job which I enjoy and where I am appreciated for what I do.
What is tough about the job?
It can be challenging to engage large groups of young students who visit the brewery.
How do you deal with foreign groups?
All guides can give the tour in French, as we have a translated version of the script. Any groups speaking other languages are required to bring a translator.
What training is involved with the role? Guides are given the tour script and asked to memorise it, then I take them round the brewery and show them where to stand and deliver each part. When they feel ready, they give a practice tour where I act as a member of public, before doing it for real. Another guide will accompany them on their first few tours, to offer support if they need it.
What attracted you to the industry?
I was only 52 when I was made redundant from Halifax, and I wanted to carry on working, which is why I took on the short contract with Brakes in Ashford. But when that finished, I decided that more than 30 years working in an office environment was enough, and I didn’t want to do it again. My wife and I had paid off the mortgage, so I only needed part-time work, and that is when I saw the tour guide job advertised on the Shepherd Neame website. I live 10 minutes away from the brewery, so it couldn’t be more convenient, and I have always drunk the beer. I knew lots of people who had worked for the brewery for a long time, so that gave me confidence that it would be a good firm to work for. And I have always liked interaction with people, so finding a job where I got to talk about a subject I feel passionate about, sounded like my dream job – and it is!