Manufacturing in the food industry

Becky Sherling joined Mars Chocolate UK as a graduate mechanical engineer in September 2014 after completing a four-year degree at the University of Bath. Becky’s degree also included a year in industry, where she worked in a factory - it was this experience that inspired her to join Mars.

“I find it really exciting to see the journey, from creating a chocolate bar, which is then packaged into a tangible product that ends up on a shelf in a shop is something I find really satisfying,” Said Shirling. “It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to point to one of our chocolate products and say “that was me”.”

While on the Mars graduate engineering scheme, Becky had the opportunity to discover the full range of engineering jobs within Mars Chocolate: Starting in Wrapping and Packaging, she had the opportunity to work on developing solutions to packaging issues before they arise. She then moved into the Reliability team, which involves the maintenance of the machinery.

“I was the only woman in a department of 65 men, which was a little daunting at first but it was a great environment to work in and I was encouraged to develop to the best of my abilities by my team,” Sherling recalled. “When I first went into Reliability, I wasn’t a particularly confident individual but I’ve come out of the role a completely different person.”

In addition to her day job in the factory, Becky has also had the opportunity to give back to the local community in Slough:

“In March, I took part in a local community event aimed to encourage young female students from across the area to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and Maths. I found it was great to break down those barriers that make girls think engineering is a man’s job.”

Sarah Sordy is plant manager at Mars Petcare’s site at Birstall, where she leads a team of 240 in the manufacture of well-known pet care and treat products.

After completing her degree in Mechanical Engineering at Birmingham University, Sordy started her career at Mars Petcare on its two-year graduate engineering programme. She then moved onto a full-time project-engineering role at Mars’ wet pet food site at Melton Mowbray, where she was promoted through the engineering team, finally to chief engineer. In 2012, Sordy took the role of operations manager at Birstall, and in April 2016 became plant manager of the site.

Sordy has always had a passion for making things. At school, she had a keen interest in maths and science and enjoys the tangibility of working in the FMCG industry – looking after production lines, installing new ones and working as a team to get a product onto shelves.

“We make over a million PEDIGREE Dentastix in a day and the fact that I can go into a supermarket and pick up something I know that my team and myself have made is a fantastic feeling. For me, job satisfaction is about seeing something tangible at the end of the day,” Sordy said.

On being a female in the engineering workplace, Sarah explained that being a woman has never been an issue for her, thanks to supportive mentors who have inspired her from her school days until today.

She said: “I do remember a couple of years into my career looking around and realizing I was the only girl in the room. But things are changing. Having women in senior roles in manufacturing is less and less unusual. There really is no barrier today to a career in manufacturing and engineering as a woman.”