Find out how James Edwards has grown and developed his career trajectory within Reward Gateway and how you can reap the benefits of longevity with one employer.
James Edwards has been with Reward Gateway for 10 years, and it’s the endless opportunities and challenges that have kept him engaged all this time. He’s also enjoyed a workplace culture that’s befitting of a company whose mission is to make the world a better place to work.
Starting out in account management, James is now Group Support & Implementation Director at Reward Gateway. He shares his tips for growing a career within a company, why he’s hired people about to go on parental leave and his own experiences of becoming a father of three.
Climbing the corporate ladder
Like a lot of people, James fell into his career. He started out in customer service with the goal of saving enough money to go travelling for two years – part of that time was spent teaching English in Argentina. Arriving back in the UK, he ventured into recruitment, but when the GFC hit in 2009 he found himself out of a job, so he moved back into a client service role for a gift card company – one of his clients was Reward Gateway.
“Reward Gateway just had this amazing culture and seemed to be going places. I could see the growth trajectory they were on and it was huge,” he says. When James needed to find work in London to be with his now-wife, he turned to Reward Gateway, applying for a job in their account management team.
When I had the interview and visited the offices, it was everything I thought it would be. There was a really friendly vibe, the CEO sat out with everyone else and office cats roamed about. These were all things I had never experienced before. James got the job and from there he’s made his way up the ladder, first heading up the account management team, then going on to look after the marketing team and help establish the business in Australia.
“Australia was where I got a lot of exposure managing different departments because the business was smaller and growing. There was no set career path but as new opportunities came up, if I felt they were a challenge and I would learn new things, I took them.” For anyone wanting to climb the ladder within a company, James’s advice is to be proactive, have the confidence to put yourself out there and ask for opportunities. “Early on in my career, I wasn’t comfortable doing this and I probably missed out because of it. But as I gained more experience and confidence, and saw people rewarded for making their aspirations known, I began putting my hand up more,” he says.
Even if the opportunity isn't there, you can sometimes create it. But you do need to chase these things.
And this is how James ended up back in the UK in 2018 in a global role overseeing a team of 110 people – he made it known that he was ready for a new challenge.
Hiring the best people for the job
Working in the industry of employee engagement, it’s no surprise that Reward Gateway is always looking for the best ways to keep their employees engaged and it’s led from the top, says James. This includes creating a culture where diversity and inclusion is the norm. “It’s just embedded into the culture.” This ethos recently led James to hire two candidates about to go on parental leave. “For me, it's always about getting the best person for the job. We want the strongest talent, who can have a career with us,” he explains. “The two women were the standout candidates and given we’re hiring for the long-term, it was the right decision. It's such a competitive market to get great talent and we shouldn't let anything get in the way of hiring the best people.”
Reward Gateway also has no minimum waiting period to access their parental leave benefit (or any employee benefit for that matter), so the new recruits were entitled to six months paid leave. “We're really proud of the benefits we offer, particularly around parental leave, and it’s a reason to join RG, so we don't believe there should be a barrier to accessing them.” It would be counter intuitive to what they’re trying to achieve as a business, says James.
Taking the pressure off parents
With three kids under the age of six, James understands how stressful it can be to become a new parent and believes anything employers can do to take the pressure off, for both women and men, is a good thing.
Having been on parental leave three times now, James’s tips for fathers-to-be are don't feel you have to follow tradition, and keep open communication with your employer:
There's no one parental leave situation that works for everyone. Talk to your partner and find out what's going to work best for everyone involved and don’t feel you have to follow the traditional route of taking the time off in one big chunk. I approached each three times differently. Also find out what flexibility you have as to how you can take the leave. You might be surprised how flexible your employer can be.
And James is grateful for not only the flexibility he had in structuring his parental leave, but also now in how he manages his work and home responsibilities. “We’re past the days of the male being the traditional breadwinner and we know that it’s really beneficial for dads to be at home sharing the responsibility, so it’s important employers are helping their employees manage that – and flexibility is key.
Our CEO has a mandate that no-one is to miss an important family event. Straight away that gives you permission to be at a parent-teacher evening or something important the kids are doing, without even questioning it.
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