Matthew Rawlings: My OSS Story

Published by on Thursday, 03 Nov 2016

Matthew was a delegate and scholarship awardee at our Masters 2016 programme. Read his story here:

Many years ago, I attended what is now called the Oxford Summer School Academy at Keble College, I absolutely loved it. I gained a huge amount of knowledge from it and even now, almost 15 years on, I still find myself talking about it!  Since then, I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to work my way up the career ladder to my current position of Menswear Director for Coes.  I really enjoy what I do and at times it can be really challenging, but I also felt that it would do me good to take me out of my comfort zone by attending the Masters. It certainly did that! Coming from an independent retailer, our training budget is not vast, any ideas that I could take back with me and help put into place within Coes and with my colleagues would be extremely beneficial too.

In terms of my expectations, other than knowing that I would be mentally stretched and inspired by those around me, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. However, I did hope that as well as taking loads of useful ideas back to Coes, I would be able to look at the business with a fresh set of eyes, think about things in a different way and genuinely make a difference. The programme was as mentally stimulating and challenging as it was enjoyable. Taking a step away from the business but still being able to think about the business was a unique experience for me.  Being able to do so whilst surrounding myself with some brilliant fellow delegates, not to mention, some superb speakers made the week even more valuable to me. 

Being forced out of my comfort zone from the very first minute wasn’t a surprise but being thrown in at the deep end and being able to keep my head above water throughout the programme, I managed to surprise myself!  Coming from an independent retailer, I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d ‘match up’ with some of my peers from multinationals but the way in which everybody helped everybody was fantastic.

During the course, I had no trouble sleeping. By the end of each day, my brain was crying out to be recharged but as soon as I got back to the calmer atmosphere of home, I didn’t sleep for the following two days! My mind was awash with ideas and processes that we could use within Coes. From a positive point of view, it was wonderful to see that we appear to already be carrying out a lot of what is considered ‘best practice’. The future of retailing and in particular, the part that technology will play in it gave me so many ideas for us to incorporate into the business. Some of these are miniscule but others are massive and will require a large shift in how we, as a group of Directors, look at the business and run it.

Having returned from the course, I presented the board with a large set of notes and ideas detailing my week in Oxford. What was really pleasing was their genuine interest and support for what I came back with. Ideas ranged from topics relating to our financial strategy to internet strategy to people management. If anybody is thinking about signing up to the Masters 2017,  my advice would be to do it! I am very grateful to the retailTrust sponsorship that allowed me to attend the programme.

Matthew Rawlings
Menswear Director, Coes

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