Blog 3 – Working with Crew

My time working in the Crew Headquarters was incredibly valuable as it enabled me to gain a greater understanding of areas that I had no previous experience in. In the period I was there I spent time with the Menswear, Womenswear, Garment Technology and Marketing teams, and undertook a range of activities in those departments. My first task was to sort through and organise product samples of the upcoming season for Menswear, which helped me get a better insight into the brand and who Crew were marketing themselves to. I also learnt about the process that the clothes go through before being sent to stores to be sold; something much more complex than I would ever have imagined!

One of the highlights of working with Womenswear was the opportunity I had to attend a fitting session. This gave me the chance to ask lots of questions about the brand and about people’s roles within the business, and everyone involved in the fitting made sure that I had plenty to do and knew exactly what was happening. Following this I worked with the Garment Technology Team – I found this particularly interesting as I was not even aware that the roles existed prior to coming to Crew! The huge level of detail that went into the different stages of garment product development was eye-opening, and I learnt a significant amount about how this team managed various technical aspects.

My final day was spent with the Marketing team. I began by looking through the promotional material for the upcoming season in order to familiarise myself with the approach that the team were taking with promoting the next season. After this I worked with the head of the department who talked me through the deadlines they work to, how the team operates, and she also answered the many questions I had about the sector. I also had the chance to do some proof reading, and I discovered that this is something I’m randomly very good at and really enjoy doing! I was then tasked with researching food bloggers and unique leather companies who could feature in the next catalogue. This tested my knowledge of the brand and I appreciated the opportunity to directly contribute to the team’s work. I learnt so much by working with a variety of departments within the business, and I really appreciated everyone taking time to welcome me into their teams and give me the opportunity to work alongside them!

During my work experience I met with Louise one evening to have a catch up about how my time with Crew was going, and also to discuss my career plans. Louise’s daughter joined us as she works for a recruitment company, so was able to give excellent advice about how to develop my CV and LinkedIn account. Louise was keen for me to develop my USP so that when I return from travelling I will be clear on how best to promote myself to companies, and have the confidence to sell myself as a great employee! Having Louise’s daughter there was also really useful because I could speak to her about the problems I was having with my dissertation, as she had recently graduated having gone through the same experiences. Speaking to both of these successful women was very valuable, and I came away from the ‘meeting’ feeling so much more confident about how best to approach my uni work along with a much clearer idea on how to create a strong CV and LinkedIn profile and how best to re-enter the working world!

Phoebe Mansfield


Blog 2 – Catch up Calls

With Louise and I both busy at work and University, we agreed that phone calls would be the best way to communicate for the time being. We had our first call at the end of November and the second was in early December. When we initially met in August, I mentioned to Louise that I was considering going travelling after I graduated, but was worried that it would hinder my chances of getting a job when I returned. By the time we spoke again at the end of November I had decided that I definitely wanted to travel, so we discussed the possible difficulties of entering the job market and how to best prepare for that before I go. Louise’s advice reassured me and made me more confident about securing a job in the future!

When we first met I was feeling positive about returning to uni and I was preparing effectively for my final year – in particular my dissertation. However, since coming back I found myself feeling more overwhelmed by my dissertation than I had expected. I was unsure whether to reveal this to Louise, because I was concerned that it would reflect badly on me. But after consideration I realised that our relationship was based on honesty as this would give her the greatest understanding of my true personality. Consequently, I explained to Louise how I was doing a huge amount of research for my dissertation, but the ominous ‘12,000 word’ word count was making it daunting and preventing me from actually starting to write! Immediately Louise offered me very helpful advice and told me about the experiences of other students she knew to have struggled with the same problem. Louise’s ability to draw on her own experiences of the academic and working worlds enabled her to give incredibly useful advice – something I am hugely grateful for!

As I mentioned in my pervious blog, Louise thought that doing some work experience at the Crew Headquarters would be beneficial for me in narrowing down my career options. So, when we spoke again in December we discussed this further. I thought about the specific elements of previous jobs that I enjoyed, whether graduate schemes would suit me and how I can be most successful in applying for jobs. I outlined the areas that I wanted to get experience in, and we confirmed the details for my upcoming work experience which I am really excited to do!

Phoebe Mansfield

Blog 1 – Always Check the Weather!

When I attended the information session to learn more about the mentoring programme I spoke to Ellie, the previous mentee of Louise Barnes, who was giving a talk on her experience. She told me that Louise likes to start the programme before it officially commences so that we get the most out of it, so when I found out I had been successful Ellie put us in touch. We arranged to meet in August, at Louise’s office in London. I did a lot of preparation prior to the meeting because I wanted to show Louise that I was passionate about the scheme and very grateful to have her as my mentor. Unfortunately, my preparation didn’t include checking the forecast for the day… typically it tipped it down with rain and I arrived at her office in plenty of time but absolutely soaking wet – not ideal considering I was trying to make a really good first impression! However, Louise was incredibly welcoming and we just laughed about it so I instantly felt more comfortable.

We discussed what I was hoping to get out of the scheme and why I had chosen Louise as my mentor. We also spoke about why Louise volunteered her time for the programme as I was keen to hear her motivations for doing so. Throughout the application process I had been clear that I was uncertain about my career path, but I was worried that Louise would see this as disorganised. This was not the case at all, and she was incredibly helpful in suggesting ways to start working out what I wanted to do. She suggested I read ‘The Essential Enneagram – The Definitive Personality Test and Self-Discovery Guide’ (which I later received as a gift in the post!) in order to better understand my own personality. Louise also thought it would be useful for me to do work experience at the Crew Headquarters in order to gain a better insight into the retail industry. Louise has already had an incredibly successful career, so I was keen to get as much advice from her as possible! We came up with a plan on how best to proceed for the rest of the year, and Louise gave me a few ‘targets’ for the next time we spoke / met.

Phoebe Mansfield

A week at Crew Clothing

Over the Christmas break, and after an extremely hectic Autumn Term, Louise Barnes invited me to join her team at Crew Clothing for a week. This was an amazing opportunity to gain a first-hand insight into several departments I had no experience of, including e-Commerce and Merchandising.

For me, the experience began with my first ‘job’ in retail- working as a Retail Assistant in a Crew Clothing store in my hometown, Ilkley. Louise advised this was a good place to start, as although I have a fairly varied employment history, I had never worked on a shop floor. The two days I spent with the team in Ilkley was great; an eye-opening experience into the demands of store, personnel and stock management, as well as the challenges involved with maintaining high levels of customer service. This experience left me with plenty of questions to ask the relevant departments at Crew HQ down in London the following week (as well as a new admiration for the patience and endurance of Retail Assistants in the weeks before Christmas!)

My week in London began with a visit to Louise’s sister, Kate Barron, at Frame Recruitment. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with Kate talking over my career plans as well as reviewing my CV and LinkedIn profile. This was a hugely valuable experience and Kate leant a fresh perspective to the discussion, suggesting many avenues I hadn’t ever considered.

The following day, I headed out to Crew Head Office in Earlsfield. Crew had ‘gone into sale’ the day before I arrived, and due to how Christmas would fall on the calendar, the teams were under significant pressure to have the sale running smoothly before they left for their Christmas breaks. I’m therefore hugely grateful to those who welcomed me for the day and showed me what they were working on.

I spent my first day with the e-Commerce team understanding how Crew presents its offer online, reorganising the sale based on the previous day’s trading figures and understanding how the team utilises software such as heatmap tracking, as well as sales data, to monitor Key Performance Indicators such as time on site, traffic source, conversion rate and shopping basket abandonment. Day 2 was spent with the merchandising team as they negotiated probable ‘further reductions’ to go live in the second part of the sale, based on current stock cover and product fragmentation. With no experience of merchandising beforehand, it was fascinating to see a process, that you don’t really think about, in action. I spent Day 3 back in more familiar territory in the HR team. I was tasked with assisting the HR Manager in his report on a staffing issue. Again, this was a great insight into the day-to-day operations of a large business.

I also took the opportunity to catch up with Louise over lunch, where we discussed my current plans for next year. Although I had been looking for a graduate role, a combination of a heavy load of coursework based modules, my dissertation and lengthy online applications had left me uninspired and de-motivated. We both agreed that it would be beneficial if I re-assessed my options once I’ve graduated and spend my final few months at UoB enjoying my studies and my down time, rather than spreading myself too thinly. After this chat, I feel much more positive about my plans moving forward and I look forward to catching up with Louise again in the New Year.

Ellie Pinfield, 4th Year BSc International Business with Language

To err is human

I have recently discovered that my personality type is Type 1- The Perfectionist. Whilst many, myself included, would simply assume that this description could be applied to the ‘neat freaks’ or ‘obsessive’ characters in their life, I have discovered that this is a myth- ‘The Perfectionist’ has many different levels.

Learning I fitted this personality type was a ‘lightning bolt’ moment- reading the description was as though my nearest and dearest had written down a list of all my best and worst qualities, my deepest insecurities and the things which make me tick. I was baffled. How could I be so easily unravelled and my complex personality, characteristics and worries summed up so neatly across two pages? But Louise, my mentor, explained that this is not what the exercise is about. Instead, through inward reflection and a heightened sense of self-awareness I have the opportunity to learn about the ways in which I am motivated, how I spend my time and energy, my view on the world and how I deal (or apparently fail to deal with!) stress, tension and anger.

Although sometimes a difficult process, Louise coaxed out my ideas and perceptions about my personality through insightful questions and helped me to gain a far greater understanding of why I am the way I am. However, simply understanding is not enough. I had to apply what I had learnt. We discussed what’s going on in my life: the stresses and chaos of 4th year, deadlines, job applications and my work-life balance, or rather lack of. I was staggered to see just how much my ‘Perfectionist’ traits have been holding me back from achieving all that I want and could achieve this year. My high standards are causing me unnecessary stress, overburdening me and eroding at my leisure time. I am so worried about ‘getting it right’ that I can’t see the wood for the trees.

Whilst I can’t say that knowing this is going to lead to an overnight change in my personality or my ingrained habits, I can now recognise and monitor how I react to ‘imperfection’ giving me a better chance of improved decision making enabling me to spending my time and energy more wisely.

Ellie Pinfield, 4th Year BSc International Business with Language

Knowing me, knowing you

Back in late April, as I drank coffee in my tiny flat looking over the rooftops of Paris I made an excellent decision. I decided to apply to be part of the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Scheme. It was a sunny bank holiday, a rare day off work, and I was kicking myself for not realising what a great opportunity this was sooner. Holed up inside, with two days to go until submissions were closed I wrote out my application and hoping for the best, I sent it off.
I was thrilled and surprised to be invited for an interview. As I caught the train to Birmingham and set foot on campus for the first time in 12 months I was excited to be back and thinking about my next steps. With my interview completed, I hoped that I had put forward my case for wanting a mentor effectively and that I had showed myself in the best light.
When I learnt that I had been successfully partnered with Louise Barnes, the CEO of Crew Clothing, I was delighted, though a little intimidated. Flicking through her biography online, I was taken aback by just how influential she is within her field and the realisation that I was now lucky enough to be guided and supported by her during my final year at Birmingham.
We were first in touch over the summer and arranged to meet in person early in the autumn term. Walking onto campus to meet her, I was admittedly nervous. I hoped that I had prepared well enough and that she wouldn’t be disappointed to have me as a mentee. But I needn’t have worried. I immediately felt at ease with her and our conversation flowed easily. We discussed the things I would like to get out of the scheme, as well as my plans in the both the short and long term. She challenging my thinking and I left our first meeting with plenty of food for thought.
A few days later, I received a gift from Louise in the post- a book entitled ‘The Essential Enneagram- The definitive personality test and self-discovery guide’. Though usually sceptical of ‘self-help’ books, this book was one of the most informative things I’ve ever read. Through careful self-evaluation, I was able to determine my personality type and its associated traits. Though I am still working my way through the exercises, it has already helped me to increase my self-awareness and to better understand the way I think, feel and experience things. It goes on to show what my personality type means for my well-being, how I relate to others, as well as highlighting my strengths.
I am due to meet with Louise again in two weeks’ time at a store opening in Leamington Spa. I’m excited to see Louise ‘in action’ and I look forward to sitting down and catching up, as well as talking about what I have learnt about myself by reading the book. I’m so glad that I made the decision to apply to this scheme, I know that Louise is going to help me make the most of opportunities and support me to plan for the future.

Ellie Pinfield,  4th Year International Business Management with Language (French)

Meeting Louise Barnes! (Blog 1)


Louise was really quick to get in touch with me and we arranged to meet in London at the Crew Clothing head office. I was quite nervous before the meeting but also excited to talk to her and find out how she got to where she is now. I really didn’t need to be nervous though because Louise put me at ease as soon as I met her and we chatted in her office for about an hour.

We spoke about her life and her time at Birmingham University and we talked about my goals and what I am interested in. We also spoke about what I wanted to get out of the mentoring scheme. It was so interesting to hear her opinions and talking through different ideas with her about what to do after university was really helpful.

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What’s your USP? with Louise Barnes

Nervous, but excited I turned up at the Crew Clothing offices to meet with their CEO and my mentor, Louise Barnes. I was amazed at how quickly I was down in London to meet with her. Just a few quick emails and my train tickets were booked! I had no idea what to expect from the first meeting. It felt almost like I was going for a job interview, rather than a chat with my mentor.

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