In our regular series, big cheeses remember where they first matured
Hi, Will! Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Will Read. I’m the founder and CEO of Sideways 6, an employee ideas company that helps big companies to listen to ideas from their employees, because it always feels good to be heard. Employees have interesting and insightful things to say, so companies can always benefit from listening to their frontline.
What was your #MyFirstMcJob?
Working at Somerfield in Harpenden, North of London, age 16.
What did you have to do?
I did the shifts no one else wanted to do, like Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. Friday nights, I worked the tills, happily chatting away to people, many of whom would be worse for wear. Sundays, I worked in the bakery, heating frozen pastries and rearranging loaves of Hovis and Warburton.
How long did you work there?
About a year.
What were the perks of the job?
I got a 25% staff discount — a bigger perk for my mum who would borrow my card as often as possible. Working in the bakery often meant I’d go home on a Sunday with a huge bag of nearly-stale croissants. The uniform was not so perky.
How much did you get paid?
It was minimum wage, but you got time and a half on a Sunday, so one New Year’s Day, on a Sunday, I got two and a half times, which was pretty exciting.
Did anything particularly funny happen?
I was working with a guy about a year older than me who was clearly coming to the end of his planned time working there, who decided to cause some mischief. I was out on the shop floor, he got my phone and wallet and put it through the machine used to wrap bread, 30 or 40 times. He locked another guy in the freezer with all the pastries, and a hour later, I came back and the entire back room bakery was covered in flour. So that was probably his last shift.
What skills did you learn that you still use today?
You were constantly interacting with people, so you start to learn the pattern and the chat, which is important in life. You had to turn up to your shift. There’s a work ethic that gets built when you have to turn up, no matter what.
Are you in contact with anyone you used to work with?
The guy who wrapped my phone, I’m still connected with on LinkedIn. I’d love to say he was doing something in the wrapping industry, but he’s actually a wildly successful Head of Product at a very successful tech start-up.
What is alumni important to you?
Bring part of the alumni of companies I’ve worked for has been really impactful. I used to work at a small agency in a similar space to what I do today, and loads of people there have helped me out in my journey. Mentioning that I’m an alumni of Sky TV has opened up conversations. We have built our own alumni network at Sideways 6. We employ hugely ambitious people, and that means they may sadly move on at some point. Actively cultivating our alumni network to make sure they stay close means we continue to benefit from them being part of the family and them putting out the good word for us.
What would happen if you went back and did a shift at Somerfield today?
I’d be all right, except I might eat all of the almond croissants.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice, what would you say?
Aside from hide my wallet and phone? Maybe: listen and be a little more curious. At 16, 17, you’re not particularly interested in what people have to say or teach you. So I would listen a little bit more and realise that I was around a bunch of interesting people who had interesting things to say.