ROBYN ARTER - Shift Operations Manager
Robyn joined the operations management graduate scheme in September 2009, starting at Wissington Factory. She is now in the second year of the scheme at the Bury St Edmunds site and has recently been appointed as a shift operations manager.
What attracted you to British Sugar?
When applying to British Sugar I attended pre-assessment and assessment days. As part of these I found out more about producing sugar and was struck by several things: the early responsibility that I would get, the variety of processes involved and the number of co-products, such as bio-ethanol and LimeX, produced. I felt all of this would give me practical exposure to the different unit operations I had studied as part of my degree and also keep me challenged and interested. As a result of all this, the shift operations manager’s role is very varied and so are the potential progression paths in the company.
What degree did you do and where?
I did a Masters in Chemical Engineering with Modern Language (German) at Nottingham University.
What has been the highlight or most impressive aspect of your career at British Sugar so far?
The highlight for me has been the juice run (period in which we produce crystal sugar from stored juice) that has just passed. It was my first experience of running completely solo as a shift operations manager and showed me how far I have developed since starting with the company just under two years ago. No two days are the same and I find it very rewarding working as a team to solve the daily challenges that we are faced with.
What training have you received since joining British Sugar?
As part of the scheme all graduates receive a lot of training and development coaching. I have received training on all aspects of the sugar process itself from company experts, mechanical, electrical training, management leadership development training, safety training (inclusive of the general NEBOSH certificate, which is nationally recognised), contractor management training, confined space training, hot work training and even more than this. British Sugar invests a lot of time and money into graduates who join the scheme.
What are your longer term aspirations and how do you see British Sugar helping you achieve them?
My long term aspirations are to become a chartered engineer under IChemE and to play a technical role in improvements through design and strategy. There are managerial roles within the factory sites that fulfil these ambitions, either in management or on projects and also roles at British Sugar’s central offices that involve comparing the sites and strategising for future developments. Starting off on the operations management scheme can lead to any path that I want, there are many people in the company who have even moved from engineering to commercial roles and back again – however you want to shape your career is possible and through regular personal development planning British Sugar allow you to discuss and follow your ambitions.
Did you attend an induction programme? Was this useful before you started your first day?
After appointment to the scheme British Sugar hold a few induction days. All the graduates visit the site they will start at and then come together to and get to know one another. This also includes meeting managers and previous graduates. After officially starting with the company there were then two induction weeks spent off site staying together as a graduate group. I found this really useful as I knew what to expect upon starting and already knew some names and faces. It is also a great opportunity to ask questions. This allowed me to feel comfortable from my first day, and get the most out of my time as soon as I started. British Sugar recognises the advantage of developing relationships early on and encourages this with the induction programme.
Do you have any hints/tips/advice you would give to someone applying to British Sugar?
I think the most important pieces of advice would be to research the company and, throughout the assessments, to be yourself. When applying, it is important to have an understanding of the company’s aims and why you want to work for British Sugar. Then you can be sure that you are a fit for the job and the company.
If you have already been appointed, how does this differ from being on the graduate scheme and what was the most valuable thing you learnt which helps you to do your job?
One of the great things about British Sugar is that there is always the opportunity to continue learning, but the graduate scheme equips you with the practical skills and confidence you need to actually carry out the job. This is through training, practical learning, working in a team and carrying out the job roles under guidance. Now that I have been appointed, though there is still support available when needed, it’s rewarding to have full responsibility for leading a shift team in the operating periods and executing maintenance projects, as opposed to assisting others.
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