CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.

Ashley Harris: how scaling mountains in the Himalayas and deliveries at Tesla helped conquer the need for external validation.

July 18, 2022 Andy Follows Episode 73
CAREER-VIEW MIRROR - biographies of colleagues in the automotive and mobility industries.
Ashley Harris: how scaling mountains in the Himalayas and deliveries at Tesla helped conquer the need for external validation.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ashley loves a challenge - it’s the intrinsic motivation for everything he takes on. From the physical and mental effort of ice climbing in the Himalayas as part of his Outdoor Leadership Degree, to his five years at Tesla working his way up to a position dealing directly with Elon Musk and ultimately leading Tesla’s European Delivery and Logistics Team in the launch of Model 3. 

Behind it all he has developed a passion for Operations in various guises in order to meet these challenges, enabling him to streamline organisations by optimising people, processes and systems. 

 This passion is being put to good use in his current role as Operations Director at Clearview Imaging, an exciting globally expanding company of Machine Vision Experts looking to revolutionise automation over a wide range of industries. 

 In our conversation he shares how failing to grasp the step up required to succeed at A level derailed his initial plans for further education and how it was almost by chance that he ended up at Enterprise rent a car where he picked up the knowledge and experience that would make him a valuable addition to the team at Tesla. We discuss his rapid progression through that business and Ashley describes some of the challenges he faced and the course corrections he made on the way. He also shares how he was motivated by the need to prove himself and relays the phone call that helped him to realise that he had finally done enough. 

 Ashley is a wonderfully genuine and inspiring human being and I'm delighted to know him and to be able to introduce him to you in this episode. I look forward to hearing what resonates with you. 

 If you enjoy listening to my guests' career stories, please follow CAREER-VIEW MIRROR in your podcast app.  

 You can contact Ashley via LinkedIn

 Why not follow us on Instagram @careerviewmirror where you can see a directory of all our episodes and comment on those you have enjoyed. 


 This episode of Career-view Mirror is brought to you by Aquilae.  

 Aquilae's mission is to enable Fullfilling Performance in the auto finance and mobility industry, internationally. Adopting our Fulfilling Performance Paradigm helps you identify what steps you need to take to enable Fulfilling Performance for yourself, your team and your business. Contact cvm@aquilae.co.uk for a no obligation conversation about your situation. 

 

Email: cvm@aquilae.co.uk 

Episode recorded on 27 June 2022 

Ashley Harris:

I remember getting back to my hotel room literally just got into my boxers. got into bed at like midnight, and then my phone rings and it's Elon. I am sat there talking to one of the most famous people in my pants

Andy:

Welcome to Career-view Mirror the automotive podcast that goes behind the scenes with key players in the industry looking back over their careers so far, sharing insights to help you with your own journey. I'm your host, Andy follows ASHLEY HARRIS listeners, Ashley loves a challenge. It's the intrinsic motivation for everything he takes on from the physical and mental effort of ice climbing in the Himalayas as part of his Outdoor Leadership degree to his five years at Tesla, working his way up to a position dealing directly with Elon Musk, and ultimately leading Tesla's European delivery and logistics team in the launch of model three. behind it all. He's developed a passion for operations in various guises in order to meet these challenges, enabling him to streamline organisations by optimising people, processes and systems. This passion is being put to good use in his current role as Operations Director at ClearView Imaging, an exciting globally expanding company of machine vision experts looking to revolutionise automation over a wide range of industries. In our conversation, he shares how failing to grasp the step up required to succeed at A level derailed his initial plans for further education, and how it was almost by chance that he ended up at Enterprise rent a car where he picked up the knowledge and experience that would make him a valuable addition to the team at Tesla. We discuss his rapid progression through that business and Ashley describes some of the challenges he faced and the course corrections he made on the way He also shares how he was motivated by the need to prove himself and relays the phone call that helped him to realise that he'd finally done enough. Ashley is a wonderfully genuine and inspiring human being, and I'm delighted to know Him and to be able to introduce him to you in this episode, I look forward to hearing what resonates with you. If you enjoy listening to my guests career stories, please follow Career-view Mirror in your podcast app.

Ashley Harris:

This episode of Career-view Mirror is brought to you by the Aquilae Academy. At the Academy we turn individual development into a team sport. We bring together small groups of leaders from non competing organisations to form their very own academy team. We build strong connection between team members and create a great environment for sharing and learning. We introduced the team to content that can help them tackle their current challenges. And we hold them accountable to take the actions that they decide are their priorities. We say we hold our team members feet to the fire of their best intentions. We do this internationally with teams across the world. If you'd like to learn more about the academy, go to www.aquilae.co.uk.

Andy:

Hello, Ashley and welcome and where are you coming to us from today?

Ashley Harris:

Hi, Andy. I am in in Bicester just outside of Oxford. In the UK. It's very well known for Bicester Village shopping centre, but not a lot else,

Andy:

It isisn't it? I remember we were on a call together not too long ago. And you mentioned that and we had people was it in Egypt? Ah, Bicester village. Yes. Well, I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to talk with you today. Thank you very much for joining me. Let's start with where it all started for you. Where were you born? And where did you grow up?

Ashley Harris:

So I was born in a little town called Keynsham, which is right in the middle of Bristol and Bath in Somerset and amazing place. It's a place I'd love to kind of go back to when when the time is right. I'm proud of my accent, which most people always comment on. And I'm proud of that. It's a nice place to grow up.

Andy:

Yeah, I hadn't. I hadn't actually picked up on it. But I went to school for a little while in Bristol. So perhaps that's why it washed over me, it's a very familiar accent. Tell us a little bit about when you were growing up. What was your family situation? Do you have brothers and sisters.

Ashley Harris:

Yes, I'm the oldest of three got a sister who's two years younger than me and then a brother who's who's eight years younger than me. You know, growing up, we had a really great relationship, especially with my brother. You know, despite the age gap, he and I were joined at the hip all the way through and and then my parents were working. My dad was 30 years in the police service in total. And so I grew up with the challenges of having a parent in the police force, which is not always the easiest of things, especially when people you go to school with have been arrested by him or or whatever else the case may be. That posed definitely some some personal challenges at school. And my mum after kind of taking some time out to kind of raise the three of us, she used to work in the courts never remember the name of the job, but when the lady that types or the man that types, the words of everything that's been spoken. So she did that and then moved into more sort of secretarial work and then set up her own business towards the end of that. So, yeah, both working in kind of public service in the end, which was, which was a nice sort of thing to kind of look towards.

Andy:

I'm sure it wasn't quite like this. It wasn't your dad nabbing them and your mum sending them down, that sort of family business.

Ashley Harris:

I've never actually looked at it that way. But yeah, I mean, it's how they met originally so my dad was in court one day, and that's where he saw my mom. So that's actually how they met. But yeah, maybe they had a little internal thing going on

Andy:

we'll clean up this town.

Ashley Harris:

Yes, yeah, that's how they met, which was, which was really nice.

Andy:

I always ask why, you know, what my guests parents did and the sort of roles they have visibility of when they're growing up. Now I know you've not followed your father into the police service or, or your mum into the court. So let's talk a little bit about what you were doing at school. Ash, what subjects appealed to you and what kind of student we're you?

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, it's, it's really interesting. So I loved school, all the way through to A levels, and so GCSE I kind of steered more towards maths and history. Those were the kinds of subjects that really interest me, and worked incredibly hard all through my GCSEs and came out with really good grades and was excited to join the six form college that was attached to my school. And for whatever reason, those two years, it just didn't work out for me. And I really kind of struggled with the transition. I think looking back, that was probably because it was the same setting. And so I kind of considered the mentality of how I should learn and how I how I should work on a day to day basis exactly the same as I did when I was in my GCSE. But there's a big step up between GCSEs and A levels. from an academic point of view, it's a little bit more sort of self research and other elements involved. And I didn't grasp that. And I think it's because it was in the same surroundings, exactly same buildings and teachers and classroom. And so I really struggled and eventually kind of switched off actually wasn't until the very end of my A levels I realised that I might have messed this up and then wanted to go to university and realised I probably wasn't going to have the grades to get there. So at A levels, I chose chemistry, Business Studies, Geography, History maths, and essentially did rather than full A levels, I did a load of AS levels sort of one year variants and just did as many of those as I could to try and clamber some UCAS points together that I hoped would add up to get to university, and so I really, really struggled with that I spent a lot of time playing on the Xbox then got into a men's hockey team for a friend. And, you know, they all are older than me, sort of 30s 40s. and above, and they were all going to the pub after training or after games, and so went to the pub with them. And, you know, then we've got into drinking and whatever else not to an alcoholic point of view, but so that, you know, going out for beers a couple of times a week, and that kind of took over the social side of my life kind of took over and therefore really struggled academically in that in those two years. But interestingly, it was, when I was doing my GCSE, as you mentioned, you know, I haven't followed either my dad or my mum. And actually, that was the dream. That was the dream to do that. I wanted to be a lawyer. And that was kind of the real focus I had when I was at GCSEs. And I remember going to, you know, family parties and talking to my aunties and uncles like this is what I'm going to do, I'm going to be going to be a lawyer. And there was a TV programme called Silk in the UK that was on the BBC. And I was obsessed, I was like, this is this is me, I'm going to do this. And then because of my A levels, not going as well as I'd hoped, then that kind of definitely wasn't going to happen. And I realised doing at least four or five years in university was not for me, and applied for the police force in various stages, but just never went through with it. And it's still something I think about now to this day. And my brother is now a trainee paramedic. And so you know, he's gone into that kind of line of work. My brother in law is a retained fireman. So I've got lots of people that are doing that. So still always look back thinking, Maybe I should have

Andy:

Interesting. Yeah, very interesting. And it's

Ashley Harris:

It's not a regret definitely but it's one of those things that I always look back and think maybe I should have, maybe that was something I should have done.

Andy:

did you say not to regret?

Ashley Harris:

It's not a regret. No, I love where my kind of journey is gone. But it's definitely one of those things that you know, I look back at and think that would have been pretty cool.

Andy:

Yeah, it sounds like this sort of thing that could have happened under different circumstances. You know, you can imagine that having happened. Yeah, I think it's interesting that you have looked back on yours. Sixth Form career and identified that it was possibly not stepping up because it was so similar because it was in the same school really in a very similar surroundings that you took the same approach to it and that you now look back and think wasn't appropriate. The reason I pick up on that is because my sixth form years were equally disastrous after a very successful, naught to 16 years old, if you like and GCSE. And I put mine down to all sorts of changes that happened in my life and me moving and taking my foot off the gas and things. But it's interesting that you, you didn't move and there wasn't an external factor. And you still had the similar experience so that I don't normally indulge with my own sort of parallels, but that one was so, so close. So what happened when you got to the end of your of your sixth form? What what happened then?

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, so I, I didn't really know what I was going to do and was kind of struggling to find, you know, that end goal. And, you know, all of my friends were going to university, so I was like, that has to be the thing, I should do them. But I knew if I went to study maths or history, I'd probably do a year and then fall out and quit and not make it through. And so I didn't want to sign up to something I knew, I probably wasn't going to go into finish. And then this is at a time when Facebook had the adverts and the banners down the side of the website, my dad just joined Facebook, and this banner popped up on the side. And it was for the University of Cumbria. And it was an outdoor leadership degree. And sort of privately as a hobby. I did a lot of hill walking and a bit of climbing and a bit of mountain biking. So I had this hobby and interest in sort of outdoor sports. And he saw that and I still remember it vividly to the day. And we'll touch on this in a little while. I guess it's still the line I used to get my first sort of proper job. I said to dad, our Outdoor Leadership, there's no way I'll get a job with anything else out other than sort of an outdoor instructor. It's like, well, you could do that. He said, But you could go into any office in the world and say if I can lead people in a life and death situation in the hills, I can lead people in an office. And that was his line. He was like That's why you should do this degree. And I still vividly remember being sat at his computer looking at the course programme and him saying that and that's what I did. So I signed up and managed to scrape together just I think there was 10 points there of the UCAS points to go to the University of Cumbria and study. Outdoor Leadership, which is based or it was at the time, I think the university's closed down now in Penrith in the Lake District.

Andy:

Right. Let's talk about that in a moment. I just got to recognise your The Great dadmanship that was going on there, that was some very good parenting fathering and insight into the value of that programme. So hats off to him. So you got to Penrith Lake District beautiful part of country very, very rugged. Tell us what sort of stuff were you getting up to on an outdoor leadership degree?

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, so one day a week was guaranteed practicals. So that would be varying sports that they chose, we could also then select some sports as well. And then for sort of two to three days a week, there were then practical modules. So that was on coaching, business, in case you wanted to set up your own outdoor business afterwards, mentoring leadership. So we went through different leadership principles, Covey and all those kind of well known leadership principles. And so it had this kind of academic side to the course as well as the practical side of things. And that's what kind of set that course over the other sort of outdoor education courses that you can see out there. It was amazing. I spent, you know, my weekends and my evenings climbing and mountain biking with with some people there that had, you know, that were incredible at their sport. One of my lodge mates was was a kayaker for Great Britain, for example. And so kind of in with all these people doing these incredible sports, and it kind of really fueled that, and so I was super lucky to get invited to go to the Himalayas, five weeks, and we climbed Mount Ekorburnski, which is in the eastern Himalayas, we didn't make it to the top. But being able to do this course with the part of that was was an incredible part of my university timing, which is great.

Andy:

Yeah, I'm sure that was I'm sure it had a huge impact on. I mean, they weren't your formative years, but I can imagine the impact that had on developing you as an individual and I think your father's absolutely right. I mean, the sort of lessons you would have been learning then, well you'll be able to say better than me how that has indeed helped you goinging forwards and I'm sure we'll hear about that as we as we go through so did you feel at the time that in spite of this having not been your original plan that you had landed on your feet? It was okay. Yeah, absolutely. And it was really interesting, you know, when I told friends what I was going to do or friends parents what I was going do, definitely had, you know, comments and saying, Oh, it's a cop out degree. You know, you won't get anything from that or, or you know, You're never going to earn much money. That was the phrasing because you know, typically in the outdoor industry the people in that are paid hourly and kind of minimum wage or whatever else. And so that was kind of the reaction from, from some of the parents weirdley of friends, which I always to these day still find odd, and others were like, that sounds incredible. Like, how can I sign up, I want to join you on that one, because it sounded fun. And I loved it, it was three years of just incredible fun, I'm still very good friends with my flatmates from university. And we have a great relationship now. Yeah, I really felt like I'd landed on my feet. And I wanted to be a mountain guide. That was the goal. And my second year, I was like, This is it, I'm going to take people climbing all over Nepal and the Alps. And I'm going to be a mountain guide. And so that's kind of, at least in my second year, that was the kind of real focus of my time there. I can imagine it being very exciting. And once you'd had your exposure there as well to the Himalayas, and I'm glad you mentioned the reactions of other people, it does seem that people do struggle, people struggle to make the connection between one particular course of action and what it might actually open up to you and the transferable skills that you might develop, doing something really well that you really care about, that you really throw yourself into. And you learn skills that you can then transfer into other arenas. So

Ashley Harris:

Absolutely, and I see that now, actually, you know, we'll we'll get on to it. But you know, I went from working for a huge company that was all over the media all the time. And now working for a company that isn't in the media all the time. And definitely there were question marks raised when that happened as well. But for me, it's all part of the journey. And I have a plan and working towards that. And kind of the transitions now that you mentioned, that seem very similar in that sense that I knew what I wanted, I knew what both options were going to give me. It was the right thing for me at the time, and it had transferrable skills, but from the outside people in the university time were focused on the financial outcome that I wouldn't achieve. That was kind of their worry is that I wasn't going to be able to have this fancy job and work in an office and earn lots of money, they were like oh you're just in the outside teaching people to climb, like you're not going to earn much. And in that latter phase. Now, when I moved to my different roles, it was the kind of the profile side of things. It's all very sort of superficial items, I guess you could say, of people were focused on well you've gone from this really famous company to a company that isn't famous, and why would you want to do that doesn't make sense. But yeah, definitely is a clear vision in my head, that's for sure.

Andy:

Yes, you've got a clear vision in your head. And when it makes sense to you. It doesn't matter what it means to other people and whether they can see it or not, if you know what you're doing. Yeah, interesting. So as you were doing that course, you were loving it, and you wanted to be a mountain guide, you thought, right, this is this is what I'm going to do. So no spoilers, you didn't become a mountain guide, as far as I know. So what happened?

Ashley Harris:

I started doing the training for it. So there's different qualifications you can get in in the UK. And then there's international qualifications. And the most basic one in the UK is called Summer mountain leader. So did my training for that was really for my assessment. And in that time, spent a lot of time in the hills walking, climbing, and you know, fortunate with the university to be able to help run sessions, we did some sessions for different kids groups, or whatever else in the local community. I'd then get home, and you know, be completely soaking wet, or whatever else. And I'm like, I'm done. I'm just gonna go to bed or I'm gonna watch TV. And then I had other friends that are like oh, we're gonna go out climbing, do you fancy it and I'm like nah, I've been out all day, I'm done. And so very quickly, a kind of passion for the hobby disappeared. And, you know, I think some people can do that, right, their sport hobby can also be their job. But for me, I lost the passion for it. And it was no longer a hobby, it was a job. And I kind of lost that disconnect to it and missed it. And so decided that I'd get a proper job and keep that as a hobby in the background.

Andy:

I see. Is this by the time you've finished your your course? Or had you finished your course. No this was kind of in my towards the end of my third year as I was kind of writing my dissertation. So my dissertation was on the effects of altitude on the body mentally and physically. So whilst I was in Nepal, I was doing tests on the group of friends, I was with testing them physically with different sort of tests and oxygen and stats and everything else. And then mentally with some cognitive tests at different altitudes, and then comparing male versus female, a smoker versus a non smoker, and all those kind of things and how altitude affected or didn't them. And it was kind of during that process that in my third year of writing that I decided that I loved being in the Himalayas and that was incredible, but then teaching someone to do it and taking someone to that the same time didn't hold the same appeal to me, and actually I wasn't even that good at it either to be honest, and so I was able to make it through and but I wasn't the best at it by far and so I kind of decided that perhaps it will wasn't the best for me. And I'm sure there's some people there at the time that still to this day said, There's no way you could have done it and perhaps looking back probably agree, agree with them to some extent that it's, it takes a certain person. It's not an easy, easy job, that's for sure. And it's another example that we can only discover this stuff about ourselves by actually going and doing it. Yeah. So coming out of university, Then where were you headed? What were your thoughts landed on as ideas of things to do.

Ashley Harris:

So at that point, I literally didn't have an idea, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. In terms of sort of future career. And I still can't fully today, remember how I found my sort of first proper job out of university. But I ended up applying for the graduate programme at Enterprise rent a car. And I still can't quite remember how I found it. But was nervous during the interview. And then the dad line came out. And I remember sitting guy called Martin, I remember sitting in his office, and we hit it off instantly, because he was a mountain biker. So we had that connection. And then he said, you know, done a sort of non academic degree, why do you think this'll work? So I said the dad line of well if I can lead people in life or death in the outside, I can do it in the office. And he literally turned round to me and said, that's probably the best line I've ever heard an interview. And that was it, the Job was mine. And, yeah, two weeks later, I think it was I started as a management graduate at Enterprise Rentacar. And so yeah, not where I ever thought I'd end up. But that's where I ended up eventually started my professional career.

Andy:

Yes. So that was really by chance. And it happened to be Enterprise rent a car was your first job? Yeah. How did you find then being in that environment, your first proper job, as you call it,

Ashley Harris:

I had an incredible few years, it was a really great opportunity to learn lots of elements of business in a really short space of time. And so you start as a graduate and eventually if you pass your graduate programme, you can then apply for assistant manager role and branch manager, and so on, and so forth. And once you become an assistant manager, you're then commissioned on a percentage of the profit of your own branch. And so it's kind of running your own business without it being your own business. And so it kind of taught you all the kind of fundamental elements of business, I worked with some incredible people. And it was, it was fun, more than anything, it didn't feel like I was like, This is what's going to work feels like, this is amazing, you know, I have a great time with people. We chat all the time, we have a good laugh in the office. And it just felt like this real sort of social environment but we all worked hard. And so I'd start some days at five o'clock in the morning finish at 10 o'clock at night. Because once the office was closed, if the drivers had not been able to deliver all the cars, you know, we'd go out on the road and help them drop them off to corporate customers houses. And that was great. I loved like still do I love cars and so but getting to drive 20, 30 cars, different cars every day was was almost a dream come true in that sense. Some of them not so good. Some pretty bad cars in the mix but some really nice cars in there as well and

Andy:

got a good reputation Enterprise as a as a grounding. It sounds like I can understand why you had that ownership. And you had that progression, the opportunity to progress. And for someone who was, you know, used to doing Outdoor Leadership stuff in the Lake District, then yes, you probably got a little bit wet doing Enterprise Rentacar, you know, sorting cars out and it's very hands on Yeah, cleaning cars, it's you might be running the show, but you're also moving cars and cleaning cars and all that, but compared to what you were used to it was probably still pretty cushy from a being dry and warm perspective, but long hours that you could certainly handle at that time. And how long did you do it for

Ashley Harris:

so I was with enterprise, just under two years, through the Graduate Programme and then into an assistant manager role. And yeah, moved across to three different branches during that time across the Bristol and Bath area. Yeah, I just had this kind of crash course in business over those two years which was good.

Andy:

So you could have stayed there. I'm sure that there's a as you said there was a career path there. Yeah. What did you choose to do though instead what happened?

Ashley Harris:

So I met my now wife, and so I was still in Bristol and Bath and she was in London. And so we did the kind of long distance thing I call it long distance Bristol to London every weekend was driving down and back up. And after two years of that just kind of decided that I didn't want to didn't want to do that anymore and wanted to relocate and looked for jobs in the London area within rental and I was lucky enough to find one really fairly close to where we lived and so they were looking to hire pretty quickly and so within about two weeks I got the job and then resigned and within London within sort of six week period so it all happened pretty quickly

Andy:

And which organisation did you go to in London?

Ashley Harris:

So I went to North Gate, which probably a lot of people haven't heard of, they focus more on commercial vehicles. It's mainly on vans and smaller trucks as opposed to the more mainstream brands and focusing on on cars. So I joined a fairly new branch at the time North Gate, were doing a huge expansion across the country to kind of really increase their presence. And I joined a branch at Brent Cross that had a manager there at the time, when I joined, I joined as a as an assistant manager, but the business was really struggling. And so when I joined, I think there's about 100 vehicles on rent at the time, and a lot of frustrations within the driver team within the kind of support team and in the sales team. I remember being in the car park on my first day and the assistant manager, the area manager, sorry turned up and introduced himself and asked how my first day was and I said it wasn't what I was expecting. Long story short, it turned out, they were having some challenges with the branch manager at the time. And so within about a week of me joining they fired her, and then asked me to step up as branch manager, bit of a sort of baptism of fire and essentially, they had very clear goals in what they wanted to achieve, because of this big expansion they were doing across the UK. And so they said, You've got to turn this around, and then had a pretty tough challenge on my hand to, to convince the people to get there, and then also to try and get the operational side of the business running. So again, long hours and a lot of work. But I really enjoyed stuff.

Andy:

Can you remember that moment where they asked you? And had you expected that at all? Or did that come as a bit of a shock?

Ashley Harris:

I kind of expected it. So there were two people that were from head office that was sent down to the branch before I joined to kind of help. And so they were on site to kind of help out and try and support the then branch manager to try and turn things around. I got to know one of them really well. And his honest opinion was like, she's not going to last like this role is going to be yours. And so he kind of set me up on that first or second day. Yeah, within the first week she'd gone. So I kind of realised that this was then actually going to be a reality after all right.

Andy:

And maybe they had that in mind when they were interviewing for the role when they put you in the role. Maybe they knew?

Ashley Harris:

Well, I don't think so actually, because I applied for a branch manager but didn't get it. And so I applied for I was assistant manager enterprise and apply for branch manager at Northgate, it wasn't for a particular branch, it was just they had lots of openings for branch managers. But they didn't think I had the experience for a branch manager. So they asked if I take on an assistant manager role

Andy:

You need an extra week. Yeah, exactly. And so yeah, you know, within that time, all of a sudden, so I think in that case, my stars aligned and the opportunity was there. And so it was my time to kind of prove myself I guess. Right. So challenging time, you did get them to follow you, though. Yeah,

Ashley Harris:

it took a lot of effort. But, you know, we grew

Andy:

that's not normal. the business from about 100 vehicles on long term rentals, about 500 vehicles. So pretty rapid growth within within the year. And it taught me two really important things about sort of the way that I like to manage, and then also how I myself operate. The first being that I'm a people person. And so I like to think that if we were to ask any of my previous teams how I operate, there's a real sort of passion and care for each of them as individuals. And so I spent a huge amount of that time sat with the drivers trying to understand their frustrations and trying to build up that trust and rapport with them to draw line, so I don't really care about what has happened, I want to make sure we don't repeat it. But let's look forward and understand what you need in order to enjoy the job more. And, you know, I still remember on the day I left there the drivers gave me a few different gifts to kind of say thank you before I left and the same for the sales team. They were constantly pushing business through to the rental desk, you know, it was a constant met with no, we can't do that, we don't

Ashley Harris:

No, and he's there. Can you do that? Again, I have enough vehicles. And you know, I said look, let me turn this around. And so it wasn't just me to be very clear. I had support from the people that were from head office to help out and we were able to really turn that around. And rather than saying no to everything it's like okay, I don't have a van now but let me try and find one. And so every day we used to go into the office and had bookings for 40 different vehicles only had 10 in the forecourt. So every day you had to find another 30 vehicles and that problem solving attitude, just I don't know how we'll do this, but one way or another, we'll find a way to do it. And I've learned that my mind had this amazing way to kind of see the problem just in my head without writing anything down. And I could very easily say Okay, send driver, one to here, they can collect that van, and they can drive to this location, pick up the next one and then they can drop this off here and my mind could just process all this information really, really quickly. And then a driver would call me and say I've got here but the van's not here or the van is here but the driver didn't leave the keys out what do I do? And I didn't have to think sit down and think like no problem. Just take a tube to this location pick up this one instead then move that one round and then go to this location, it just instantly flew through my head and it kind of leads into sort of the biggest learning I had in that. I have a I have a good way of memorising things in my head naturally. And I remember the area manager came to visit one day and he said, how many vehicles do you have off the road and broken vans off the road at the moment. And he said, what's wrong with them? I now know what he meant was show me the report on the system of what's wrong with them. But instead, what I did is registration by registration. I call all 22 vehicles off and the problems with them, and when they likely be back, and he looked at me like mouth open wide going What on earth has just happened? He says on your screen right? I said no. Now I realise what he meant. And could do the same thing again. And even when I left, I remember driving through London. Oh, that's one of my vans that's on rent to so and so. I don't know why, but the registrations just stuck in my head. It still happens to this day, you know, it's interesting the people who I work with now I still, there's a lot of stuff in the head that I don't let out because it's just the way my mind works. And that really helped me when I moved into into Tesla, which we'll come on to that massively helped me with that as well. And just this. Yeah, problem solving machine thing that I have in my head. I don't know the words for it, it's hard to describe it

Andy:

Yeah, So you have an aptitude or a natural talent to retain information, sort it out, seemingly without a huge amount of effort. And it's there, you can recall it, and use it manipulate the data. Incredible.

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, it's like a problem solving thing because when it came to academic things, I couldn't do that. So I couldn't revise very well, for exams, I couldn't take in that information to then be ready for exams. But when it was work related, that was living day in day out, and it was related to things that I was accountable for responsible for, I could process that information very quickly, you know, vehicles off the road, was a KPI, you know, that percentage of vehicles off the road had to be below a certain percentage. And so it just was able to keep that information in my head and process so that I was able to try and fix the problem, right, you know, if I was above the target, and I had to solve that, and so the only way I could do that was just to get into the detail, keep that information process. And I continued doing that for most of my career, probably still do to this day, in some ways, it's great, because I know the detail, and therefore I can help solve the detail. But at times when you're there managing bigger teams, sometimes I was too stuck in the detail and therefore wasn't kind of focusing on the strategy. And I guess there's that phrase of, don't see the wod for the trees that kind of really then hindered me later on. But yeah, I just loved that the way my mind works in that sense.

Andy:

No I'm sure, that's a very valuable asset to have. And I was thinking, when you were going into the office every day, knowing literally that I'm gonna walk in there, we're gonna have, you know, 30 or 40 vehicles, we need to place and we're gonna only have, you know, 25% of those physical. It takes a certain kind of mindset and attitude to want to go in and do that, to be able to go in every day. That's, I'm not sure I would enjoy that at all. But then the other thing that came to mind when you were describing your situation is that I expect anyone listening to this now would be thinking, well, that's a very valuable asset. You know, I bet no one's thinking, well, that's fine, if you want to stay at Enterprise rent a car all the time. So people are able to see the transferable value of that problem solving, whilst simultaneously not being able to see the transferable value of leadership development skills that you might have got in your Outdoor Leadership programme. So just just a thought that came to mind maybe it's the people stuff doesn't seem as valuable as the quantifiable you know, the operational stuff anyway. So you went to Northgate became branch manager within a week from from assistant manager and worked very hard to turn that business around and had obviously some really great, you know, great talent that you could bring to, to working in that environment. And you learnt a lot while you were doing that role, as well. And so what was there anything else during that phase that you want to talk about Ash or do you want to move on to the next step?

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, I guess it was the the kind of the hours required, the kind of work ethic is for both Enterprise and Northgate is that work ethic and when I am interested in something, I'll put anything into it to make it to make it work regardless of the hours, and now I look back, that was a real foundation that then helped me at Tesla which is kind of the next sort of phase and without that I probably don't even know if I'd have lasted through my time at Tesla because of the the hours there and I guess we'll come on to that in more detail but it's I think that was one of the biggest learnings and then help to spring forward into into my next part.

Andy:

Yeah, and So what was the next was Tesla the next part? Yeah. So I interesting went on holiday to the US and just did a road trip with my now wife and kind of travelled around California, Grand Canyon, all the usual kind of stuff and saw these Tesla cars on the road. And I thought I was a big car fan, but had never heard of Tesla. Amazed by them, came back to the UK wasn't looking to leave rental at all, was still enjoying, it was a little bit bored of having to clean cars in my suit every single day. But googled Tesla, when I got home, interestingly saw that they were hiring in the UK. So again, it felt like the stars aligned, it felt like this is this is my moment. And applied for that role whilst still at Northgate and what was the role that you applied for.

Ashley Harris:

So I applied for delivery experience specialist, which when I applied, and I didn't realise this was an incorrect assumption, until I actually started my first day at Tesla, I thought it was logistics based, as you probably know Andy as well, it's not logistics based at all, it's customer service and customer focused. And so it was s a little bit of a shock when I started, but yeah, it was a delivery experience specialist was the title. And essentially, it's the you know, when you buy a Tesla, especially at that time there were really long lead times before the first vehicles were delivered. And so once you'd bought the car from the salesperson, you would then be handed over to where these delivery experience specialists that would then guide you through everything to do with charging, financing your car, registering your car, all of those kinds of bits and pieces. And essentially, that was the role was to help customers through that journey leading up to the point of day of delivery, and then doing a handover with the with the customer to give them that vehicle. So that was the role that I actually applied for not knowing it was that

Andy:

no, but I can imagine your experience that you had would have been perceived as very valuable with the expectations around how things were going to grow and how vehicles were going to be the logistics side of it was going to come. But also your very personable nature, you're a people person and I'm sure at interview, they could see that and thought you'd be a great customer service personal Dealer Experience Specialist.

Ashley Harris:

I'm smiling people can't see it but I'm

Andy:

So that job wasn't what you were expecting. But you did smiling because I listened recently to your podcast with Ross Forder. And I remember him saying about, you know, the first Westfield store and opening that and I still remember my third or fourth interview with Tesla sat on a beanbag just to the side of the Westfield store so all the customers could see, you know, just basically chilling on these beanbags, I left and my wife said, How'd it go and I said I don't think I've got that job. That was the weirdest interview I've ever had. And before I'd even got home, I then had the US calling me saying Oh, someone in the US wants to do final an interview with you and I'm like OK, maybe it did go well. And yeah, just the most surreal thing just sat in a store in the middle of the shopping centre on a beanbag having an interview with it wasn't with Ross, it was one of Ross's colleagues with Ross was was there at the time as well. it anyway. You didn't say no, you thought I'll get started. And how did you find it?

Ashley Harris:

It was incredible. I remember my first day I flew out to Holland, Tesla had a factory in Tilburg, in the Netherlands. And my first day I flew out there and met another colleague that was joining at the same time. And my first day, my manager gave me a laptop and said, there's 120 customers in your pipeline get going, I'm like, get going with what. And that's the point where the realisation was, Oh, this isn't actually logistics, this is something else. And so I opened this laptop. And, you know, there's a couple of guys that were based in the Netherlands that had done this before, because the left hand drive Teslas were already in the market. So it was kind of a process already there. We just then had to adapt that for the right hand, the right hand drive market and customers. And it was amazing. It was this, you know, there were four of us in the team, lots of sales employees already, but there was just us in this in this delivery team. And we worked together to try and work out what we were supposed to do and piece it all together. I knew nothing about electric cars. I wish I'd studied more in physics when we were talking about electrics and volts and amps and all these things. And one of my colleagues did an Idiot's Guide to charging up on a big whiteboard. And I've still got the photo to the day of an Idiot's Guide. And then he kind of drew out everything in terms of single phase and dual phase charge, all these things I've never heard of before, but it was incredible. And that's the point within my first couple of weeks that I thought this is going somewhere this I want to be here for a long time. And I remember we didn't know about model three at the time that wasn't kind of in the kind of public domain. I just remember saying to my colleague saying, I want to be here for a long time this is going to be this is going to be an awesome ride. And I remember telling friends I'd joined Tesla and they said to me, what that sounds like a milk float like that. It's not, it's not gonna work. And it wasn't until I managed to get a Tesla and take one home and take people out for a ride that they realised that it wasn't a milk float, it was a serious car with some pretty incredible performance and technology to match. And just this whole process of trying to help build the market up and help deliver the first vehicles was was incredible, such a highly motivated and driven team across the whole of the UK business just to make make it a success. And remember being there on the launch day in Canary Wharf, Elon Musk turns up and kind of sat in awe thinking, wow, this guy's like on the news. And I'm in the same building as him at the same time. And then he came up onto the stage where myself and four other colleagues were stood and he walks up on the stage never spoke to me, I never spoke to him at all. But I was on the same stage as this really famous man. Yeah, it was just this whirlwind sort of magical, very grand ride for a couple of years of just delivering cars to customers. And seeing the dedication and devotion that both customers and employees would have to make it successful is just mind blowing, really was even still to this day, it's just thinking about some things that customers would do for us, or that we would do for the business. It's just crazy.

Andy:

Yeah, I sometimes talk about that level of discretionary effort that people would give at Tesla was extraordinary, it opened my eyes to the impact that you can have when people are really, really engaged. And they believe that the purpose of what they're doing is bigger than the business itself. Have you got any comments on that, Ashley, that sort of you mentioned the level of motivation that there was and you know, some of the examples of what people would do? And was that a first for you? Did that open your eyes too to what teams would do if they believed in something, they're working for something bigger than themselves?

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, there's a couple of scenarios, you know, one, the workforce was still really small. And so we would all help out to do everything and anything that was needed. And so if the store was short staffed, then we, you know, work in the store for a day or two, or vice versa, or marketing, whatever needed to happen, we would all chip in to make it happen. And I remember when we got our first sort of delivery location in the UK, which is still there to this day, the West Drayton office, and when we first moved in, there's now at least when I left, there's three buildings, there was just one building originally. And we moved in there. There was nothing. It was this empty shell, it was an old BMW dealership. And it's nothing there and we had one or two electric sockets to power everything. And so we've got extension leads on extension leads so if health and safety ever arrived, it would have been a nightmare. And there was no fridges and nothing, we just everyone just kind of accepted that this is what it was, we'll make do with it. And you know I'm sat on the floor emailing customers, we had one mobile phone for the whole, no landline so we had one mobile phone that all of us would use to contact customers and pass the phone round and I'll use it for the next 20 minutes to call my like next 20 customers, and then I'll pass it to you. And most people wouldn't want to do that on a day to day business. It was scrappy, I guess that's the famous word at Tesla, it was scrappy, we just got stuck in and just accepted it. And over time, then that just got built up and we improved the office and everything got kind of caught up with that. And then it was focused on end of quarter. And for people that haven't experienced an end of quarter at Tesla, it's carnage, it's just deliver as many cars as you physically can before midnight on the last day of the quarter. And so you know, for the kind of two to three weeks leading up to that there's periods of time where we'd be I'd be picking up my colleagues at four o'clock in the morning, we get to the office at five, we then work from five right through to 11 o'clock at night, we'd have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the office and then do the same thing again for three weeks straight sacrifice a huge amount of personal time. And you know that looking back as a kind of not a negative, I guess it is negative of my kind of five years at Tesla that the amount of sort of personal time I sacrificed and, and lost with family and friends. I guess it's the detriment of all of that. But at the time, I'm not going to say it wasn't in my mind, that makes me sound really sort of selfish and self centred. But I had a very understanding wife who wanted me to work hard and do well in the job because she could see I enjoyed it and everybody was the same. Everybody just focused on making that as successful as possible without sort of real much attention or care for the outside world, I guess.

Andy:

Yeah. So the benefit was that incredible amount of discretionary effort that people get the level of engagement. They had the total and utter commitment to the mission. Almost at all cost getting so caught up in it so wrapped up in that incredibly fulfilling meaningful work with colleagues doing the same. That lots of other things became less important, or appeared, or somehow just yeah, got lost in the blind spots of focusing on one thing. Yeah,

Ashley Harris:

I know of occasions where colleagues, you know, unfortunate their marriages broke down or whatever else because of it. I don't think the business particularly cared enough about the people in those early days, I think it was very focused on, we have to achieve these goals for the success of the company. And everyone was willing to do it. It's not like we were forced to do it. There was never a time that you know, management was stood there going, you need to be here at five o'clock tomorrow morning. This has to get done. It was how do we get this done? Well, we need to be in for longer hours. So I'll pick you up in the morning, we'll pick up breakfast on the way kind of thing. We just all wanted to make it a success.

Andy:

Interesting, because you said earlier that you're a people person, and you do care about people. And it's interesting that you think that the business didn't necessarily care enough about people in those early years, I had the impression it was more about survival. And the way I rationalised it was that the mission of Tesla was about saving the planet, it was about saving all of mankind. And if there were some some casualties on the way, then it was for the greater good. If you like, that's that that was the I'm not sure that anyone if I'm not saying anyone, consciously said that's what we're doing. But that's how I could explain what was happening is, yeah,

Ashley Harris:

we're also cogs in in a wider machine. Right? We're all very small cogs within this wider machine. And, you know, cogs are replaceable. And yeah, I think you're kind of exactly right, I don't think the business was ever kind of purposely making it happen. But it just naturally happened. And so, you know, there's, there was, at least at the time of very high turnover of staff at Tesla. And I think part of that was the burnout culture, if you want to call it that, where people just worked so hard, they couldn't continue. And, you know, I wasn't there, because of the sustainability. Actually, I had no interest in sustainability. When I joined. I was for me, it was the cars, it was the tech, I'm like, this is incredible. And it wasn't until I started there that I then sort of attached more to the sustainability side of things. And then it was just the people. And so to your comment about the people side, I just enjoyed working with people incredibly closely, you know, spending more time with them with anybody else to do in my kind of personal life. And, you know, we all became friends really closely, and we still keep in touch to this day. And now we could go six months without speaking to each other. But when we catch up, it's like, we've never been apart. And you know, that kind of bond that I guess we all got from that. And that's the kind of the people element to it, at the time, it wasn't managing anybody, I was just part of a team. And we all wanted to do the best for each other to help each other through the kind of tough times and whatever that involved, like, you know, whether giving each other lifts or making the coffees continuously whatever was needed, you know, one lady used to bring in food that her mom would cook at home everyday for us to help all those little things to really help each other through, it was, was this kind of real personal team of, we're going to make this a success. And it's it was from day one. Now, I think it through as we're talking about it, it wasn't like it, you know, that had to be built up over time. You know, actually, I will work hard for this, it was day one got to Holland, bang, let's just get going with this. And it was great, an amazing time, I still now refer to it as this sort of magical, fairy ground ride at the time, my whole five years at Tesla was like that, just this fairy go round of chaos and learning and mistakes and, and then eventually some some real sort of positive movement for it. And I loved it every single moment of it.

Andy:

That's good to hear. Good to hear Ash. So you progressed well, within Tesla, as well, only five years in some organisations isn't a long time. In Tesla, it was a long time. Tell us about your progress whilst you were there.

Ashley Harris:

Five years at Tesla's called a veteran I think, it's yeah a long time. And yeah, I was really fortunate, I kind of held sort of four key roles, I guess, within within Tesla over that time. And after just about a year and a half of being a Delivery Experience Specialist, the UK business had really grown and expanded. And so they went from the four of us. And then it started with seven or eight of us within the team. And so they then wanted we were managed by a regional manager that looked after the Netherlands and Belgium as well and Germany. And so they wanted to kind of get some more local management and so I applied for the UK Manager role for that team and was really fortunate to get that. It's one of those transitions that was the hardest I've ever found, going from being best friends and incredibly close to everybody to then managing those those people and I remember a moment in the West Drayton office that Laura, the HR, HR business partner came up to me said, I need to have a word with you, instant panic. And I go into the, into the office and she said, I don't know if you've realised, but you walk around the room with a sort of swag and a sort of air of authority about you. And it comes off as quite arrogant. I was mortified. And I sort of sunk down in my chair, and I said, I don't know what you mean. And she says, you got this UK role. And now you walk around like you own the place. And it just hadn't occurred to me, I hadn't. I hadn't gone in there to do that. And somehow this kind of air had come across. And I was panicking. I then wanted to do everything I could to allay any fears to anybody I could speak to that that wasn't what I was trying to achieve. And I really kind of struggled with that transition of, yes, we're best friends. But sometimes I'm going to tell you, you haven't done a great job, and let's try and improve it. That was tough. That was a really tough transition.

Andy:

So how'd you develop to swagger

Ashley Harris:

apparently. I still, you know, I wasn't aware of it. And you know, when she said it, you know, little things she said, I was like, oh, yeah, maybe I have, maybe I have done that. And, you know, I was, I was mortified. I still now I've gone all like clammy thinking about it. I was embarrassed, I was really embarrassed. And someone I had a lot of respect for at Tesla, Simon, you know, I sat down with him and said, Hey, I've just been getting this feedback. He was great. He said, You know, don't worry, just move forward in the right way and it'll be fine and thankfully it was worked out. But yeah, it was. It was hard. And so then it was focusing on building that team in different locations that used to just be Heathrow in London. Then we opened up in Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, little bit in Bristol. And so then it was helping to scale that, that team to their customers, rather than having to travel from all across the UK to London, could pick up cars, at least a little bit more regionally across the UK.

Andy:

Thank you for sharing that not because I want to make life really uncomfortable for you. Keep you feeling clammy.

Ashley Harris:

I quickly moved on

Andy:

Yeah, you've moved on and I'm like, no, no, no, no, come on, come on, come back, come back. The reason I want to come back is just because I'm reflecting on what you've said, and what might have happened there. First of all, thank you so much for sharing it because I think it's a really great story. And I think it's really difficult is one of the hardest transitions we ever have to make is when we go from being part of a team to leading that same team of people. And I'm guessing you didn't, you weren't at home, practising your swagger, you know, asking your wife is this is this, does this look authoritative enough, darling, I'm going with your you with your reversion, that it's entirely subconscious. And I think my listeners as well, having heard what a lovely chap you are already will be thinking yeah, that doesn't sound like the sort of thing he would have deliberately been been putting on. And so just maybe, yeah, there's some subconscious kind of effort going into a need to try and exert some authority here, step up a bit. And interesting and great advice from Simon, just, well, you've had the feedback, great, just absorb it move on, and things move so fast, I'm sure that it didn't take long before. Before that was all distant memory. And you were busy then expanding the number of delivery experience specialists and the locations where people could pick their vehicles up. Because it was super exciting, having a brand new car company and having loads of you know, having next to no infrastructure and having growth plans and having to open all the new stores and all the handover centres and so on. And something which has actually, since then, we've got more brands coming and we talk about Tesla being the first new car brand in however many years. But now there are more brands following in those footsteps. So now,

Ashley Harris:

I find that fascinating right. I was reading some articles on the weekend about Rivian and Pole Star. And so everything they're doing, I'm like I've seen that happen. And I kind of I can almost sense what is going on in the background of those companies. I have no affiliation with these companies. But I have just sensed what's going on in the background.

Andy:

Yeah, sure. And Peter, Peter Jackson was my guest a few months ago, ex Tesla now Rivian. So there's plenty of appetite for the experience that you would bring or Peter Jackson brings that ex Tesla experience is in demand with these new startup companies.

Ashley Harris:

Peter actually trained me Peter. Peter trained me to handover cars to customers and to you know to do all that handover and Yeah. worked a lot with Peter.

Andy:

Yeah. Another wonderful guy who there was absolutely fabulous people and and then you've got Lucid, obviously another, again at Goodwood Festival of Speed this week, yeah, Lucid Air driving up the hill. And there are Tesla people at Lucid as well, as you'll know, so keep talking about your progression then within the Tesla business.

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, so I was only in the UK manager role for just under a year. And then the opportunity came up for a regional role. So to be the Western Europe Operations Manager, so was to still manage the UK team, and but then add in Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. And so I applied, and you know, there were people in those countries already in the country manager roles, especially in the Netherlands, and so kind of between us and really didn't expect to get it ,went through a pretty tough interview process for that. And I remember just being sat in my flat in London, driving my wife insane, because I'm not going to get this, I'm not going to get it, I'm not going to get it. And then I get this text message to say have you got two minutes. ah, This is this is the bad news spoke to my manager at the time. And he said, the role's yours, you've got it. And I remember running around my flat. I've done it, I've nailed it. I think it was at about that point that model three was talked about. And Elon talked about the ten year plan and model three was there. And I remember sort of saying, I want to be here and be part of the launch of model three and part of model three deliveries. And at that point, I was hooked. My life was was Tesla was already at that point, it was like, Okay, this is this is it. And you know, then was travelling, then got into the kind of like corporate world of being on a plane once or twice a month and visiting the team in the Netherlands and never managed anybody in another country before. So had to learn all about remote managing all of those kind of quirks that come along with that. And the way I looked at it though was just, I've just got to do what I've done in the UK, and then replicate that in these other countries. And I knew that I wasn't going to be able to do it myself. And that's where that kind of experience at Northgate really helped me the only way I can achieve this because everybody's remote is by building great relationships with the local team. Yeah, it was a much easier transition, actually, because I didn't have a pre existing relationship with with most of them, I knew of them, you know, they'd come over to the UK to help at points and everything else. But I didn't have the kind of relationship I had with the UK team. So that was a much easier transition. Despite, you know, the added pressure and things that for me at that stage didn't really kind of come into my head because it was just the same job. But just on a bigger scale with a few more cars to deliver. I thoroughly enjoyed that role, definitely

Andy:

not the same as having to step up from a team and lead the team, these were now new relationships, and something you you'd achieved it in the UK, you knew what to do, you were just going to transfer your approach to new markets and lead remotely. And so lots of new things to add on to your growth and to what you'd have to do. But on the basis of you having had some existing success, doing it in one market, I just want to go back and this may or may not be you know, I don't know if you can remember, when you got the call when you were pacing up and down in your flat in London waiting to hear whether you'd got this job. And you got it. Why did you want it? Are you able to work out why you wanted it?

Ashley Harris:

I think so the first thing that came to my head when you said that was external proof. And I was able to prove that despite going to a cop out degree, I was able to make it work, right. And I was able to do it. And it's just that kind of belief in myself and I'm a storyteller, my mind is storytelling, I always sort of self doubt myself and to prove to myself and to the outside world that I could do it. And I could hold an important role within the organisation and I could help lead a team and, you know, in all of this just be very clear. And the whole kind of caveat to the whole conversation is none of it was possible without the people there. But it kind of was that validation to myself and to the outside world that I could do it. And I was able to do this job and was able to be successful, I guess, right? And I remember my dad has helped me all through my career in various ways. And sometimes he doesn't always understand what it is I do I don't think but he in probably true dad fashion as I now know having my own daughter. He asked the stupid questions. He asked those questions that from the outside if you just get down to kind of first principles of it and ask the stupid questions, pros and cons of both and I got this role and I called him I wasn't able to speak to him. So I left a voicemail and I was in the car. It was the day after I'd missed his call and a voicemail and I played it through the car speakers, getting a bit sort of like choked up thinking about it, but was just my dad like cheering down the phone and saying like you've smashed it, like really proud of you. And that was it. I was like this is great. This is awesome. I don't know if my dad remembers it. We've never spoken about it since I don't know if he remembers, but I wish I'd saved that voicemail because it was one of those moments where I really looked back and made him proud. And not that I don't think he was before. But just that moment, that 30 second voicemail. I'm like tick, that's it, I've done it

Andy:

oh, my goodness, I'm bit choked up as well. I'm so glad I asked that question. Thank you for answering it as openly and beautifully as you did. And the two things that come to mind are how much has been achieved by people trying to prove to other people or to themselves, that they can do something or that they didn't screw up by doing X, Y Zed, myself included, I put myself in that spent my whole life trying to bury a ghost if you like, still doing it probably. And the other part is how much has been achieved by people trying to impress their dad or their mum

Ashley Harris:

I don't even know like, if that was the reason for applying, I just guess it was the sense of achievement afterwards to kind of hear my dad so vocally. I think he said he was in the office. And he was, you know, cheering, at that point he'd left the police, he was working in an outdoor store, you know, just, you know, helping out on the shop floor. And, you know, just thinking, envisaging my dad in the middle of the shop going, cheering and chanting. It was amazing, a moment I'll always remember. I need to talk to him about it again, and see if he still remembers, yeah, it was great.

Andy:

I love it. I love it. And also you're a dad now. So and you will know, Dad pride. And you will know the older I mean my kids are now 25 and 22. And there is nothing that beats them achieving stuff. It's just so I mean, it's that vicarious kind of, well it's not vicarious, because I'm not enjoying their success. I'm enjoying how great I feel to be a dad of one of these, one of these young people who are doing amazing stuff. So it's totally Yes. Wonderful. Love it. So you got that European job. And you were then using you thought I'm going to use my skills, my people skills, my relationship skills and my experience of doing the role in the UK. And I'm just going to have to do it across multiple countries. And it's going to mean some travel, it's going to mean some remote leadership. Did it work as simply as that? Or were there challenges with that you hadn't anticipated with people being from different markets,

Ashley Harris:

the language barrier, definitely. And I remember being in GCSEs going, saying to one of my teachers, I'm not interested in learning a language, if I sit at the back of the class and do my homework, but other lessons, would you leave me alone, and I won't cause any interference. Sounds awful to say. But even in my GCSE, myself, and a couple of friends actively chose the foundation paper because then it was multiple choice. And then we all just did like D A, B, C, E. And we did that all the way through all the questions because we didn't care at the time. And then looking back I realise now, that was a big mistake. So language was a was a huge issue. I was very lucky that most of them spoke probably better English than I did. So it made it a lot easier. And again, I think it was such a easy transition in the sense that again, everybody was there for the same purpose. And so no matter which country, all employees were there to make the company succeed, and everybody, of course, had their own internal sort of ambitions to work their way through the business or whatever else, do whatever they wanted to do. And so there's that hidden piece, I guess that doesn't get talked about. But primarily everybody was there to help the company grow. And therefore it made it a lot easier than than perhaps I anticipated. And then it was learning stress. That was the first time I'd sort of really experienced sort of stress and accountability, although in the UK role, I had that, and as an assistant manager things, but once I got into the regional role, it's kind of you know, there were still managers above me but it really felt like the buck almost stops with me for that market. And I've really now got to step up and think strategically, because I had done the do all the way through for one of a better phrase, you know, I've been a delivery experience specialist, I'd been UK manager and knew how to do the role and so when I saw things that weren't working as the regional manager, I just jump in and fix them in the system or I'd, you know, call a customer. And that's where that you know, I touched on earlier, getting too involved in the detail and knowing the detail kind of hamstringed me quite a lot. Because I would just that would be my default would be I'll just fix it myself because I know how to do it. And if I do that I trusted that I've done it, I might not have done it right but in my head I trusted that it would be done. And therefore that held me back quite a few times. I had to really sort of teach myself and and I had some great support from my manager at the time to really kind of take that step back and learn to strategically think and manage the process and people as opposed to actually doing it myself, because I probably wouldn't have succeeded otherwise.

Andy:

That's another fascinating transition to make leadership transition, isn't it from doing it to leading others to do it? So what was the help that you can remember? What was the help that your manager gave you to help you make that transition?

Ashley Harris:

So he came to visit once? And he said, I'm going to order some new carpet. I said what do you mean? He said, Well, the carpet by your desk, I didn't have an office and sat next to everybody else, he said, the carpet by your desk is getting worn out? And said what you mean? He said because people constantly come up to you and ask you questions, and so I had a sign that was up on the wall eventually, to say, before you ask a question, can you answer it yourself? And so that was he stuck up on the wall to kind of with that, and a couple of people would then sort of say, Hang on, before you answer that question? Do you need to answer it? Or can you help them to answer themselves? And so they kind of taught me of questioning the question to say, well, what would you do? What do you think? What present me the options? Okay, well, which one do you think is the best option, and kind of live coaching me where you know, whenever they were in the office, and then for me, just remembering to do that myself. And for those that have worked close with me, then I use a different software that's changed over time to kind of manage my tasks. And I've still got all of my old to do lists, and one of them is a recurring tasks that pops up in my memories that you know, what you did a year ago today, one of them popped up, don't answer the question, help them to answer their own question. I just had to keep reminding myself of that. So I caught myself before just defaulting to it, which is hard when the world at Tesla was moving so fast. And you know, at points, it's really frustrating I was like I don't have time to just don't have time to help these people. But I knew I had to keep doing it in order for, for myself to be successful, but also hopefully to help them as well.

Andy:

Brilliant Ash, absolutely golden, because we have to learn this stuff.

Ashley Harris:

It wasn't perfect, definitely wasn't perfect. I made a lot of mistakes, that's for sure. But it definitely helped me going forward that's for sure.

Andy:

Yeah. And it doesn't necessarily come with the promotion, that you learn to completely, you know, change your style with people and to develop them and to recognise that you need to grow them to give yourself the bandwidth. And to get this bigger task done.

Ashley Harris:

I think there was an assumption that because you were good at the job, you would be good at managing the job, which actually management is a whole nother skill set in its own. And originally, there wasn't any management training at Tesla. And by the time they introduced management training, I wasn't put on it because I was working on on model three and other bits and pieces. And so I then didn't go through the management training. So I kind of missed out on it. But yeah, there was this assumption. And perhaps I was part of the problem in that because I was just, you know, I was like, well, I'll give it a try. How hard can it be, and I kind of just jumped into it. And rather than sort of maybe raising my hand and saying, I literally have no idea what I'm doing, can someone sort of give me a few tips on how to how to manage people. And then there's the whole difference between managing and leading and coaching, kind of navigating that field.

Andy:

And what I'm also hearing is that you did get some feedback, you know, whether it was Laura in HR, or your manager, at least, there were a couple of occasions where people took you to one side and said, we've noticed this is happening. So that's, that's good to hear. I'm also thinking you mentioned earlier that I said, you know, five years is a long time at Tesla. And you said, Yeah, you're a veteran sort of status. And people might have thought, oh, yeah, everyone thinks they're, you know, busy or work fast or whatever. But what listeners will have also heard is, you went from delivery experience specialist, to UK manager to Western Europe, we're like three or four years in now.

Ashley Harris:

So that would have been about three and a half years. Yeah.

Andy:

So that's quite a an objective metric, if you like, of how fast you're progressing in an organisation. And if you listen to Ross Ford, you know, or any of the former Tesla colleagues, you'll realise how rapid the progressions had to be, because of the pace of the scaling of the business, and it's

Ashley Harris:

It's what later bit them. Sorry to interupt that later bit the company because people then joined, you know, two years, three years down the line, thinking that they could do the same. But of course, eventually, those opportunities or the number of opportunities reduce. And so then you've got, you know, graduates coming in for first jobs thinking, great, I'll do a year of this. And you hear, you know, see these examples of people move really fast and thinking great, I'll do a year and then I'll get a promotion. And I know, you know, HR really struggled at that point. People just assumed that if they worked hard for you, they would automatically get promoted. And that then was a real problem for us later down the line with staff retention and motivation.

Andy:

Yeah, so there are some real advantages with joining a fast pace fast growing fast scaling organisation? There's a lot of challenges that come with that, though, which you've described in terms of how incredibly hard everyone was working. And you're very humble about the fact and I'm not sure if you'll mentioned it, if I don't ask you directly or bring it up directly, but you did end up reporting directly to Elon, didn't you Ash.

Ashley Harris:

Yeah. So then I was in the Western Europe role for, again, a fairly short period of time, and it was just about a year and a half in total, or just slightly more. And then there was a kind of change in the management, you know, there was some some challenges in terms of health for some of the staff and this kind of opening came up for a European based role. And rather than being a European delivery, or an operations manager, the VP kind of managed some of it and some of the the organisation changed continuously. So I think what happened was the delivery and operations team then reported to sales leaders for a period of time, and they kind of merged the organisation. And so I kind of stepped in as kind of the title was like Delivery Operations Performance Manager. And so it was helping the sales leaders to know how to better deliver the cars. So they'd gone for so long focusing on sales, and it was now integrated in that part of the organisation. And that went on for about nine months that I was kind of this sort of supporting role, I guess you could say, but I wasn't getting paid for it, which at the time, I was perfectly fine for and it was kind of one of those things that kind of did to help. And then it got to a point of like, I've done this for nine months, they're either gonna give me a permanent role in this or may be it's time for me to find something else .So interestingly, I resigned from Tesla, I got another job, I resigned. And within a day, I got a call from HR saying don't worry, the role's yours permanently and you're going to be Senior Manager for European Operations, will you stay? I said, Okay, fine, I said, I'm annoyed that it took to this stage, but sure I'll stay. And then they also for the first time ever merged the logistics organisation to report to me as well. And so that all came under one umbrella at the time. Essentially, my role then was to help the organisation bring model three to Europe, and everything from the car being built in the US to bringing it into Europe, into the port, bringing it across Europe, getting all the customers ready. And it was, you know, essentially five times the volume, but without adding five times the staff and all of a sudden, I've got this team like 420 odd people and all across Europe, and then realising that, you know, these cars are only a few months away, and we've got to rebuild everything. Because, you know, as a delivery experience specialist, you were still responsible for your customers. And that's okay, when you're only delivering 1000 cars a quarter. But when you're delivering a lot more than that into what, 15 20,000. That's not a scalable model. And so we created this recorded delivery 3.0, and it was basically creating a call centre. And so we built a whole new call centre in Amsterdam, we hired I wanna say like 200 or 250, people in the space of a couple of months, onboarded them, amazing help from the Academy team and the training team to get all these people up to speed to start just mass calling and emailing all of these customers that have reserved model three for years in some cases, placed a deposit a year or two years ago, getting them ready to take delivery, whilst in the background, solving all of the logistical issues of getting the cars in to the ports, off the port, and then the service team with all the PDI at the time, and then getting them out of the port and into the market and working with the customer's team. At that point, I then was incredibly fortunate to have a kind of a direct line to Elon, officially, I reported to the VP at the time, but vast majority of that time, Elon I would be in direct conversation and email and then he'd come to visit and you know be in the room with him and for different meetings and locations in different countries and different purposes. So yeah, it's kind of continues this magical ride that I was on, all of a sudden I'm in the room. And I remember the first time I met him, everyone tried to give me a pep talk beforehand. But actually they made it worse, like don't mess this up like you can do this. And I was aware that in the US they had delivery hell and it was all over the media and my counterpart in US was fired at one point and I was like, I just got to nail this one meeting, if I can leave the room thinking that he thinks I'm okay and I can probably just about do this, then I've done a good job. And I didn't do that at all. It was awful.

Andy:

Sorry to laugh Ash but

Ashley Harris:

now, when I look back, I laugh but it you know, there was some swearing in the room. There was some shouting and I raised an issue about customs and rightly Elon pressed me and said but what is the exact issue and I said something to do with the software it's not integrating properly with the customs agencies the cars are stuck. He said yeah, but what is this specific software issue and I said ah, well that's for the customs team to solve, that was an instant issue. And so I had to then go upstairs, find the guy that was running customs, bring him down into the meeting room, which felt awful as I'm walking up the stairs to find him to say, I'm sorry, I've just basically thrown you under the bus without even really sort of thinking about it. And he did really well, he did a really great job out of it. And I walked out of the room. And in the Amsterdam offices, everyone can see what's going on, so that everybody was watching the door. And so when I walked out, everyone just stopped and all eyes were on anybody that was going in out of the room, everyone was kind of nodding at me and smiling and sort of checking, I was okay. And I just grabbed my coat and walked straight out of the room. And then there's a little cafe just around the corner. And I got there. And a guy called Tim Bryant was sat there. So he was head of training and learning and development. And I sat down, I just burst into tears, and I about half an hour just sat there crying. I was like I've failed, I'm gonna get fired. Like I've messed it up. Tim was amazing. Just I don't remember what he said I was just in sort of daze, but he just sat there and listened and tried to reassure me. But thankfully, I got back and Lianne the VP there said, the feedback was good. Like, let's get it, let's do it. Let's do this. I'm like ahhhh. So I think from that point on, I was determined to prove that I could do it again, I think you know, it's probably the first role at Tesla that I applied for or went into thinking, I don't think I can do this. The others I kind of was either naively or in some cases, confident that I could do it. Whereas this was, okay, this might be a step too far. And I made some fundamental mistakes. Once I didn't, I forgot to send an email that was to allow one of the ships to leave to go to Norway. And so there's like 500 cars just sat on the ship for longer than they needed to just sat in the port and stupid mistake, you know, I had to tell Elon because it meant that these cars were not going to make it for the quarter. So as ever happens in these like, Doom situations, you get told it just before you're about to go into something, you can't get out on it. So I've literally just got on the plane, and we're about to take off. And I can't do anything, and so that whole flight. mulling this over in my head, I must have drafted the email like 50 times. And in the end, I sent the email once I landed, and the response was something like, Thank you for admitting the mistake. Make sure you fix it and we'll move on, and I very quickly learned how to I wouldn't say handle Elon but work well with him because I think from the outside, there's this perception of this cutthroat, harsh person, I definitely found that if you were open and honest and communicated, and you just got stuff done, he was there to help. And, you know, we achieved some incredible things. I sat in a room once and we talked about the vessels coming from North America to Belgium and the fact that we pay shipping companies to do that. And he's like Sounds like it costs too much money. Why don't we just do it ourselves? What do you mean? He said why don't we buy some ships. And I'm like I don't know. He said, well come on, and he literally got his phone out, started Googling, like, row row ships to buy and I'm like this, this is not happening. And so then I go away and um, I walk out and everyone said what happened? I'm like, I need some help buying some s hips. Just the most surreal thing and in the end financially I don't think it would work out and the project just kind of fizzled out. But yeah, just these incredible things and just first principles and learning so much of how to drive the business forward. And the biggest learning was that it's okay to make mistakes, just Fix them quickly. own up to it and then learn fast and move forward. And yeah, it's you know, I just tried to work hard and prove myself and make it a success. And ultimately, it got to the end of the first quarter and he messaged to say you know, what do you need I said a tweet, can you tweet to thank the teams and so he sent a tweet out at the end of March to say thank you to the European and I think it was the APAC delivery teams because an immense challenge they'd gone through but to deliver the results they had done you know to see that tweet come out and think I asked for that just blew my mind. I find it hard sometimes to talk about it and there's a running joke with my current employer that for some reason the conversation Tesla always comes up and I guess that's where I learned so much of what I do now. And so it naturally comes up and I still sometimes find it hard to put into words you know, this experience of being in a room with with him and so many stories to tell and he didn't want cars to dwell in the ports. Typical automotive manufacturers will bring the cars into the port, they might sit there for a couple of weeks or months and then they get sold to the various markets and then get distributed out. That wasn't what Elon wanted. It had to come off the boat and within 24 hours or less every car had to leave. And so when you've got 7,000 cars to process in a port, even the port said this can't be done. And so the first couple of ships, it didn't go well. And I remember getting back to my hotel room, literally just got into my boxers got into bed at like midnight. And then my phone rings and it's Elon, I am sat there talking to one of those famous people in my pants and said, Where are you, I said, I'm in Holland. And so if you need to be in the port, I'm on my way. And so then I drive with a few others, we get down to the port, we try to fix it. And then he turns up, and then there's the security everywhere. And we're asked to give him a tour around and I was upstairs fixing something, there was an issue with the systems and then get this message you need to come downstairs now so I'm running down. And Elon wants me to show him round, give him a tour and you know all these things. And it was incredible. And one thing I'll never, never forget and always be very grateful that I had the opportunity. When I joined Tesla never did, I think I'd have the opportunity to do any of that, it was mind blowing

Andy:

it's incredible. Thanks for sharing those stories Ash and I apologise because I my listeners may have picked up by now if they listen regularly, I do laugh at the most inappropriate times. And it's just a laugh of joy at the sort of challenges you know you were facing and the highs and lows of it knowing that we're safely through it. Now I just find it remarkable and I love doing and it just makes me laugh, which might be inappropriate sometimes. But it's coming from the right place. Also, you mentioned first principles, which is a phrase that comes up quite often when people are talking if they've had exposure to Elon Musk. So what did that mean for you? And how would you explain it?

Ashley Harris:

It's all about it's in everything right? You could take everything back to first principles, and it's understanding why are you doing something? Or why can't you achieve something and then stripping that right back to really get to the root cause of what it is. And so the first example comes to mind is I can't remember the specifics of it. But in France, you weren't allowed to deliver cars on a Sunday. I can't remember if that was a city base or a country based issue, you know Elon said but what is the actual problem, we kind of stripped it all back. And so he then made a few calls to the government and low and behold we could then deliver cars in, in on Sunday in France. And it's really kind of just stripping that problem back and understanding the root cause and saying, Well, finance documents is a perfect one within the automotive industry, finance documents, you finance a car, the number of documents, you have to fill in the credit application, the whole like approval process and the underwriting process, he said but why do you need all of it, just go online ask what you want for click apply, the system should just approve it, you then digitally sign there's no paper involved, and it's done within seconds. That was his kind of vision of financing. Every quarter he'd like why have you not delivered those cars, oh we can't get financing in time or the contracts aren't going to make it because we've got to post the contracts in some countries. At points I thought he was just gonna scream because it's you know, you could see in his mind why why are we getting stuck by a piece of paper, there must be a better way to do this. And if you ask any delivery experience specialist, that was the worst part of the process was financing at the time, because the process was so so archaic throughout the market, the industry was very archaic at that point in terms of financing, and I think it's definitely proved now. But I said this to an automated financial expert, that it's, you know, there's a lot of paperwork to go through.

Andy:

Yeah, I'm going to refer to David Bowles, who was one of my guests also and my colleague, our colleague at Tesla, who was heavily involved in creating a digital end to end paperless process for the UK. And he'll say how some of the few complaints we had were some customers didn't realise they'd applied for finance. Yeah, because it was so seamless by the time it had finished being adapted to be satisfactory for Tesla. So very good. So first principles, peeling everything back to what really is the root cause of this and

Ashley Harris:

It's asking why right, I think it's asking why why are we doing this? What are we trying to achieve? And what are the other options and just taking the time to just think about it before just taking the kind of pre assumed decision an option? I guess?

Andy:

Yep. Another phrase I've heard is really only, only being governed by the laws of physics. And that's about it. If physics will allow it then let's find a way to do it. You've described it a number of times as a fairytale adventure opportunity. The fairytale came to an end at some point. How did that happen? Talk us through that.

Ashley Harris:

Yeah, so I kind of you know, delivered all these cars, helped launch model three at an amazing time and the kind of work load and pressure was building at that point. The stress of dealing with all of that was was immense and then found out I was going to have my first child and And so, you know, kind of thought through my options, and I knew I wanted to be more present and be around more. And in that current role, I was travelling every single week, I'd fly out on a Monday and back on a Friday or a Saturday and decided that that I wanted that to change. And so I got a job in FinTech and resigned and I, I'd say My proudest other than marrying my wife and my daughter being born, it's my proudest moment. I resigned on a Friday, I switched off my phone, because at Tesla there is no weekend and switched it back on on Monday. And I had god knows how many missed calls, text messages from Elon, from his chief of staff and his his executive assistants, all saying he needs to speak to you now. And so, I'm panicking cause I thought the world had blown up, I thought there's some fundamental issue somewhere. And so this was obviously in the night in California. So I went through his team and eventually scheduled an appointment for that night. And it's weird, right? I realise I say this a few times. But I remember vividly the point that this happened as I have done with other sort of key moments. And I was in the house I'm in now, I was in the kitchen downstairs. Right Oh, hi, Elon. Sorry, I was I was away for the weekend. How can you help? And he said I heard you resigned. I said yep, I'm having my first child and I want to kind of reprioritize and he said, How can I convince you to stay, he offered me a new role. And then talked me through, you know, part of what he wanted to achieve at Tesla. And basically then said to me, and excuse my French, he said, I need someone who can get shit done. And he said, and you're someone that can just get shit done. He said, I need someone that I can trust to just get it done. So he said, I want you to stay and take on this role. And I got off the phone with my wife like what on earth has just happened, I was like I don't know, I was lost for words. And so I went for a walk, and called my dad and my dad asked the stupid dad questions, but it really kind of broke it down for me. And I stayed true to that. And I said, I really appreciate it. But I've decided that this part of my career is done. I've achieved everything I wanted to achieve. And I said the fact that you're offering me This is that big tick for me to go. I've done everything I can do. I'm comfortable and confident that it's time to find something else. And we then had a great sort of end to that relationship. He asked me, you know, if he was to focus on certain things, whatever it may be finance, and hopefully converting David's UK process across Europe was one of them. Which staff I thought were the right people to support and push forward. And then ultimately, on my last day, I flew to Amsterdam, I knew he was there. So it's kind of pre prescribed, I knew he was going to be there. So I flew there after my last day. And at the end, I grabbed two minutes with him. And I said, I just want to thank you for everything over the last six months. And he shook my hand and said, you have my number. So if you ever want to come back then give me a call. And at that point, I walked out of the room with this air about the confidence. And I strutted my stuff out of that place, with my head held high and I just thought, I'm done. And I walked out of there with no reservations, no, nothing. Interestingly then that mindset changed the first six to nine months of leaving Tesla, I really struggled mentally, I had real challenges mentally because of being in this organisation that at dinner parties everybody wants to hear about everybody wants to talk about. So then at that time, I was working in a company that did money transfers, no one cared about money transfer, no one was interested in it. And so that psychological shifts was eating me alive inside. And I really struggled with that. And part of it was that part of it was what they call FOMO the fear of missing out. And so you'd see on the news and model Y's been announced and I would have been helped to kind of go through the pricing of that and talking about that and I wasn't involved. And I then knew the colleague that took over and I'd message him every now and then, how's it going, what are you working on what's happening. And of course, he couldn't tell me anything because there's NDAs and all that kind of stuff. And it was a really really, really tough time. Not tough in the sense that there was nothing I wasn't people go through real struggles in life but me at the time, mentally it was it was hard to accept that I wasn't part of this, this machine. This amazing thing from the outside. It wasn't then until I really kind of I didn't enjoy the job I went into. I was asked to come in and help the organisation change and scale the business like I'd done at Tesla. But at the time they were very actually once I got into a very against the change and weren't interested in changing the ways of working improving basically twiddled my thumbs for a few months and thought oh, this is a waste of my time and I think that didn't help my sort of mental state at the time and personally I was in a great placeI just had this new baby and Sophie was born, and that my personal life was incredible, but you know, people talk about the work life balance for me. They're not two separate things. They're part of my whole person, it played on my mind for a long time. And I kept toying with going back. And I floated the idea I'd message people about ah, have you got any roles available, and then just had this moment of like, get your shit together and work out what it is you're trying to do. And I sat down and worked out what it was I liked. And the reason I enjoyed Tesla so much was it was that specific time in the company's history, with those specific people at that point in my personal life, and thinking it through like that, I knew I could never replicate that ever, ever again. And there was no point in trying to replicate that again, because I'd never get that exact same experience anywhere else with any other company, it just wouldn't be possible. And at that point, that's when I came to terms with why and I said, I want to spend more time with my daughter, I do that and I left money transfer and joined. Now I've been here for two and a half years, a company called ClearView Imaging, which again, no one's no one's heard of. But actually, a lot of people have probably interacted with products that we sell, you would never know that we sell them. And it's because we sell to manufacturers to OEMs. And then they build it into their products. And one example being buy chicken from a supermarket, we build a system that scans the label on the packet to make sure the barcodes are printed properly. So it's not super sexy stuff. But it's stuff that is adding great value in automating process. And with this, it's like complete opposite. And I really found my feet again, and it aligns with my vision of where I want to be in the future. And it enables me to challenge myself in my role, which for me is incredibly important, but to have a work life balance. And so I could work until 10 o'clock at night if I wanted to. What if I switch my laptop after five o'clock? That's fine as well. I can't you know, thank the current business enough for teaching me that that is okay. And I think at Tesla, I felt guilty. You know, on a Friday night at seven o'clock, if I switched my laptop off because I fancied going out for a pint, you know, my phone would be glued to my hand and I'd be constantly working. I love where I work at the moment, because it's shown me that you can achieve an exciting career, and I guess successful, but that's different for everybody well it worked for me. You know, I talked at the start of people thinking I'd made a mistake. But I wanted to get back into a company that was small, that had great ambitions, and where I could add value to help them grow and help them scale. And that's what I enjoy. I enjoy working with people to to achieve exactly that. And the reality of what they sold me at interview is exactly what I'm working with every day now. And so I've launched market, we put another one in the works at the moment. You know, we've gone through Brexit, price increases, super COVID, supply, all those things, I was able to help the business control and navigate and I couldn't be happier. It's the perfect scenario for both both worlds.

Andy:

Wow. I'm thinking you talked about your incredible capacity for retaining registration numbers and issues with 22 cars. And you made so many points there and I wasn't going to stop you. And I'm now thinking I really want to capture as many of those as possible I want to go back to that just amazing story of your ending at Tesla, first of all the call from Elon to say I want you to stay I'm going to give you a bigger job, you get shit done. I need someone who I can trust who gets stuff. If you were as you had suggested earlier in this conversation, someone who might possibly be looking for a little bit of external validation that that was that was it, wasn't it? And the fact that you said thank you very much. No, my decision is made is like if you needed proof that you didn't need external validation anymore, then or ironically, the request was the last piece of external validation you needed. And that allowed you then to move on. I think that is just absolutely phenomenal that what that tells us

Ashley Harris:

and I think that's what really surprised me when I then struggled mentally afterwards because I had this tick mark, as I've done it. I've achieved this thing that I like I never dreamt of doing but I achieved it and I've got great feedback and I'm leaving because I want to spend time with my family with my daughter you know support my wife right and so in my head this was perfect, I'm like this is done. And so then when it was a reality, and I had the you know, I was really struggling mentally I'm like, This doesn't make any sense. You know, friends face me, that was still a Tesla at time and I was on the phone to them every day probably annoying them. You know, Laura being one of those I'd call every day I'm like, I don't know what's going on. And actually, I owe a lot to Laura because it was also then her when she gave me that initial feedback. But there's also in her that really made me realise that that Tesla experience was those people at that time in the history of the company, and in my time in my life, and actually, I owe her more than I probably give her credit for. So there you go.

Andy:

Well, that's Laura Smith, isn't it?

Ashley Harris:

Yes, indeed. Yep.

Andy:

And I think that's a wonderful, wonderful advice. And the reason I was hanging on your every word, also, when you left the business and how awful I'm so grateful for you, honestly, talking about it so openly, is that grieving process. Graham Wheeler, who was at VW financial services, MD here, he talked about grieving after he left VW, is that process, and you'd made a rational decision, which all made sense to part of your brain. But emotionally, you were, you'd gone cold turkey, you had been ripped out of something which had consumed you for the previous five years, and been the most exhilarating thrill ride, and challenge and test and validation you'd ever experienced. And then you just torn yourself out of it completely and gone cold turkey, completely understand that. I'm feeling guilty. I'm going to you know, I had a similar experience. When I left BMW after 18 years, I was after six months, I was all over the place mentally. And I'm sort of questioning I'm going to Munich next month, I'm going to spend a week in Munich catching up with a load of BMW people, I still can't get get it out of my system. So I totally relate to that, that feeling that you had and I'm so glad you said it's so there's so much in there. And the prioritisation of your daughter and your family and being able to say to Elon, that's what I'm doing. Now I'm going to prioritise this. I think that is remarkable. And I'm so glad you've shared it, because it's a really great thing that you've done. And then you're now really loving your job and loving being at ClearView imaging and creating these products that we all are exposed to and benefit from that don't necessarily we don't see them or know that they're there.

Ashley Harris:

I probably chose the most like unsexy thing we do, right in chicken checking label verification, but our business is so varied. And so we actually provide components, so we're in machine vision, I should say. So we are machine vision distributors primarily. And so machine vision is essentially any system or product that uses cameras to help the human see more into automate processes. And you know, so we sell products to some automotive car manufacturers that either help with autonomous driving or within factories for the robot guidance. We're involved in healthcare in cancer research, anywhere that you can think there's a factory line or a product with cameras inside, we may well have a product in there or one of our competitors, at least. So it's kind of machinary, I'd never heard of it. It's everywhere. It's in everything we see and do. It's AMPR cameras is another great example. So it's

Andy:

everywhere. Everywhere.

Ashley Harris:

If my boss listens to this he'll think oh why did you choose the most unsexy used case ever of chicken scanning, but it's the first one that came to mind that everybody could sort of relate to I guess?

Andy:

Well, you've you've addressed that. So is there anything I didn't ask you, Ash in the in this conversation that I should have done?

Ashley Harris:

No, I think it's been an interesting journey for me right to go through all of these things and relive everything. But yeah, I hope that kind of gives a flavour of the journey to date. And more to come, I guess.

Andy:

Well, you're still a young man. And you've achieved a lot very quickly and had some incredible experiences and learnings on the way talking of learnings. I cannot help noticing that behind you. You've got some impressive books on your shelves. Some titles that I recognise you mentioned Stephen Covey at the beginning, who is a huge I'm a huge Stephen Covey fan. So that was from your leadership degree. But you've got Patrick Lencioni I can see there, you've got Radical Candour which I've heard of and not read.

Ashley Harris:

That's my favourite one. The Radical Candour is the one that I will often talk about at work, how to give feedback in the moment in the best possible way with taking the emotion and the personal side out of it, which I find hard to give constructive feedback to people because I want to be seen as the nice guy and a friend to everybody, but obviously there comes a point where you have to give back constructive feedback because it's fairer to that individual and that book massively helped with that, Yeah. I can't recommend that one enough. And I have just to be very clear read the books that you can see all of them that are up there. It's not a sort of fake library

Andy:

I wasn't gonna question that Ash but who's Radical Candour by?

Ashley Harris:

Kim Scott.

Andy:

right. So let's leave that at as going home present a gift for our listeners. There's a there's a book they can read. And I'm just going to say once more. Thank you so much been absolutely fascinating to hear your story how much you've done in a relatively short space of time so far, and I wish you all the best with your continued career. Thanks very much for joining me Ash.

Ashley Harris:

Thanks so much for having me. Really enjoyed it. Thanks, Andy.

Andy:

You've been listening to Career-view Mirror with me, Andy follows I hope you found some helpful points to reflect on in Ashley's story that can help you with your own career journey, or that of those who lead parent or mentor. You are unique and during my conversation with Ash you'll have picked up on topics that resonate with you. A few things I noticed were the impact of not recognising the different requirements of Sixth Form, leading to not being able to follow his original pathway. Ashley's father spotting the Outdoor Leadership degree and having the wisdom to know that that would provide Ash with so many transferable skills and valuable experiences. The chance first role with enterprise rent a car that was maybe influenced by an inherent love of cars, it being a good graduate scheme and a grounding in logistics and customer service. Realising his incredible capacity to retain and process data in his head and work out alternative solutions to problems in real time. That it was a holiday in the US that ignited an interest in Tesla, his rapid progression as the business grew and having to learn leadership skills on the way the value of feedback from colleagues and managers how much of a driver and motivator it can be to want to correct previous mistakes and prove ourselves to ourselves and to others. That incredible moment when he realised that he needed no more external validation. And in spite of the robust rational decision making that went into it, the psychological impact of leaving an organisation that you've given so much to for five years, you can contact Ashley via LinkedIn. And we'll put links in the show notes to this episode. We publish these episodes to celebrate my guests careers, listen to their stories and learn from their experiences. I'm genuinely interested in what resonated with you. And especially if you plan to do something with a learning that you've taken from Ashley's experience. Thank you to all of you for sharing your feedback. Thanks also to Hannah and Julia, who as part of the Career-view Mirror team here at Aquilae. work so hard to deliver these episodes to you. And remember folks, if you know people who would benefit from hearing these stories, please show them how to find us. Thanks for listening

Welcome, family and school
Outdoor Leadership Degree at the University of Cumbria
Management Graduate at Enterprise Rent A Car
Move to London to join Northgate as an Assistant Manager with very rapid move to Branch Manager
Interest in Tesla aroused on holiday resulted in applying for a position as a Delivery Experience Specialist
The challenging culture at Tesla
UK Manager for the Delivery Experience Team and the challenges of leading a team he had been part of
Applied for Western Europe Operations Manager and was succesful
Promoted to Senior Manager for European Operations reporting to Elon Musk
Leaving Tesla and the challenges faced as a result of that, and joining FinTech
Joining ClearView Imaging
Wrapping up and takeaways