Andy Walker, Field Support Manager for Dennis and SISIS, recently celebrated an impressive 40 years of working for the company. Here, we take a look through his long and illustrious career.
It all started back in 1976 when a fresh faced 16 year old, took a chance and walked into the SISIS factory looking for a job. The lady on reception asked him if he had been sent from the job centre - to which he replied “yes.” Andy walked into the interview room and the rest as they say, is history. However, it could have been a very different story…
“I had just been given a month’s trial and on my way out of the office I bumped into someone who was in my class at school and he was looking all hot and flustered. Anyway it turns out that he was the one who had been sent by the job centre but his taxi didn’t turn up,” says Andy.
In his own words, Andy ‘cut the mustard’ during his month’s trial and was offered a permanent position working on the shop floor. He remained in that role for a few months but the ever determined Andy had his heart set on a position he felt would suit his skill set better. So when an opportunity presented itself there was no way Andy was going to let it slip through his grasp.
“We used to have an engineering factory which was a quarter of a mile up the road from where the main SISIS building was. I was asked to go up there to press some shafts into some wheels that we used for line markers and I got talking to the manager there. He knew my brother Steve which may have helped but I told him that I didn’t really want to work on the shop floor and that I felt that I’d be able to do a decent job in the engineering department. Well I must have had lady luck on my side because he told me that there was an opportunity in design engineering. So a few weeks later I was transferred.”
While working in his new position Andy embarked on a five year college course in engineering at Stockport Technology College. He excelled in this role finding himself at the heart of building prototypes and upon completion of his college course he was promoted to the manager’s position.
In 1983 he moved into sales, where he remained for twelve years until a vacancy for the role of Product Evaluation Manager became available. With his experience of building prototypes combined with his engineering qualification, it was decided that Andy was the right man for the job. So for the next fourteen years, every new product was put his way so that he could test them and recommend changes before final production.
2009 signalled another change of direction for Andy when he was promoted to the position of Field Support Manager. He was in this role for two years before the Howardson Group acquired SISIS and it was a move which Andy believes signalled the start of a perfect partnership.
“Unfortunately SISIS wasn’t really heading in the right direction – for example when I first started back in 1976 the company employed 104 members of staff. In 2011 when Dennis took over, there were only 41 members of staff remaining. It was a worrying time so the acquisition was the best thing that could have happened in my opinion. The two brands also complement one another perfectly - SISIS opened up markets to Dennis and Dennis opened one or two markets that SISIS had been unfamiliar with.”
“It’s a nice feeling to work for a company that’s getting stronger and stronger all the time. There’s excellent management in place, the company is forward thinking and we’re heading in the right direction year on year.”
Just as Andy played an integral role for SISIS, he continued to be a key member of staff for the two companies and to this day Andy still manages every aspect of product demonstrations. It is far from a 9-5 job and his position has taken him all over the world.
“I’ve been all over America, Canada, Australia and Africa; all over Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East – you name it – I’ve probably been there. I feel extremely privileged because there’s not many people that have done the travelling that I have. I’ve seen some stunning places but I’d have to say that Austria is probably the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to – it’s so picturesque.”
“Some people ask me whether the travelling ever takes its toll, but I’ve been going abroad regularly since 1983 so you just get used to it. The plane journeys can be quite long sometimes but it’s nothing that a vodka and tonic can’t put right!”
Andy admits that he never dreamed of where his career would take him since that fateful day, when as a sixteen year old boy he strolled into the SISIS factory looking for a job. 40 years later and he’s seen some of world’s most beautiful places, become a prominent and well respected figure in the turf care industry and seen first-hand the widespread adaptation of several technological advances. It’s an impressive achievement – but what’s the secret to his long and rewarding career?
“Quite simply – I love what I do. Throughout the 40 years not once have I ever woken up and dreaded going into work. The main reason that I’ve stayed in the industry for so long is because of the people in it – those I’ve met at bowling greens, cricket squares, football pitches, people from other companies and especially my colleagues over the years – they’ve become some of my closest friends and that’s something that money can never buy. It’s also been great to witness and be a part of the evolution of the turf care industry.”
“There are so many people that I would like to thank for being a part of my career but the list would be endless – however there is absolutely no way I would have been able to do any of this without my wife Linda. In the early days I used to spend about three months a year abroad and with two young daughters that wouldn’t have been possible without a special person behind me – someone who was strong and an amazing mother. So if there was one person I could say thank you to then it would be Linda.”
Andy, proud father of Kelly and Abbie and grandfather to four children, plans on thanking Linda when he retires by sweeping her away on an adventure. With just the two of them, Andy’s idea is to take the caravan and journey the coast of Britain all the way to Scotland and back down. This will be followed by the coast of France and then the coast of Spain
But how long Linda will have to wait for her adventure remains to be seen…
“I’m still going strong, I enjoy what do and I’m still fit enough to jump up and down from the trailers – so we’ll see what happens.”
“One thing is for sure though – when the time does come, I’ll be able to look back over my career and confidently say that it’s been a blast!”