In The Spotlight – Abigail Girling-Weeks

In The Spotlight – Abigail Girling-Weeks
October 25, 2019 Hannah Marshallsay

This time is the turn of the Manager of one of our Key Accounts teams, Abigail Girling-Weeks, to tell her PFE story.

What’s your journey been with PFE?

I essentially grew up in the industry as I was in and out of the office from a very early age with my Dad but didn’t ‘work’ for PFE until I started college. I would help out during my college and university summer holidays working on manifests mainly. After I finished university I worked as a consultant for Charity and Arts events, doing a lot of work on presenting KPI data for funding bids. I was asked by PFE to assist with some KPI work for a specific customer and this was my reintroduction to working here. When I was offered a part time job in the Freight department I snapped it up. It was a really good introduction to my career with PFE as I helped with queries about the contracts we have with shipping lines. I learnt a lot of the basics I would need working in that team.

PFE then acquired a new client and I was moved into a broad operational role. As the client has grown over time, so have my responsibilities. At the beginning I could do all that was required for that client myself. When this no longer became possible, because of the increased scale of the client’s needs, I got a team of people around me and I now manage that team. My role has grown organically over the last five years.

I have loved my time so far working in the logistics industry. It is undoubtedly sometimes a challenging career. You are dealing with conflict resolution all the time. When you get to manager level you are essentially managing a supply chain. What I’ve learnt is that it’s important to remember that you are dealing with people – every cog in the chain is human. You therefore have to find a balance when you deal with people of being authoritative, so that people do what you ask them to, but understanding and personable as when things go wrong you need people to help you. 

Number of years in the industry?

It’s been 5.5 years since I started my career at PFE.

What makes PFE different from the rest?

PFE offers a customised service that means we mould what we do to the needs of each and every customer. Whenever we undertake something for a client we want to understand what they want and how things need to work for them. We then provide a solution that is specific to them. This is a very different approach to other freight forwarders who are less flexible.

Our adaptability also means that as a Manager, I am able to make high level decisions quickly rather than having to go through a large chain of command. This is very much part of PFE’s culture and something that has been retained despite the growth of the company in recent years. As long as the confidence between the Directors and Managers exists, the adaptability will remain. 

Our customers say that they appreciate the level of attention they get from the Directors of PFE. The level of concern and care counts for a lot. The Directors are very contactable and visible. As a result our customers feel like they get a personal experience working with us.

What are three words that describe PFE?

Flexible, Efficient and Meticulous.

What is the best thing about your career?

You have to enjoy problem solving to enjoy working in logistics. You can very quickly tell if someone is going to succeed working in this industry. The challenges can be very stressful. But there is a real sense of achievement in solving problems. What I enjoy most is the sense of pride I feel when I’ve made something seemingly impossible work. 

“The experience I have gained in the last 5 years means that we can run the account very efficiently.” says Abigail Girling Weeks. “We know what is a big problem and what’s not. When you’ve got five different fires to put out, we know which fire to prioritise. You only get that from experience and that experience is invaluable.”

Going into meetings, I’ve heard about what some bigger companies say they can’t do. What they ‘can’t do’, we’ve been able to deliver for our customers. That is very satisfying.

I also enjoy the fact that you are always learning. Every situation is subtly different, this keeps you engaged. There is never the opportunity to get bored working here. 

Do you have any future ambitions?

I’ve grown up seeing the work that the Directors have put into making PFE a success so I feel a responsibility for continuing this. Ultimately I’d like to continue to grow with the company. I’ve learnt about all the different elements that PFE offers and how they work. I would like to offer more in a general capacity in time. So I’ll need to gain more experience within the rest of the operation as a whole and overseas. What I’d like to do more of is providing insight on what we could be doing better, how we can create efficiencies with the assets we have and how this can benefit our customers.

Who was your childhood hero and why?

Mr Monday. My History teacher when I was at secondary school. He was a really positive influence on my education and it’s because of him that I went to the university that I did. I was OK at school, but I was lazy. Mr Monday saw that I had an aptitude for History and so selected me to attend a week’s course that included a visit to Cambridge University. I wouldn’t have even considered Cambridge as an option for me if it wasn’t for Mr Monday seeing my potential. 

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

It would have to be pasta. Katie makes a really good mac and cheese. It would have to be her pasta.

What’s your favourite movie?

Its a film called Stardust which is set in an alternative universe and is very funny. Robert De Niro plays a camp pirate sky captain. It’s great to see De Niro in a role that you never usually see him in – not being a gangster for a change.

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