"Never be afraid to ask, don’t conform or even think about stereotypes" - Tyne Bank Brewery MD, Julia Austin speaks to BQ about her journey from chemical engineer to brewer extraordinaire.
What is it the company does?
Tyne Bank Brewery manufactures a great range of craft ales in cask, keg, bottle and can.
From our more traditional award-winning ales, Monument and Silver Dollar, to our novel specials including Strawberries and Cream and Rhubarb and Custard we have a great range for everyone.
Our beer is produced in the heart of Newcastle where we also have an onsite tap room and events space. We also have a great range of gift options or experiences including brewery tours and tastings.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As founder of Tyne Bank Brewery, my role is to keep moving the business forward, providing beer our customers want to drink and a great environment for them to drink it here in our tap room.
Part of this is ensuring the team are focused and motivated to help the business grow. My day can vary from speaking at a conference to paying the bills to cleaning the toilets, but there is never a dull moment.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I fell in love with Newcastle when I studied Chemical Engineering here back in 1998 but initially moved back home for a job with Johnson Matthey as a production engineer for the ceramic glazes division. This covered the manufacture of basic glazes for sanitary ware and expensive gold and silver glazes.
Johnson Matthey was a great company to work for with a fantastic graduate training program, something sadly lacking in most companies these days.
After two years I returned to the North and started work as a Paint Engineer for Nissan in Sunderland. This was again a great training ground but after 9 years of working with paint suppliers to resolve technical issues such as shade and mottle and bumper to body colour match issues, I felt the need to return to a more hands-on role.
My next move was as Maintenance Manager at Arizona Chemicals manufacturing polyamides and fatty acids. During my 8 years there I progressed to Production Manager which I thoroughly enjoyed. During this period, the chemical industry was in the process of downsizing and during this time I felt it was important to reflect on what we enjoy doing. This thought process and an inspirational trip to Vancouver in 2005 led to me finding my passion in Tyne Bank Brewery in 2011.
Since then, Tyne Bank has outgrown its first premises, crowd-funded to finance an expansion in new premises and continues to expand its customer base nationally and internationally.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Clear direction that also allows the team flexibility to succeed.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Our decision to expand the business for its own good has meant a significant blow to our cashflow management. Our expansion plans are an important step in our next stage of development, however.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
In my first job, a speaker told us that ‘stress is only how you perceive a situation’, something I have taken with me on my career journey. I like to work out what the worst outcome could be which eventually allows me to prepare for that outcome and in believing this you can manage anything!
As an employee, stress over money or lack thereof, I found easier to manage by keeping 3 months’ salary in the bank as a security blanket. As an employer, the consequences are higher and therefore stress levels are raised. Overall, I think that if you believe in your product, have faith in your team and maintain a good work-life balance, this is what ultimately helps me cope with stress.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was inspired by Charlene in Neighbours to become a mechanic, my Dad persuaded me that Engineering may be a better career.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Tea and coffee cup cleaning! When we relocated, I ensured we had a dishwasher as the pile of cups used to irritate me but now it is just the battle of who fills and unloads. We are still working on the solution.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The company is in its second phase following the move to the new premises. It is now a brewery and a tap room, and we are very much still learning and growing.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never be afraid to ask, don’t conform or even think about stereotypes. Understand what you want and what you need to do to get it. Be prepared to fail and retry.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
‘Be the best you can be where ever you are’ are a piece of advice I heard 3 years ago and wished I had heard a lot earlier in my career. What does it mean for me? I strive to be the best Mum and partner I can be when I am at home and the best MD when at work. This simple mind shift if you can do it makes focusing easier and increases the chances of happiness and success.
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