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Rachel Bulford, Head of Retail, Gatwick Airport

You need to demonstrate what you can contribute and what more you have to offer.

Rachel Bulford became Head of Retail at Gatwick Airport in 2016. 46 million passengers choose Gatwick annually and Rachel is responsible for 82 shops and 36 restaurants, media advertising and foreign exchange. Her role includes developing and executing Gatwick’s retail strategy and sponsoring projects to add to or reconfigure the retail space in both terminals. 

After graduating from Cambridge, Rachel joined the Marks and Spencer training scheme and went on to hold various roles at the retailer including working in international development in India, Russia and South Korea.   Rachel then worked in emerging markets for luxury retailer Burberry before going on to OC&C Strategy Consultants and latterly Homebase.

Rachel loves to travel. She has visited over 50 countries and hopes to visit many more both through holidays and work trips. 

Top tips

  • Career progression: I’ve always found it hard to answer the question ‘what do you want your next job to be’. However, one thing that I have found more beneficial is to think about the skills and attributes that I excel at and the skills that I need to develop. Then when opportunities come along I then assess that role and whether it matches what I’m looking for. That approach has really helped guide my career decisions.
  • Resilience: When I look back at setbacks I realise it was never as bad as I thought at time. I try to keep the problem or issue in context but that can be really hard in the heat of the moment. Finding someone I trust who I can talk things through with can be invaluable.  They give me a different perspective and challenge my thinking. I endeavour to offer similar support to colleagues or members of my team.
  • Communication: It’s hard to over communicate, particularly during times of change or uncertainty. When there is a lack of information, it’s human nature to fill in the blanks with worst case scenarios. I try to make sure I explain what’s happening where I can. This can be difficult, particularly if there is no ‘new’ news or if things are confidential and so can’t be shared.  When I can’t share information I try to provide opportunities for people to ask questions and air their concerns.

 

The most valuable piece of advice someone has given you.

It was once pointed out to me that my job was to make my boss’s job easier. I hadn’t really thought about my job through that lens until then. Now I try to understand the broader business context in which my department operates.  Then I can prioritise the things that will be most beneficial to the organisation as well as my key stakeholders (including my boss).

One key piece of advice to someone looking to progress

I think it’s most powerful when you can link your desire to progress with the benefit this will bring to the organization. You need to demonstrate what you can contribute and what more you have to offer. You can then present a compelling case for a bigger job or developmental role.