Inspirational Katherine beats adversity to become section leader at Asda Leith at just 18

August 28, 2020

Everyone at our Leith store is so proud of their inspirational 18-year-old colleague Katherine Grindley who's overcome adversity and defied the odds to become one of our youngest ever section leaders.

Katherine was put into care when she was 13, living in a variety of foster homes and battling mental health issues which culminated in her attempting to take her own life and spending time in a young offenders' unit. And after leaving care she's been fending for herself in her own flat since she was 16.

But her motto is to never give up and never give in – and she hasn't looked back after being given a chance by the store in April last year.

Katherine left school with five national qualifications and volunteered in a charity shop before getting a job in a department store. Katherine said: "I was working on really low pay and not doing a particularly nice job so I thought let's have a look around and Asda was one of the applications that came up."

Managers were so impressed with Katherine's determination, drive and willingness to learn when she joined as a counters colleague that they put her on the Asda You Can Be career development programme.

Katherine said: "In the middle of June that job came up so I applied as soon as I could and I heard back exactly a week after my birthday that I got the job!"

Katherine was promoted to the role of front-end section leader soon after she turned 18.

She said: "I'm so glad that I'm being recognised and that they are seeing that I am very, very capable. They are not letting my age stand in the way of that, which I think is brilliant.

"I don't see myself as that young anymore. I'm the kind of person who wants to be there for people and wants to help.

"I'm very, very organised and I can handle situations extremely well. To be honest it’s been a challenge to step up into this role, but I’ve gone through tough life experiences that have shown me when I try I can put my mind to anything."

Katherine works alongside a manager and another section leader looking after the 68 colleagues at the front of the store.

She said: "It's taken a lot of hard work to get here, but I do enjoy it. There's a huge amount of problem solving and I have to use a lots of organisation skills. People around me have definitely helped me loads, especially Claire Paget, who was my section leader on counters. She has helped me massively. She coached me for the best part of a year and taught me everything she knows.

"I've had a lot to deal with in my life already. I was in the care system so I think that once people find out what I've been through they have a lot more respect for me because I come across well beyond my years."

Katherine lived with her parents in Edinburgh until she was 13.

"I started to have a lot of problems with my mental health and ended up in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for a few months," she said. "From there I was sectioned for a couple of months and from there I went into the care system. After a week I was put in a young offenders' unit for six months – the criteria for this was 'danger to yourself'. So that wasn't a good period of my life at all.

"I was in and out of foster placements and in and out of care homes for about another year, moving about constantly. I was in ten different places over three years. I then spent another four months in a secure unit after I had another dip in my mental health and ended up taking an overdose.

"Once I got out of there at the age of 15 I moved into a care home and from there on I made it my mission to get out of the care system. When I turned 16 I was put on the waiting list for a supported flat. There's lots of things you've got to do to prove that you're independent and I did everything that they asked of me and then it was April, just before I got my job with Asda, that I was offered a flat. I was there for about eight months until I moved into the flat I'm in now which is loads better."

Katherine believes her positivity and determination will enable her to reach her career goals.

She said: "I always say that I want our regional manager Brian's job – and that is my goal. I think that if I start young who knows where I will be. By the time I'm 30 I could be running the store or be deputy manager ... it just depends on how hard I work."

Asda Leith store manager Neil Cameron says Katherine is such an inspiration and has a very bright future ahead of her.

He said: "Katherine's got a real positive attitude and if you think where she's come from and what she's been through – it's so inspiring. If you could bottle her strength of character and resilience you'd make a fortune.

"I know it's a cliche, but age is but a number. Katherine's behaviour, her attitude and her confidence speak volumes. She delivers herself as if she's been 10 years in the role.

"Not many people or businesses would take a chance on her – what with her background and age – but she's got such drive and ambition and she's such an important part of the team here.

"From the outside looking in you could form a perception because of her age, but once you actually spend two minutes in her company she just blows you out of the water. She has another level of maturity which, given her background, she's needed to have. She's incredibly focussed and incredibly driven.

"When the opportunity arose for a front-end section leader, it wasn't a given that the job was hers. There was an interview process as you can imagine and she was the best candidate. It speaks volumes as she was up against some far more experienced colleagues.

"Traditionally, the demographic of the front of store is at the upper level, but Katherine has risen to the challenge well."

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