My O2 Story – Paul Innes

The last Millennium…….it sounds so long ago! That’s when I joined O2, back in October 1999 (in the days when we were known as BT Cellnet). I celebrate my 20th anniversary with the company later this year. It’s a milestone I never really expected to reach when I joined the business as an Assistant Store Manager in the Newcastle upon Tyne BT store all those years ago, after graduating from University. Yet here I am today, having thoroughly enjoyed the last 20 years!


I progressed to a Store Manager role in the early 2000’s and went on to manage seven different stores across the North East of England, over a period of 7 years or so. I then became an Area Manager in 2009, managing a group of stores in the North East region initially, and then also across the East of Scotland in 2011. I became a Regional Leader in 2013, becoming responsible for a larger group of stores, and then took advantage of an opportunity in 2016 to step up into a Territory Leader role for 7 months, which meant I had responsibility for a total of 85 stores across Scotland and the North of England. I enjoyed all of these roles and learned a lot from each of them. I have a real passion for people, and people development, as well as a passion for putting our customers at the heart of everything we do. I particularly enjoyed seeing my store teams, and individuals within those teams, develop over the years, many progressing further within the business themselves, as well as proudly leading the way at company level on many People & Customer based metrics over the years.


In 2017, I took an opportunity to move into a more central role within the Retail team, working on various programmes, initiatives and projects impacting on our stores estate across the UK. I then moved into a new role around 6 months ago, joining our Channel Development team, and I’m also currently working on a large-scale, long-term nationwide programme.


So, why am I still here at O2, 20 years on? There are many reasons; the company ethos, the flexibility with work that O2 offers, the perks and benefits – of which there are many. However, the biggest reason I’m still here is because of our people focused culture. I love that. Many of my colleagues have worked alongside me for the entire 20 years of my journey with the company thus far, and it’s great to see all of us still being a part of the business, helping to constantly drive it forward, and still with an overriding passion to do the best by our customers, and our people.


O2’s people focused culture was really brought to life for me personally last year. I became very ill suddenly in June and I had to take 3 months off work as part of my recovery. From the day I took ill, and throughout my absence period, my company looked after me amazingly well. From ensuring I returned home safely to my family, following a short hospital stay over 300 miles away from home, to managing my absence period with compassion and understanding, and then allowing me to return to work on a phased return schedule over a period of several weeks, which supported my ongoing recovery. It meant a lot to me to know that my company was there for me in my time of need. I was also overwhelmed by the well wishes, messages of support, get well soon cards, and gifts that I received from my Line Managers, peers, and many of my colleagues from across the company whilst I was absent from work. I knew it already, but that period of my time with O2 really epitomised my belief around our fantastic people focused culture. It is something that I am immensely proud to be a part of.


The last 20 years have been quite a journey! And a hugely enjoyable one at that. On a final note, because of the length of time I’ve worked at O2, I’m often asked what is the best advice I could offer to anybody looking to progress their career. My response is to take advantage of any opportunities that come your way, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult you may think they will be initially. Always look for opportunities to develop and learn more, whenever and wherever possible, and get out of your comfort zone, regularly. You will thank yourself for it later down the line. Most of all though, find ways to make it fun! I’ve had a lot of that over the past 20 years. Here’s to the next 20!…

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