An Interview with Angela Fairweather, Plant Manager at #YesSheCan advocate, BMI.
We sat down and had a chat with the Plant Manager of BMI at Vandyke, Leighton Buzzard Angela Fairweather.
We discussed her career, the trials and tribulations she’s faced to get where she is now.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your career?
I’m married with 4 stepchildren the youngest being 19. I am an only child from a working-class family where both my Mum and Dad worked until their retirement. I was fortunate to be able to complete a Manufacturing and Management degree at University and extremely grateful I could join a graduate scheme with United Biscuits.
I worked hard and made my way up through all line leader roles from Process Team Leader, Packing Team Leader, Area Manager and Shift Manager all in UB over 2 different sites.
I then continued my career in the food industry at a pizza factory as the Factory Manager and then moved to plastic milk bottles (feeding direct into a dairy) as a Site Manager.
My last move before BMI was to a packaging/consumer business where I was Operations Director. I spent 8.5 years in that role before moving to BMI as Plant Manager, at that point in my career I was looking for a new challenge and BMI Redland could offer what I wanted/needed next.
What made you choose this career/industry?
I was always interested in both science and art subjects but when choosing my A Levels, I concentrated on the science subjects as I felt this would be help me to get a better job.
Then, when looking at my degree options, Engineering appeared to fit my A levels and at that time, I chose manufacturing as it seemed the most varied and not “concentrated” in one particular area. I felt this would help with all round knowledge.
What do you think gave you the drive and determination to succeed and did you face any challenges along the way?
Coming from a relatively poor family where we had few holidays or luxuries, initially, I always wanted to be able to enjoy life more through earning more money.
Also, I enjoy having a role where I can make a difference. I like to be able to influence and to watch people grow and learn – this is what motivates me and gets me going!
What’s great about being a female in your role?
Lots! I am a strong believer in collaboration and I enjoy being able to bring a different perspective to a situation enabling us all to work better together.
I believe we can bring a different skill set including versatility which helps create ideas and solutions in the workplace.
Have you ever felt that your gender has brought unnecessary challenges to your career?
The construction/building materials industry has traditionally been a male-dominated one and so in my opinion, l feel the biggest challenge is making sure that you’re not being seen as “emotional” or “more sensitive” than men simply because you are a woman.
I believe sometimes you have to pick your battles, stand up for what you believe in and give as good as you get. I also believe people around you will respect you if you’re capable and good at what you do, regardless of whether you are male or female.
Do you think enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance?
I think there’s a big industry-wide issue trying to attract females to Manufacturing roles. There still seems to be ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ jobs and unfortunately Manufacturing and Building Materials/Construction is still seen by many as a ‘blue’ job.
That perception needs to change but in my opinion, for this to happen the whole of society needs to change.
I think to try and tackle this, more needs to be done early on and at the school level to stop with stereotyping and to demonstrate that males and females can do any role and there is no wrong or right career.
What would you say to your 16-year-old self?
Good question, I would say to develop a thicker skin and understand that you can’t do everything yourself. I’d also tell me to believe in myself!
What is your biggest achievement in life?
Doing a tandem skydive for charity where I raised over £800. I am very proud of this as I am terrified of heights!