As part of our campaign to promote apprenticeships within the furnishing and interiors industry we spoke to now Finance and IT Manager Nadeem Memon to learn about his apprenticeship at Panaz Ltd.
Who are you, who do you work for, and what is your role now?
My name is Nadeem Memon, I am 37 years old. I am currently employed by Panaz as the Finance and IT Manager. I started as an Apprentice Accounts Clerk and worked my way up within the business to become the Senior Manager within Finance and IT Department. As from January 2018 I will be promoted to Head of Group: Finance & IT. I started my apprenticeship with Panaz Ltd back in 1996 and I have been with Panaz for nearly 22 years.
Why did you opt for the Apprenticeship route and how did you get into it?
I did pretty well during my GCSE studies and came out with some decent grades, however I wanted to see the big wide world for myself and wanted to experience life through my lens and most importantly wanted to stand up on my own 2 feet, without the reliance of family.
I come from a good family background that is very traditional, however constantly being told that you have to do this and that and you will experience this and that was a constant chore when my elders spoke, therefore I decided to see things for myself.
I had an opportunity to go to College and University and in hindsight probably regret due to realising that in my time it was less study and more social life. The other element was the sheer cost of going to University and I didn’t want to burden my family or myself in getting into debt and then struggling to pay this off.
I am originally from Yorkshire, I left home at 16 and lived with my Grandma in Lancashire. I approached the careers office in Nelson to see if there was any opportunities to work and learn at the same time. It just so happened that Nelson and Colne college just launched their apprenticeship scheme. I then applied to about 4 to 5 different organisations from Pharmaceuticals to Accountancy practices. Panaz gave me an opportunity to join their team and I took this opportunity to focus on my career and personal goals. To be honest I haven’t looked back and I am still really enjoying my time at Panaz.
What did you cover in your apprenticeship?
I signed up for a 2 years apprenticeship deal with Panaz and Nelson & Colne college. This gave me an opportunity to learn on the job and study Business Administration as at that time the apprenticeship scheme was relatively new and the courses available then were very limited compared to now.
Business Administration was still a very handy course to study and at the end of it I received a BTEC in Business Administration, Level 2 & 3, BTEC Advanced Business Planning, BTEC Advanced Human Resources, BTEC Advanced Key Skills and a BTEC in Marketing. The day release course gave me an all round 360 view of business and the core of how businesses operate most importantly though it was how different functions worked together to achieve the same goal.
How was your training organised and how did it support your development?
The taught training was with Nelson & Colne college and my on the job training was mainly within the finance department at Panaz, as ultimately I joined that department.
My main personal goal was to understand business and business process as working within the Finance department can be quite routine. I wanted to work in all departments and get experience on hand. I took the opportunity that Panaz gave me to work in all departments from the shop floor to design and printing to gain knowledge of how and what makes the business tick. This insight gave me valuable knowledge that ultimately helped me in future years of my career within Panaz.
What do you feel are the main advantages of an apprenticeship?
The main advantages in going into an apprenticeship programme for any young individual is that they can pick a career, get paid, learn on the job and also gain a qualification without getting the worry or burden of debt. In some cases with SME businesses you have the opportunity to wear many hats and trust me this is a great opportunity to add value and ultimately gain respect of others.
In college we are taught theories and some of these methods are very old fashioned and outdated. You don’t learn the realities of the fast moving ever changing business environment, you can’t be taught business practices or business etiquette as this is an experience you gain over time.
The key for anybody is to ensure that they have a career goal, are focused, want to succeed and are willing to sacrifice time to ensure that their goals are met.
What challenges did you face during your time as an apprentice?
Originally when you first join a company you want to impress, however I quickly realised that the this should not be the case and what you should do is to focus on adding value to the business, earning respect and being reliable.
You will be treated as an office junior and will be asked to do tasks that are boring and mundane, however persevering and adapting to the environment is very key in earning trust of others. Your ideas may not be implemented and there will be an element of frustration that things are not going your way, these are the challenges we face when we are still young and inexperienced, remember though this is a marathon not a sprint. Do not talk a good game, prove that this game is actually good and can work. Try to do your homework for meetings, prove that your ideas and methods can work, this way it gives you a sense of satisfaction and ultimately will earn the respect of others.What attracted you to this industry?
Textiles is actually in my blood. My grandfather was in textiles in Uganda and he was a very astute businessman and I guess I have taken over the mantle piece from him. Panaz is a very innovative organisation and gives very good opportunities, all it requires is for somebody to grasp this and run with them. The organisation is very efficient and flexible and my reasons for staying for such a long time is the variety of tasks/projects I have got involved in the past and current has been challenging but I have also gained a lot of experience, I have been very lucky.
What advice would you give to anyone considering an apprenticeship?
Have a goal in mind, ask yourself apprenticeship with no debt or University with debt!
Then ask yourself what career do I want? Remember a career is a long term strategy not just a job!
Research on whether you could obtain the same qualification going through the apprenticeship program vs University.
If you do take the apprenticeship route then ensure you do your homework on the organisation you apply for, check their financials, have they employed apprentices before and try to connect with them. If there are careers offices still about try to seek advice from them, they certainly put me in the right direction.