Helen Humphrey, former Vice President of National Operations at McDonald’s Restaurants, joined us for our first event of 2014, where she shared with us an honest overview of her journey to the top and the lessons she learnt on the way!

Helen started as a crew member in McDonald’s in 1983 at the tender age of 16 as her parents gave her an ultimatum – if you want to stay on in school you need to get a job.  Remaining in this role for 2.5 years, Helen loved earning money, £1.23 an hour back then, and so she decided to defer her university place for a year to work full time, much to her fathers dismay.  However, after working full time for a few months Helen caught the working bug and was picked to go on the McDonald’s Management Training Programme and at 20 years old she had her first restaurant where she was responsible for a business worth £1.5 million – scary for some but Helen thrived on it!

Continuing to move through the management ranks Helen decided she wanted a bit of a change from the operation and became a training consultant in McDonald’s for 2 years which helped change her management style as she started to see how it  affected aspiring managers.

Helen was then thrown a total curve ball when she was asked to manage the IT team in London, but always up for the challenge Helen agreed!  For the first week of the role Helen admitted that she regretted taking the job as it was such an awful environment to work in and she cried every night for this first week, but she did not give up as she was given the role to try and bridge the gap between IT and the business operations, and she knew this was something she could do.  After a lot of perseverance and hard work Helen changed all the IT in McDonald’s making it work for the operation which she felt was a real turning point in her career as she had done something that made a difference to the business.

After her stint in IT, Helen returned back to the operation but after only 6 months she was asked to be Vice President of National Operations which was an exciting time for her to work and provided a whole new career!  Helen’s certainly succeeded in her 29 year career in McDonald’s but she believes that there were a few key building blocks that supported her career progression:

  • Always move to where there is an opportunity
  • Expand your breadth and depth of experience
  • Focus on being the nest you can be
  • Work with people who challenge you
  • Never stop learning

Helen then shared with us 6 lessons she learnt throughout her career:

  1. Scary is good – this is more than moving out of your comfort zone!
  2. Everyone one you work with or hire is a reflection of you so make sure you invest in all these people
  3. Create an environment where you can learn from each other
  4. Keep it simple!
  5. Step forward – if you don’t you will never get anywhere
  6. Be who you want to not what others want to see – bring yourself to work!

A great motivational and inspiring talk to start the year  - thanks Helen!