Staff Interviews – Andy Howden

Welcome to the eighth of our staff interviews! Today we’re talking to Andy Howden, Legalisation Advisor at Vital Certificates and one of our more musical staff members. Andy has been at the company for almost four years. Keep reading to find out what Andy did before joining Vital Certificates and what he gets up to both inside and outside work.
Andy Howden Vital
Andy Howden

So, Andy, the first question I always ask – how are you?

Slightly apprehensive but also excited so let’s get started.

Good to know! So, let’s get down to business. When did you start working at Vital?

It was 18th November 2013. I remember it well, like it was just yesterday.

And what were you doing before you started working here?

Before joining Vital Certificates, I worked for a company called Direct Line in Normanton and was part of their accident repair centre team. I worked there for 5 years and left due to being made redundant.

Before that I was in a Band called Pavilion for 6 years as Main Vocals and Guitar, who had some minor chart success, a London based promoter and an album before folding, which was a shame as we had the potential of a decent career. We once had an article in the Guardian as well. 

Andy Vital band
Lead man Andy Howden in the band Pavilion

Before forming the band, I worked at Wakefield Museum for 2 years in charge of stalls and displays, that involved receiving the stock and items for displays, cleaning them, displaying them and storing them for future use. I loved working in a museum. It was so interesting and we had a massive variety in terms of the type of customers we worked with. I ended up having to leave though as I was working for possibly the worst boss in the world and I’d had enough. A great shame as I loved it.

Do you remember how your first interview for this job went then? How was your first conversation with Matt? (Managing Director)

I remember I was looking for a job as I’d been made redundant by Direct Line and had just had a baby (Matilda) so it was important that I found something quick as I now had a family to support! I was looking at recruitment websites when the Vital job jumped out at me it was the only advert that looked like a human being had written it and it looked like a company that actually had a soul! From seeing the advert, I decided I wanted the job and put together my application and was invited in for an interview. At some point I got hit with Matt’s left field question of “why are manhole covers round”. Luckily, I had a wild stab in the dark and said because they can’t fall in on themselves, which was correct. The interview was really relaxed and I really enjoyed talking with Matt and Nicola, which made me want the job even more.

The next day I got a call to say I hadn’t got the job and that it had been offered to another guy because he could speak Arabic, and that could be quite important in this field. I was gutted as I really wanted the job. There was a silver lining though which was that I had already been for an interview with Pontefract Council to work in their Registry office dealing with Certificates (ironic really) and been offered the position so I had something to fall back on.

After being told I hadn’t got the job I took my wife and baby out for a spot of lunch to commiserate when the phone rang to say the other guy had not taken the job and that Matt wanted to offer me the position. I took it straight away, turned down the Pontefract council job and a commiseration lunch turned in to a celebration lunch! It felt good to have a baby and be in employment again so I could provide for my family.

That’s great to hear! What was it about this role that made you want to start working at Vital then?

It wasn’t particularly the role that attracted me to Vital. It was the way the recruitment process was handled from start to finish. It just felt… human. Like the company had a soul. I knew I’d be working for a company that cares about its employees.

That’s great to know, I definitely feel that as well. Let’s talk a bit about your role at Vital. What is it you do on a day-to-day basis?

In a nutshell my job is to answer customer enquiries and match the correct service to meet their needs. I then build the quote and take payment before passing the customer over to the shipping team who deal with the attestation process.

In terms of the day-to-day, I always like to start with a cup of peppermint tea which gets my circulation flowing and gets me ready to provide the best service to our customers. My first/main job is to answer customer e-mails, phone calls and live chat this way I can ascertain what the customer’s needs are and what we can do for them, I then build quotes based on that information and process the customer through to the payment stage. I process the payments and log all details on to the Vital systems before passing the customer over to the shipping team. I then monitor the process and deal with any issues or problems that arise and liaise with customers should there be any complaints or queries. Other things I do is to monitor my Slack and company e-mails for information updates and procedural changes, as it’s a fast moving business and we have to stay ahead of the game.

How has your role changed over the three and a half years you’ve been here then? 

The role has expanded greatly over the three and a half years I’ve been with the company. It’s a lot more varied, and the workload is bigger, but it’s also far more challenging and satisfying. We’re doing a lot less on the certificate side now and more legalisation, while we’ve ramped up the number of overseas documents we do considerably as well.

I see. So what are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The job is not straight forward and two transactions are never the same, there is a massive amount of knowledge to gain and even then you get surprised by something total different the next time the phone rings, so you really have to think on your feet and make sound decisions sometimes under pressure/time restraints for the customer.

There are so many different documents, so many different countries and every individual customer’s needs are different, but that makes it even more satisfying when you get the job done and the customer is happy.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I’ve had a pretty diverse set of jobs in the past! I really love the atmosphere and everyone is fun to work with and be around. The teamwork is also excellent especially when it gets busy. Everyone pulls together and is willing to go the extra mile when necessary.

On top of that, Matt is the best boss I’ve ever had. He appreciates his staff have a home life as well as a work life, he cares about our welfare and it’s the only company where I’ve ever felt my suggestions will be listened to and I really have a voice.

Have you set yourself any short-term, mid-term and long-term goals?

  1. Short-term – Improve my knowledge in my present role and become the best Legalisation Advisor I possibly can.
  2. Mid-term – Get fit & get out more on my bike especially now summer is coming.
  3. Long-term – Get back in to song writing as I have a passion for it.

Let’s move away from work then. What do you like to do in your downtime?

Most of my spare time is spent with my family. I have a young daughter named Matilda who needs entertaining constantly! But personally, music is my biggest passion and has been since the age of 4. I enjoy watching movies, playing video games and reading books and my main sporting activity is cycling which will hopefully increase now summer is coming.

I’m also in two bands at the moment, the first is a Beatles tribute band where I’m George Harrison! We’ve done pretty well off that, we’ve carried out a couple of gigs in Dubai. The other band is called Sons of Great Men and we’re currently recording an album, so look out for that folks.

Excited for that one! Finally, do you have a favourite quote?

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars – Oscar Wilde.

Brilliant. That’s everything. Thanks for your time Andy!

Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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