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Milena joined the company seven years ago as a temp scanning returned magazines. It was her first job in the UK after moving from Poland and she spoke very little English. Through sheer hard work and a determination to learn and succeed, she has progressed quickly through the business and is now Birmingham Warehouse Manager and member of the senior Operations Team.

Milena Kowalska

Warehouse Manager, Birmingham
Smiths News
Tell us about your job

I have been the Warehouse Manager in Birmingham since October 2021 and have direct overall responsibility for around 40 colleagues and the stock room and returns process. People are most important, so I am really focused on helping them to develop. I know the company from the roots up and have got to where I am today by taking one step at a time. I know how people feel and can use this knowledge to help them overcome any difficulties and to thrive.
I work from Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 9am and finishing at around 6 o’clock but earlier on a Saturday. Although a lot of my role is admin based, I love to spend time with my team. Their performance is a reflection of me as manager. I am very proud of all my team.

What’s it like to work for Smiths News?

There are so many opportunities here to train and reach your goals, no matter if you are a man or a woman, black or white, Polish or English, everyone is given the same chance. I knew that if I wanted to achieve something I would have to learn a lot. All the courses I have taken were organised by the company, such as fork-lift driving, first-aid, an NVQ to help me with my English, Health & Safety and IT. Last year, I joined the Leadership Academy to develop myself and my skills, and to learn how to manage people.
There is lots of support here, with people you can go to if you need help. This is a very positive company.

Tell us about your career path

I arrived at the company as an agency worker terrified that I would be fired after only one day. My first job was really physical, loading totes with magazines for people to scan. I then became a Scanner Operator before someone noticed that I am quick and gave me the opportunity to work in the office doing simple admin tasks. I noticed that my English really improved in that environment. I then moved to another office job after two years, before becoming a Team Leader. I later provided maternity cover for the Warehouse Manager before being appointed to the role myself.
It’s very different from my job back in Poland, where I was a Retail Manager in a Nike shop. This gave me managerial experience, although my team was only small.

What do you do in your downtime?

I love to cook – it’s my hobby and helps me to relax. It’s also a great way to explore cultures of the world. On a day-to-day basis, we eat mainly Polish food, but I like Italian and Japanese. I also enjoy travel and am learning to play the ukulele.

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Learn more about the careers of some Smiths News’ colleagues.

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