It has been quite a year for Ian Harris, the much loved and respected chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. With record figures of students taking WSET exams around the world, Harris, and his team, continue to push the boundaries and find new ways of taking training and education to all parts of the word. But what does he get up to in an average week?
Ian Harris is lucky to enjoy every aspect of his job as head of the WSET. But when you are helping to educate and empower people all over the world it is easy to see why.
What has been the highlight of your last working week?
The year-end figures for our academic year 2015/16, showing 17.5% year-on-year growth in WSET candidates.
And the lowlight of your last working week?
Hearing that one of my young ‘shining lights’ in the WSET team was leaving to go into the music industry.
What is the best part of your job?
All of it! Particularly seeing WSET students around the world moving up in the industry as a result of their WSET qualifications.
What is the thing about your job you would like to improve?
I think we could all be better at communicating. It is very easy to ignore the need for INTERNAL communication when EXTERNAL communication is so key to growing your business.
How has 2016 been for you and your business?
In a word: brilliant. At the beginning of this academic year we celebrated WSET winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (International Trade), and our international business has grown by 19% in the 12 months. But it is not just about our international business, our UK business also grew by 14%.
What are the key trends that are impacting your business?
The thirst for knowledge which comes with burgeoning wine markets (such as China and other APAC countries) means that we need to ensure that WSET qualifications remain up-to-date, sought-after and – above all – available in the locations and languages where there is a need for education and qualifications in wines and spirits. The key to staying on top of our game is to make sure our programmes are the best in the world.
What has been the favourite restaurant you have eaten this year and why?
Madison, One New Change – overlooking St Pauls. I have been twice to celebrate each of my daughters’ birthdays. Stunning views, great cocktails, interesting wine list and good food. I don’t like to see tiny portions on huge plates, and Madisons did not disappoint!
Favourite bottle of wine you have had in the last month? Why and where did you drink it?
A bottle of Chateau Palmer 1982 – drunk at home, the penultimate bottle out of the case I bought in 1985. Why did I drink it? Seemed like a good idea!
Favourite cocktail you have had this year? Why and where did you drink it?
I am not a regular cocktail drinker, so I guess it would have to be a mojito at Madisons.
If you could pick three people for a classic dinner party from the trade who would they be?
Michael Broadbent, Jancis Robinson MW and Gerard Basset MS MW – three of the last four Honorary Presidents of WSET.
Who have been the mentors in your career or people who have most inspired you?
I would have to single out John Ratcliffe – ex-Oddbins before he became my boss at Seagram UK – and a superb leader. Re inspiration, it has to be Charles Rolls for sheer brilliance in buying Plymouth Gin for a pittance, then inventing Fever-Tree tonic.
What has been the best job you have had in your career?
This one – although I have enjoyed all my jobs over the past 39 years, in different ways and for differing reasons.
What is the best film /book that includes wine or drink?
Harry Potter – just love it – although only very tenuous link with drink (butter-beer).
Where are you going on your summer holidays and what will you drink?
Aruba – and I will be as adventurous as possible with my drinking repertoire – as I always am when on holiday!
- If you would like to take part in a Week in the Life of then simply answer the above questions and email firstname.lastname@example.org.