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Meet Hannah: Leading 220 people after 12 years at Arla

Meet Hannah: Leading 220 people after 12 years at Arla Hannah Searle | General Manager at Stourton National Distribution Centre | Stourton NDC, UK

Over the last 12 years, Hannah’s Arla career journey has moved from commercial into logistics and now to warehousing. She led and grew Arla’s Tesco Cream and Tesco Milk & Milk-Based Beverages business in the UK before moving to a General Manager role in the Central Services team within logistics. Now, Hannah is General Manager at Stourton National Distribution Centre, where she leads 220 people.

Hannah lives in Leeds in the UK with her fiancé and their 20-month-old little girl. Together, they enjoy an active lifestyle being outdoors as a family.

Growing Cream and Milk & Milk-Based Beverages accounts

Hannah first joined Arla in 2010 as a Commercial Trainee at our Leeds office in the UK. She supported business managers in commercial activities, such as forecasting and invoicing as well as attending customer meetings and dealing with logistics.

“After a year, I was seconded to one of our customer account teams – Tesco, which is one of UK’s leading retailers, and I was based at their head office in Cheshunt. I was involved in the planning and execution of the annual category range reset, and I also collected category insights data and presented analysis to the Tesco buying team,” Hannah explains.

This gave Hannah insight into how Tesco works as a business and helped her build a network of stakeholders that she could utilize, when she returned to Arla in 2013 and joined the Arla Tesco Team as a Business Manager.

“I developed growth strategies, introduced new products, maximized distribution gains, created promotional plans, introduced shopper marketing activities as well as looked at different projects to reduce store waste,” she says and continues:

“Later, I got responsibility for Tesco Milk & Milk-Based Beverages account. As milk is direct to store, it is much more challenging from a service level point of view because of its short shelf life. So, I had a lot of day-to-day coordination with the Arla Logistics team to make sure our service levels with Tesco were efficient.”

Gaining experience as a people manager

In 2017, an opportunity arose for Hannah to move upwards and into a different department as she became General Manager in Logistics Central Services.

“It was quite an unusual move from commercial to logistics, but for me, it was a good opportunity to gain experience in people management. I went from never managing anyone to managing a team of 40 people, which is a steep learning curve,” Hannah says and adds:

“I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to get too comfortable. I had been in the Tesco milk role for a few years, and I wanted to keep developing and pushing myself out of my comfort zone."

"In Logistics Central Services, I had to manage a range of different departments, including the claims team, transport planning, national admin and logistics services, which were all new areas to me.”

Managing a site-based team of 220 people

When Hannah came back from maternity leave in August 2021, she moved into Warehousing and became General Manager at Stourton National Distribution Centre (NDC).

“It’s completely different to manage a head office-based team compared to a site-based team of 220 people at the NDC. Every day brings a new challenge which makes the job super interesting. I also work with a fantastic team who are all so engaged and make the NDC a great place to work,” Hannah says.

“What I love about this role and my other General Manager role is managing people. It is of course the biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding. And I believe it is important to learn that everybody is different and there is no one perfect way of dealing with a situation,“ she explains and continues:

“I think my career at Arla is a great example of how we get the opportunities we reach out for. My managers have supported me all the way – and sometimes they have helped me open doors – but I have always felt that I can create my own career and work life here.”

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