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  • Jenni Middlehurst

Project Manager to Britain's Next Top Winemaker

Updated: Jan 26

It was midweek, sitting at my desk again in a large corporate office, spreadsheet open as usual. Another email came through and as I answered it diligently and silently thought, what the hell am I doing here.

Post- university, like many before and many will after, I applied to as many graduate schemes as possible, just hoping someone would accept me. Through a ton of applications, perfecting my questions and becoming a psychometric master, I managed to land a fantastic opportunity on the Barclays Graduate Scheme starting a couple of months after graduation.



The corporate world observing from the outside, looks pretty glamorous. Big buildings. Important meetings. Everyone has somewhere to be and something to do, not to mention the tailored suits and dresses.

Alas, after 7 years, 5 companies, 5 years of contracting and 4 different banks something just didn’t feel right.

I started to think about whether I would have to do this any longer and sighed, “not sure if I can hack another 30 years of this.”

For me, I needed to think about what success looked like in my life. Success in my current career looked like long hours, a senior role with a big paycheck, managing big teams, maybe writing a book on the technology industry. Whilst that maybe someone's dream, it wasn’t mine. I wanted to have freedom. Freedom for yoga, freedom to be creative, to work abroad, to meet lots of new people, work from home and importantly, to do something I’m passionate about.

I looked at the stark differences between these and it led me to understand that I didn't really want to work for someone else, especially not a bank or large corporate. I wanted to be creative and own my schedule. The process of figuring it out for me was lists. It’s safe to say I do have a bit of a checklist problem but nonetheless I wrote a list of all the things I enjoyed doing and ideas of things I could do. Wine was one of my main real interests and it did have some potential.

I quickly found a suitable course that didn’t require too much investment or time and enrolled onto a 5 week online wine course (WSET L2). I loved it! I knew in my gut that this could be a viable career option for me. For the next year I visited vineyards at every opportunity (even dragging my friends to the only winery I could find in Ibiza, yes I’m that girl!). I sucked up as much wine knowledge from TV shows and friends, I enrolled into more and more wine courses and exams and did everything to learn as much as possible and find out where I could fit in.




After a year of studying and soaking up as much wine knowledge as I could it was finally at a vineyard in Priorat, Spain, where I had that epiphany moment and realised that I actually wanted to make wine.


As soon as I got home I spent time researching on how to become a winemaker and some of the different options. I wanted to study properly and I found a masters degree in oenology and viticulture at Plumpton Collage, which I could enter based on my Microbiology degree.



I applied within weeks and wrote the most inspiring and heartfelt personal statement I could, and a few weeks later I received the wonderful news that I had been accepted!

Now here’s a disclaimer, I was aware this was an 18-month course, and whilst I loved wine I didn’t actually have a whole lot of practical experience so logically, it was now time to acquire some - experience that is, not wine! One of my friends mentioned he was helping someone he knew with a harvest in France and I immediately worked out a gap in my schedule, negotiated the time off with work and booked a cheap plane ticket to Burgundy to do pretty much back-breaking, finger cutting and relentless harvesting in the vines.


This year I made the brave decision to leave my job in January to work in a winery for 2 months in South Africa, ahead of starting the master’s degree. For me, I wanted to make sure that every step of the way I knew what I was getting into. Reality checks were essential! I had the most incredible experience, scars from manual labour and a new-found excitement on this new career I'm starting.

To help me with my journey I’m using the roadmap features in mykagami, to capture all my actions and tasks that are associated with my career change. Having this down on a page is so useful and I can then check back in every few weeks to see how I’m doing. I can also use the reflection tool for any ideas or thoughts I have along the way.

It’s not going to be easy, I know that I'm leaving my comfortable office lifestyle and safe environment, to go get covered in sticky grape juice and probably work harder in my life than ever before and for significantly less money. But I feel I’m going to gain so much more (and not just drink a hell of a lot of wine)!


Key words of advice:

Think about your most important passions, and check out if there are any career avenues

Write down what a success day in the life looks and feels like and compare this to what you currently have/will have

Find qualifications or courses that test your hypothesis

Get as much insight into the industry as possible

Be brave!

Don’t forget the MyKagami Passion for Work assessment to see how important work or your passion is! Its free and you can register here if you haven't already

Once you do that, we’ll help you build a roadmap and get your plans into action!


Jenni



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