AARON Whiteman has been with Moy Park for almost 20 years, working his way up from weekend shift worker to front line manager, to his current role as General Manager at the Ballymena site.
As Moy Park celebrates 75 years in business, Aaron reflects on changes in the sector and milestones along the way.
He said: “I first joined Moy Park in 1999 when I was still at school, working part time at the weekends as a factory operative.
“As a student, it was a great insight into the world of work and business. It taught me the value of hard work, money earned, and motivated me to want to do more of both!
“After gaining a degree in Health and Leisure from Queen’s University Belfast, I was keen to move into a business environment and decided to apply to Moy Park’s Graduate Management Programme, to find out more about a career in one of our fastest growing industries, agri-food.
“The two-year programme was the ideal way to find out more about various strands of a business, from operations to finance, HR and marketing, and what might suit my skillset best.
“From my time as a shift worker on the factory floor, I had a healthy respect and interest in the processing side of Moy Park, and the opportunities and challenges therein.
“Once I completed the Graduate Management Programme - which we still use as a recruitment tool today - I took up a position as a shift manager, capitalising on my people management skills and interest in operations.
“Since then, I have worked my way up across a number of Moy Park’s sites – moving from factory manager to area manager and have now been General Manager at Ballymena for two years.
“Ballymena is a great place to work. From a business point of view, it’s strategically located with fantastic transport links and from a social standpoint, you’ll never find yourself wanting for something to do – from shopping to socialising over a drink or a bite to eat. It’s also quickly becoming the spa capital of Northern Ireland!
“While Ballymena has faced a number of economic challenges, it’s an area with a rich history and heritage of business success. This spirit is still very much evidenced by the people, businesses and organisations in the town today.
“Mid and East Antrim Council has an ambitious integrated economic development strategy for the area to help encourage business growth across the borough, and it’s one we are keen to help support.
“It’s a strategy important not just to Moy Park as a business, but to me personally.
“I sit on Mid and East Antrim Council’s Manufacturing Task Force Team, a working group committed to supporting and fostering growth. I was delighted to attend Westminster with a delegation from the Task Force recently when Northern Ireland representatives presented their plans for a Belfast City Deal.
“Hearing these plans certainly gave us food for thought when it comes to nurturing growth locally.
“As Ballymena’s General Manager, I’m responsible for all business functions at the site – from technical to HR and finance.
“With over 1,000 members of staff, it’s a diverse and busy job but that’s what makes it worth doing. In the last 20 years, business management has evolved significantly.
“While there might be more paperwork, regulations, travel and late nights, there is also an incredible amount of collaboration - with customers, industry, educational bodies and government and our local communications.
“Managers today cannot afford to work in silos, you need to adopt an attitude of knowledge sharing and foster an environment of innovation to truly succeed.
“My key piece of advice to anyone viewing management as a career is to do your research and bolster your skills if you need to. Being a good manager isn’t a static position, you constantly need to challenge yourself, and a good employer is one who lets you not only challenge yourself but equips you with the skills to overcome these challenges.
“One of my own personal highlights over the last 20 years was been being named ‘Young Processor of the Year’ at the Meat and Poultry Processing Awards in 2012.
“Given my background working on the factory floor, it was great to win an industry award. At a business level, I’ve been very proud to see Ballymena evolve to become a Centre of Excellence, focused on driving innovation in food manufacturing.
“As General Manager, it’s my ambition to see our facilities continue to grow.”