#GradStories Annabelle Lock, Operations Graduate, Kerry
What is your name, job title and company you work for?
My name is Annabelle Locke, I'm an operations graduate and I work for Kerry foods.
Where did you go to college and what did you study?
I did chemistry at university. I've got an undergrad master's degree in chemistry from Cardiff university. I would say it's not directly linked but I think one of the things I learned by doing a science degree is actually that I didn't want to work in a lab for the rest of my life.
Why did you choose the Kerry Operations Graduate Programme?
Part of the reason that I chose the Operations Graduate program with Kerry is that as part of my degree at university I did a year in industry where I worked in a factory for a year and I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed the people aspect of it and the day-to-day running and knowing how things are made and the ins and outs of it so that made me then want to go into operations. Then I was just sort of looking around and Kerry had one of the better schemes I looked out there for and it was well advertised.
In terms of the programme itself, it is not typically the same. Every graduate has a different experience even within operations. I was originally near Manchester in a place called Hyde in the UK and now I have moved over to Ireland and I am working in Shillelagh and now I'm in a fully supervisory role so I’m a group leader in the rashers department, so we make bacon, lots of bacon.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A Typical day is very busy, but you are their manager, so I have 33 people that report into me. It is about managing your absences, managing your metrics, solving the day-to-day problems. No two days are the same I will say that absolutely.
At the moment a lot of it is COVID based - making sure people are going for tests, making sure people are aware of their health and safety. Whereas on a weekly basis it is about making sure all of the projects within your department are kept going. As a group leader I have four team leaders, so I work with them to ensure that the teams are doing what they need to be doing.
What skills do you need to be successful in your roll?
Basically, number one is your people skills. At the end of the day, you are managing. For example, I am managing 33 people. My fellow group leader, he has been doing it a lot longer than me, he is managing 55 people because of different department sizes.
You have to be good with people because you know you are sorting their holidays, you're sorting their pay queries and things like that so you do have to be aware of people's emotions, how people work together and how you can kind of persuade them to what you want to do if that makes sense, and to be fair the graduate program, as part of the learning modules, they do a lot on how to get the best out of the people that are reporting into you.
It is a very fast-paced environment, things do have a habit of changing just like that. You have plan changes; you have people suddenly ringing in sick and you've got to be able to think on the spot and just go with that.
What is operations?
To me at the end of the day operations is making sure that the product gets out the door and all of the extra side bits that go with that. It's fulfilling your customer demands, it's managing the teams that you've got of a variety amount of operators depending on what process you've got and managing them so that you are getting stuff out of the door or if things are going wrong making sure that you know you're there helping it be fixed.
Part of operations is looking after health and safety and quality. It is the people side of it. It is making sure the product that gets out the door is high quality and safely as well.
How is COVID affecting your work?
I haven't actually worked from home a whole lot during this and part of the operations role is that you do need to be on site pretty much every day. It comes with its own positives and negatives. From a personal perspective, you are on site every day, but you do get to see people, you get to see people that aren't just the four walls of your house!
I know other grads who have only seen the four walls of their house and they've been adjusting to that accordingly whereas from my perspective, the COVID adjustments have more been managing the people's health and safety, making sure they're adhering to social distancing, the mask wearing.
Usually when I’m on the factory for this is not what I look like, I’ve got a hairnet, a mask, everything and everything is compulsory on site at the moment and we have routine testing. From an operations point of view unless you're on projects, which you can do from home, you're generally on site every day.
What advice would you give to graduates?
Be a bit bolder and ask questions. They know you've only started the job two months ago and you don't really know what you're doing so ask the questions and make that jump. I found that I was a bit afraid to do that when I first started but now even though I've been in the job a year, I've moved sight so I’m still sometimes like, “I’m not entirely sure what this means, do you mind having a quick call with me to just explain it?” and literally every single time everyone is perfectly happy to explain everything and make sure you understand it.
It's about taking that support that's being offered to you by your mentor. Kerry will give you many different mentors in many different shapes and forms and taking that support and you using it. When they say go and ask questions, actually go and ask questions and people aren't as scary as you think they are.
What do you love about your job?
What I love the most about working at Kerry is the people. People that you're managing, they come in for the clock in the clock out nine times ten but it's how you can make their time in that eight hours of their life a little easier, safer, more enjoyable.
As a graduate they know that they're going to be there longer than you and you generally know that you're only going to be there for potentially a year, so it's about what difference can you make in that year to make their lives a little easier and I do just enjoy being with my teams and my team leaders and seeing people.