John Lewis home buying director Paula Nickolds answers questions about her career in retail.

What was your first job in retailing?

Here at John Lewis. I joined the partnership in 1994 as part of the graduate training scheme, starting in the haberdashery department.

Which retail company do you admire most and why?

Apple - more a way of life than a retailer.

What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?

Impatience and intensity - the flip side of passion for what you do. I want everything done yesterday, which I am sure drives my team nuts.

Who have you learnt most from in your retail career?

I grew up in a retail family; my dad worked at Marks & Spencer for most of his career and so to a certain extent it’s in the blood. He taught me to be a ‘cup half full’ person, seize opportunities and to keep things simple.

What advice would you give someone starting out in retail?

Stay close to the customer and the shopfloor. Nothing beats knowing your customer so listen and learn as much as you can.

What keeps you awake at night?

I have a great John Lewis bed, pillow and wonderful bed linen so nothing keeps me awake at night.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Seeing exciting new products and concepts progress from ideas to reality and being in a position to shape the vision we’ll see in British homes over the next decade.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Becoming buying director, home, at John Lewis - surely the best job in retail.

What job would you have done if you hadn’t become a retailer?

At one stage I wanted to be a teacher, but I would have had to work on the patience thing.

What’s your favourite shop and why?

ABC Carpets in New York and Merci in Paris are both great concepts.

What was your last purchase?

A skinny, extra hot latte.