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Esther has been General Manager of Smiths News’ Langley depot for two years, taking responsibility for the picking, packing and delivery of magazines and newspapers to WHSmiths Travel airport stores both landside and airside – and key rail stores in London. She also manages the main supply of media for DMD in the UK and takes care of the location’s activities as a third-party fulfilment house for a wide range of products.

Esther O’Brien

General Manager
Smiths News and DMD Global, Langley

Tell us about your job

We run 24 hours, 365 days a year, so we are the only part of the business that works on Christmas Day. Our Langley base, just outside Slough, is only six miles from Heathrow, which is our largest customer.

As General Manager, I am responsible for our budget and keeping us safe and compliant. I’m an airport signatory as well as a qualified Transport Manager – the CPC holder for the site – we employ professional drivers and operate our own fleet of vehicles that deliver papers and magazines for sale to passengers, and merchandise free copies for airports on behalf of publishers. We also work for other companies, acting like a third-party warehouse pick, packing and distributing all sorts of products from artificial flowers to drinks to crockery and ppe.

Under me, there is an Operations Manager, Depot Night Manager, Team Leaders, Warehouse Operatives and drivers. We also have airside and transport admin specialists and clerical staff.

The best bit about my job is the people and being able to deliver a service that is above KPI targets. My team and I don’t accept doing what we have to do – we strive to do more and that’s exciting.

I arrive to work around 8am and leave at about 6pm. If I need to spend some time with my night team, I come in on late evenings or early mornings to see them. My door is always open and any of my team can come in and have a chat.

What’s it like to work for Smiths News?

I’ve worked in distribution for years and had always wanted to do my Transport Manager’s CPC. I was really pleased when the company sponsored me to do it. Smiths News certainly invests in you and, if you want to grow, you can.

This year, I have been nominated for an Inspiring Women in Safety Award and it is great to be acknowledged in this way by my peers. Recruiting professional women drivers is difficult, with less than 5% of drivers in the industry being female. I want to encourage them to drive HGVs because there is a flexibility around it, it’s a good industry to be in, it pays well and we need to break that stereotype.

You are not just at Smiths News to work – you are part of something bigger and it’s a nice place to be, you’re always made to feel welcome.

Tell us about your career path

I have been with Smiths News for four years and came in as a Magazines Operations Manager, taking responsibility for the day team before working my way up to General Manager. In between, I took on our airside operations and went on to learn about how to operate and manage a team at an airport. I probably had about 80% of the skills required but knew I could learn the rest. Before arriving at the company, I worked in warehousing and distribution at print sites all over the UK, and had managed a warehouse in Singapore.

What do you do in your downtime?

I’m a trained Samaritan and like to garden and grow veg in my allotment. I also love to travel as much as I can and I’m a bit of a history buff.

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