Politics, Religion and Amazon!

Jack Docherty

Jack Docherty would never have predicted studying politics and religion could lead to his current senior managerial role in the fast-moving world of Amazon UK’s operations. He credits the “soft skills” the subject gave him for the progress he has made - once he had a clear picture of where he wanted to head.

Now working as a Senior Operations Manager in an Amazon sortation centre in Leeds, Docherty is responsible for everything relating to the building, whether that’s the building itself or the sizeable team on site.

His time at Lancaster, studying for joint honours in Politics and Religious Studies gave him the chance to work on the people skills he knew would be essential in a career in management: “The big gain from Lancaster is that by studying religion and politics, you have a greater understanding of the different elements of society,” he explains. “I work in a very diverse environment and the soft skills I have gained have given me the ability to progress in Amazon.”

Brought up in MIddlesbrough, he decided to study Religious Studies because he was fascinated by the ideas, even though he says he has no religious faith. Lancaster won his heart on sight when he drove with his father up the winding hill to the campus on a visit and saw students playing rugby and football.

It was perfect in his eyes - two hours from home, and he could travel independently. The beautiful environment, the proximity of the Lake District and a highly rated Religious Studies department won the day.

During his first year at Lancaster he took psychology and politics in addition to religious studies. Thanks to the flexibility of the system of “majors” and “minors” he was able to switch to joint honours with politics.

He settled fast in County College and was impressed by the accommodation and the welcome he received. He enjoyed his studies hugely, taught by lecturers with a passion for the subject and an open door for students curious for answers.

On a diverse course, he found himself nominated as student representative for the Religious Education department. He was also a founding member and social secretary of the Religion Society trips to the Hindhu temple in Preston, and to Manchester and the Lakes to help first years build social links. A keen card player, he also worked in casinos alongside his studies.

A highlight of Docherty’s studies was the opportunity for a two-month visit to India to study the Devadasis - a controversial community which has a practice of dedicating women to the service of deities. Docherty and a small group of fellow students stayed in a Devadasi orphanage owned by a charity in Bangalore, and focused on understanding local legislation surrounding these individuals’ rights to help the charity to lobby the local Government for further social equality to study rural India. Docherty’s dissertation analysed whether Devadasis still exist.

After four weeks in Southern India, he travelled for another month, during which he was privileged to spend two days in the presence of the Dalai Lama. “It was incredible,’ he says. “When you are in the presence of someone as holy as that, you know it. He had the vibe of a higher being."

These are not the words one expects from someone who claims to have no religious faith. But he says religion interests him precisely because he does not have a faith himself. He feels it allows him to look at faith more open-mindedly. He is fascinated by people who dedicate their lives to it.

After Lancaster, Docherty moved to China for seven months, feeding his love of travel, culture and ideas. He took a job as private English tutor to a little boy in a Chinese family in Beijing. Living with the family gave him an insight into Chinese culture. He was also entitled to 12 hours of tuition in Mandarin per week.

On his return, he set up a vehicle rental company with his father and brother, but rapidly realised he needed more formal management training, so went to Lund in Sweden to do an MSc in Management.

He joined Amazon in November 2016 as a Graduate Shift Manager and went on to work all over the country, gaining skills, experience and promotion - particularly during the Covid pandemic, when he landed his current role.

He is full of praise for Lancaster’s place in building his career. “People fear that a religious studies degree will limit their career options but it gives you the skills that open up lots of professions. You just have to dedicate yourself and the soft skills will get you where you want to go.”

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