Five minutes with Bobby Barbour, commercial section manager for M&S Ireland
Bobby, from Dublin, spent a year as President of the Harper Adams Students’ Union immediately after graduating in 2002. Since then he was forged a successful career with Marks & Spencer, where he has been able to put to use his degree in Agriculture with Marketing
Why did you choose to study at Harper Adams?
Friends had been there before me and there was a lack of an equivalent qualification in Ireland at the time.
What were the best things about the course?
The hands-on practical learning, facilities and people.
Did the course enhance your career opportunities?
I gained experience and Harper Adams was conducive to me getting involved with extracurricular activities, roles/jobs on campus, thus pushing me and my 'life skills'.
Where did you work during placement?
At Green Isle Foods, Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland. I was Assistant Production Floor Manager. My tasks included flour buying, scheduling and managing production of the pizza base production line in the plant. Other tasks included quality control and quality tasting.
What were the best things about placement?
Gaining experience, applying some of the qualities developed since joining Harper Adams, making contacts and knowing that you have the opportunity to apply some of the experience gained on placement in the final year of your degree.
Do you think placement enhanced your career prospects?
Absolutely; it gave me an edge in the interview, something to talk about passionately and also proved to the potential employer that I could hold down a job and make a change all while being a student. It helped me approach things with a more mature perspective.
Tell us about your career since graduating.
My first job was SU President at Harper Adams, then I was General Manager of Killowen Yogurts. This was a discontinued brand and I was hired to rebrand this product and re-introduce it back onto the marketing place. I was also involved with production. This I did for 18 months. The brand is still in production and has won prizes in the interim years. I now work for M&S Ireland as a Home Furnishing Manager and have held many positions in the past eight years. Assistant Store Manager of a Simply Foods branch, to a Foods Manager, General Merchandise Manager, Marketing Assistant and now Compliance and Foods Manager.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Interacting and working with people, no two days are the same. The challenge of meeting targets and striving to understand how targets can be achieved.
How did your qualification/ experiences at Harper Adams aid your career?
The university instilled a very positive work ethic in me and taught me not to stand on the side lines, but get stuck in to influence results.
What was the teaching/staff support at Harper Adams like?
It was excellent.
And the facilities?
Equally excellent and even better now (jealous!)
Would you recommend Harper Adams?
Yes. In my experience to date I know of nowhere else that offers such a wide variety of experience, expertise and investment in the individual.