Recap from Part 1 –
After being denied entrance to the Women’s Royal Air Force (for being too short), I was at a loss as to which direction my career would take me. The 1980’s in England weren’t exactly booming for teenagers – the Youth Training Scheme (YTS) was a joke to many of us. I found work through a temping agency as a receptionist/secretary in 1984, but it wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my career….
The journey continues – How did I get here? Part 2
I realized that receptionist / secretarial work wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Although I still didn’t really know what I did want to do.
In 1985, I started looking for other opportunities in the workplace.
In July of 1985, again through a temp agency, I was placed at a company in Alcester, Warwickshire – the company was IMI Cornelius. Little did I know at the age of 19, that I would spend almost 10 years here and it would be IMI Cornelius that would help forge my future career.
I had left school at 16, with pretty decent O’Levels, but I didn’t pursue further education at that time (well, I did go to college for a little while, but it wasn’t for me).
At IMI, I worked at first as a clerk in the warehouse, writing up “Kalamazoo” cards with Inventory changes. I also worked helping in the warehouse too.
I should mention at this point, that the job was only temporary – however in October of 1985, I had done enough to impress my boss, and I was taken on full time as a Planning Clerk. My duties mostly entailed keeping track of Kalamazoo cards, for raw materials and components (The finished goods were the responsibility of someone else). As time went on, I became curious as to what happened to the materials, where did they go?
In early 1986 (It may have been later), IMI were growing and needed more workers in the factory – assembling beer engines and all sorts of other beer related equipment. I volunteered for an additional job on what was known as the twilight shift. I learned about the materials, components and the finished products they eventually became.
During the day I would do “office” work, and in the evening I would work on the beer engine assembly line.
I started to grow an interest in how all of this happened – what was known back then as scheduling, planning and engineering.
My curiosity led me down an interesting path at this point.
I put 110% into my work, I appreciated everything I was learning.
I don’t really recall the exact time, but I remember my boss telling me that the Kalamazoo cards would be going away – and we would be trained to work on computers.
The system I first learned was IBM AS400 – MAPICS (Manufacturing, Accounting and Production Information Control System). This was an integrated system – it was quite amazing to me!
I was part of a team that was to learn all about Integration of business functions!
It was also around this time, that my boss spoke to me about “my potential” – he saw something in me – enthusiasm of course, but more than that – I was picking up the computer work, and quickly understanding what we would call today End-to-End business processes. I got it! I understood the ramifications of late purchase orders, or if the plastic injection moulding machines were not running.
Additionally, my boss felt that I also had good interpersonal skills, and so he encouraged me to enroll in my first college course – Supervisory Training. He had the belief in me that I could one day become a supervisor and have a team of Production Planners and Master Schedulers working for me – I was overjoyed!
I decided I couldn’t continue the twilight shift job, day-time job and go to night school, so the twilight shift job came to an end. I had learned so much about the impact of the work I did, on the production floor, I am convinced this helped me become one of the top Master Schedulers we had at IMI Cornelius.
I went on my course, I actually found it quite easy – this was strange for me, as school was always a chore to me. I did ok, but I had to work extra hard to keep up. But this was different – it was relating what I did at work with learning newer interpersonal skills, understanding what that “next level” really meant. I passed my supervisory studies with flying colours. However, I would have to wait a while before an actual position would open up for me.
During this time, I started to really enjoy my work (not that I didn’t enjoy it before). I loved interacting with the shop floor teams, the Aluminium Extrusion guys, and I especially loved working with our Injection Moulding teams (planning plastic components was a core part of my job). I learned more about expediting. MAPICS was key to my learning about MRP and Master Scheduling. But it was the growth of my interpersonal skills that really helped me along. Dealing with people in Sales, Warehouse, Inter-Company, Shop Floor, Engineering – everyone!
Then came the day that I got promoted! Now I would be working alongside supervisors and managers. Even being part of the Production Meetings with our Operations Manager.
In just a few short years I suddenly knew what it was I was good at and I liked it!
Next up in my series “How did I get here?”, I will talk about almost losing it all – and then getting the real break into IT in the early 1990’s.