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News > Alumni News > OW Updates > OW Catchup: Florrie Slater (2001 - 2013)

OW Catchup: Florrie Slater (2001 - 2013)

25 Jan 2024
United Kingdom
OW Updates
Florrie Slater (2001 - 2013)
Florrie Slater (2001 - 2013)

Florrie recently returned to Westholme to help lend her expertise at our INSPIRED Sixth Form Mock Interviews and Beyond Westholme events. Since leaving Westholme Florrie now enjoys a career working for Diageo, the world's largest alcoholic beverage manufacturing company and is fortunate enough to work alongside many prestigious brands including Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Tanqueray! 

We caught up with Florrie, to find out more about her Westholme experience and her journey into the world of business management and commercial luxury sales.

What are your favourite memories of Westholme?

My time at Westholme was filled with so many fond memories and experiences, it would be hard to pick just one! Casting my mind back, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a lot of extra curricular activities including sport, music and academic and was able to go on many trips. Some of my favourites included Mr Millest’s choir trips around Europe. Much to my current friends' surprise (primarily because I’m a pretty rubbish singer) I visited so many incredible cities including Krakow, Bilbao, Copenhagen and Ljubljana as part of the choir and orchestra. Similarly, I also travelled the country representing the school at various national swimming and cross country finals. I’m so proud to have been part of those teams! However, my fondest memories are probably the geography trips I went on to Iceland and the West Coast of the USA. Mrs Buckley and Mrs Brown solidified my love of geography and inspired me to read the subject at university and I look back on these trips with great joy (except for the food poisoning I got in Iceland. That was grim!). 

What do you typically get up to throughout a week in your job?

A typical week can vary a lot but for that I am grateful. It certainly keeps me on my toes. Normally my week will begin with catching up on various admin and emails (not as glamorous) and getting organised for the days ahead. Often I will have several client meetings in and around Scotland. I cover the entire country so do a lot of travelling but this means I get to stop over in some truly beautiful locations and venues. Typically these meetings involve large tender or contractual discussions between the client and Diageo or planning for large sponsorship events over the coming months. Often sponsorship is solely run by myself and the key brands I work with, but in the past I have collaborated with the likes of Adidas, J Lindeberg or Veuve Clicquot depending on the event. 

I will also often have various events or sponsorship parties to go to which is definitely a perk to the job. Here I have opportunities to network with key commercial clients, influencers, notable business people (and sometimes celebrities!). As you can guess, this is the part of the role I enjoy the most. As mentioned before, no week is complete without lots of travel so some weeks are spent working at our Global HQ in London or hosting clients abroad. I’ve been fortunate enough to run trips around Scotland, Spain and am currently planning a visit to our tequila distilleries in Mexico. 

While the role is extremely fun and very rewarding, much of the ‘fun’ part of the job is done to ensure that key commercial partnerships remain strong between Diageo and our clients and that our brands are represented in the best way for our target audiences. I manage the P&L of Scotland which can take some hefty negotiating and requires plenty of commercial insight into the drinks industry and the trends on local and global levels. 

You work with a collection of highly impressive brand names in your career, how did you progress to such an incredible position?

My journey to my current role certainly hasn’t been traditional but it’s one I am incredibly proud of. Diageo is the world’s largest alcoholic beverage manufacturing company so I pinch myself daily when I get to carry out some of the work that I do. 

Diageo owns hundreds of global brands, many of which people will be familiar with. These include Guinness, Smirnoff, Tanqueray, Gordons, Captain Morgon, Baileys and Johnnie Walker to name but 7. I only work with our premium and luxury range which includes brands such as Ketel One, Ciroc, Tanqueray No.Ten, Don Julio, Talisker and Casamigos, again to name but 6. This means I focus on curating partnerships, events and deals that primarily target the top 1% of consumers.

Interest in beverages and the hospitality industries began when I was 16 and worked part time at the Clog and Billycock in Blackburn. I absolutely loved this job which supported me through my A Level studies and over summers in between university years. It also set me up to work in premium restaurants throughout my studies at the University of Edinburgh. I needed to support myself financially during my time in both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to pay bills and rent but also so I could go travelling and so the hospitality industry helped me achieve this. 

As I was working in these more premium venues, I was able to network and work alongside industry leaders in Scotland and the wider UK. I learned so much and would not be where I am now without these jobs. I was tested throughout Covid where I was furloughed while studying for my Masters and so had to scramble for a supermarket job at Sainsburys to pay my way. In the end though, it was my final job at Hawksmoor Edinburgh which put me in the right place at the right time. 

My now-bosses came in for a meal at Hawksmoor and due to networking (and a little bit of luck) I knew they were big players at Diageo. I protected their table and gave them my best service and at the end of the meal, essentially told them I’d love to work for Diageo. This was despite having studied Geography in my undergraduate and then Urban Planning and Design in my Masters. Arguably, very different subject areas to alcohol manufacturing! They had enjoyed getting to know me that evening and had loved the service and so offered me an interview for the position on the spot. I interviewed about 3 days later and was offered the job the following day.Certainly an unconventional route. 

However, my university degrees also play a central part in my role now. My interest throughout my studies in feminism and empowering women within cities and development strategies has also allowed me to use my platform to empower other women in the spirits and hospitality industry and most notably, the whisky industry. The beverage and hospitality sector is traditionally very male-dominated, and marketing campaigns for certain spirits, especially whiskies has primarily targeted this specific audience. Utilising the research I undertook in my Masters (and the experiences I was given as a young student at Westholme) I am now hosting sessions for women in whisky to share their experiences and empower others. This is helping to shape the whisky industry into a more diverse and inclusive sector while recruiting new drinkers and consumers that traditionally would steer away from an entire spirit category. It’s certainly a very dynamic sector to be in just now.

Any advice for current students?

Seize and take any opportunity that comes your way, both in and out of school. This is the fastest way to learn new skills, push yourself out of your comfort zone and network with new and interesting people. You never know who you may study or work alongside that then may offer a position or interesting opportunity in the future.

I had absolutely no experience in the job I’m currently doing now prior to ambushing my bosses during their steak dinner. But I could lean on the experience I had gained throughout my time in the INSPIRED Sixth Form and university as well as the vast network I had built over Scotland through my part time jobs to ensure that I could prove myself capable of learning the role, and importantly, delivering and doing it well. 

University subject choice, degree apprenticeship or first job out of Sixth Form isn’t everything, and if you find you don’t enjoy something you’re doing, don’t be afraid to stop and do something else. I almost became a lawyer until I discovered law school to be extremely boring and the paralegalling job not a good fit for me. This is not to say that lawyers are boring, the work just didn’t excite me. And now I sell expensive tequila and go to parties for a living despite writing a thesis on feminist town planning theory and management strategies!

Finally, lean into developing your soft skills as much as hard skills (eg. Listening to others, networking, showing empathy, leadership etc) as these are valued highly by employers. The best way to develop these are to get involved in clubs and societies that you enjoy, taking up a part time job or going travelling and experiencing new cultures.

It was great catching up with Florrie and we wish her continued success in Diageo, and of course lots more whiskey tasting!

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