In the Spotlight – Jenni Blackie

In the Spotlight – Jenni Blackie
July 20, 2023 Hannah Marshallsay

Jenni is part of PFE’s customs entry team, where her main role is to handle and obtain clearance of our customers’ customs entries. Having been working for PFE for nearly 26 years, Jenni shares how she has witnessed and celebrated various life milestones together with other long-standing members of the PFE team and it is that which makes PFE a truly special place to work.

Number of years in the industry?

I’ve been with PFE for 26 years this year! Since September of 1998.

What’s been your journey getting to where you are today?

PFE has been my one and only employer. After finishing college and completing my A-levels, the original plan was to go to university. However, I had a change of heart and decided against it. That’s when my mum encouraged me to go out and find a job. So, I visited the careers office, landed an interview at PFE, and met Adam and Dave. Long story short, I got the job without knowing much about shipping at all.

When I first l started, we were based in Chelmsford, and I joined to be part of the booking-in team. I stuck with that role for around three weeks, if I remember correctly. But then, a member of the customs team went on maternity leave, leaving a gap that needed filling. So, without missing a beat, I switched over and started learning the ropes of their side of things. And from that point on, I’ve been in the customs team ever since.

When I initially joined PFE, I happened to be the youngest member of the team for a while. Anya, Gill, and Angela were already here. Of course, there were also Dave, Adam, Peter, his wife Marion, and Dreen. I was 18 years old when I started. Several people played a positive role in shaping my experience. Anya, Mel and Gill in particular, acted as mentors in their own way. It’s remarkable that there are still quite a few people here who have been part of the company for a long time. Perhaps it’s due to the company’s values and ethics. They have treated me exceptionally well, supporting me through important milestones like my marriage and the birth of my children. I genuinely can’t find any fault in the way they have treated me. In many ways, PFE feels like my family, and their commitment to treating employees with care is evident.

The transformation of PFE over the years has been massive. I can vividly remember when we first moved to the Witham office. At that time, the office seemed huge, and we couldn’t imagine ever outgrowing it. However, fast forward twenty years, and here we are, full to the brim. It’s quite daunting to witness how much we’ve grown!

What does your role at PFE entail?

I work in the customs clearance department, and it can be a bit challenging to explain exactly how it all works. But let me give you an example. Let’s say a customer buys footballs and sends them over to England. They would then need to pay the duty, which is where I come in. They receive a commercial invoice, packing list, and any other relevant documentation for the shipment. My job is to ensure that all the documents are correct and that we have all we require to clear the goods through Customs.

Next, I complete a customs entry, which involves declaring the importers details, the value of the goods, and other necessary details. Then, I submit the entry to customs to obtain clearance and raise any relevant invoices , once the shipment clears customs, the delivery team takes over to get the goods delivered and the goods eventually end up in the shop for you to purchase those footballs.

The role does require a good grasp of mathematics, especially when it comes to duty and VAT calculations. Back when I first started, we had to manually figure out the duty or be able to do it on paper if the computer happened to go down! I can still do it manually and jot everything down, but nowadays, there are formulas for everything, making the process much simpler. 

Within the customs team, we each have our areas of expertise, although we can handle any entries. For instance, Gill and I specialise more in clothing, fabrics, and footwear. While we all contribute to various types of entries, we tend to gravitate towards our preferred areas where we possess greater knowledge and expertise.

What’s been the best thing about your career?

Undoubtedly, the people make PFE truly special. The way we are treated and the camaraderie among colleagues are exceptional. PFE genuinely values its staff and takes great care of them. Many individuals have been part of this company for a significant duration, creating a sense of continuity and shared experiences. We have witnessed and celebrated various life milestones together some happy and some sad, It’s a testament to the strong relationships we have formed within the company.

The bond we share goes beyond a typical work relationship. It’s a unique dynamic that sets PFE apart. If you value loyalty and appreciate the significance of such connections, its lovely to be a part of that.

What makes PFE different from the rest?

PFE develops strong relationships with its customers, some of whom we have been working with for numerous years. This loyalty and trust between us and our customers is integral to our success. The partnerships we have formed are a testament to the positive rapport we maintain. Our customers choose to stay with us because they value the relationship we have built, and we reciprocate that loyalty.

In terms of customer interaction we establish a friendly working relationship. It is the relationship that we have with our long-standing customers that is genuinely rewarding and adds to the overall positive experience of working for PFE.

What are three words that describe PFE?

Profound Family Enterprise 

PFE continues to be a family-oriented enterprise, and there are no indications of that ever changing. I remember, Jacob and Jonny were just little ones when I first started. Now, they’re gradually getting more involved in the company and I expect they will eventually take over from Adam at some point. Even Morgan now works in the air freight department. It’s truly remarkable to witness how the children have grown up and become part of the company. 

What’s next for you at PFE?

As PFE continues to grow, I don’t anticipate any significant impact on my role. However, I do recognise the need to adapt to a more paperless, spreadsheet-driven, and technologically advanced environment. It will require me to embrace digital tools and workflows more extensively. We have received ample training to facilitate this transition. Ultimately, it will be exciting to witness the company’s expansion and experience the new opportunities that come with it.

Speaking for myself, I don’t foresee any reason for me to ever leave PFE, aside from retirement or the unlikely event of winning the lottery! (And if I did, I’d relocate to a warm, sunny place!) I can’t imagine pursuing anything else in my career at this point. If I’d had any other ambitions, I probably should have considered them years ago. But honestly, I’m happy and fulfilled where I am. I’m perfectly content with continuing to work steadily and enjoy the journey with PFE.

Who was your childhood hero and why?

I must admit, I don’t have a particular childhood hero in the traditional sense. However, when I think about my upbringing, I truly admire and look up to my parents. They have been a constant source of support and guidance in my life. Since becoming grandparents to my two Boys, they have stepped up and embraced their role with complete dedication. I can’t fault them in any way when it comes to being wonderful grandparents.

Their love and care extends beyond our children to our furry family member as well. They kindly look after my dog Milo once a week, taking him to their home and bringing him back. They consistently go above and beyond to help. I am truly grateful for their unwavering support and the incredible role they have played as grandparents in our family.

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

​​I couldn’t really pick just one favourite meal because I love lots of different foods such as Italian and Greek food, as well as a good Christmas dinner. But if there’s one thing I can’t live without, it’s crisps. 

What’s your favourite movie?

While I wouldn’t say that I watch films that often, if I had to choose a favourite, it would be Forrest Gump. I’m not exactly sure why I just really like it!  Also what girl doesn’t like a bit of Dirty Dancing? And I Do like Disney’s UP, but will always need a tissue for that one!

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