Chris McLean ALDI Graduate

Chris McLean

University of Auckland
Logistics Manager (Former Area Manager)
Chris studied Bachelor of Commerce, Finance and Economics at University of Auckland

What's your job about?

I am currently on a secondment working as a Logistics Manager, focusing on different projects and change management. I can have a number of projects on the go, making each day different. Projects vary from coming up with a plan to hire the best workers in the market to developing a strategy that reduces the amount of time it takes to pick pallets of product, before being shipped to stores. Focusing entirely on these projects allows me the time to dive into the issues and identify their root cause.

I didn’t start here though. Before being seconded to the Logistics team I was working in Store Operations. I was initially hired as a Graduate Area Manager. Once I finished my training, I ran an area in Western Sydney for around two years. Then, an opportunity came up that took me to Chicago for two years as an expatriate Area Manager. I have just recently returned home and took on an opportunity to work in Logistics.

What's your background?

I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. Growing up I always had a side hustle going. Some of my ventures included starting a pool cleaning business, market research, acting, sales and I even tried my hand at building a deck. I considered myself a jack of all trades but looking back was probably a master of none!

After my first year of university I put my studies on hold, moved to Australia and did volunteer work for two years. This was a fantastic experience and it provided me time to get an idea of what I wanted to do. When I moved back to Auckland to finish my studies, I was much more focussed.

I actually came to ALDI from another graduate program where I was working in finance. I was attracted to the Area Manager role because of the leadership component and the high level of responsibility involved. The company itself also appealed to me with their unique culture and emphasis on efficiency - it just felt like a good fit!

I have been fortunate that I have had excellent Directors who were invested in my development. Having strong leaders has been hugely beneficial to my career. I recently completed a two year expatriate program which had me working in Chicago, running an area of stores on the south side of the city. This wasn’t something I had planned for or ever imagined happening, but I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes. It’s less about your ‘background’ and more about your ability to lead. This job is really all about the people. There is a strong correlation between success in the role and your effectiveness as a manager. Becoming an effective leader takes time and you cannot learn everything you need to know in a book.

It helps if you’re an optimist and have a sense of humour. When you’re dealing with people there is always room for things to go wrong. Being able to keep things light hearted and to look at the bright side is always important.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I enjoy being given a challenging store and figuring out which levers I need to pull to improve it. There can be a number of issues in a store and the root cause is not always obvious. Initially you have to build a relationship of trust with the staff. This takes time since you cannot force people to trust you. From there it is easier to make changes as people are much more open to feedback and advice.

At times, it can be discouraging because the store is not making progress as fast as you might like. In contrast there are moments where you stop and reflect on how far the store has come. For me, this is the most rewarding part of the job.

What are the limitations of your job?

The workload can be heavy at times, late nights happen and there is some weekend work. The good news is that this is all controllable. Once you figure out what you’re doing and how to get results, the job is perfectly manageable. Work life balance is very attainable but it will require some hard yards up front.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Enjoy the time you have at university and don’t take it too seriously.
  • Focus on getting a wide range of work experiences under your belt. Take the same commitment to those jobs as you would your first job out of university. Your grades are important, but once you get to an interview your experiences and skills will be in the spotlight.
  • Go traveling, do a semester abroad and try see as much of the world as you can.