Saying “Yes” to the Challenge — How a Sonoco Plant Manager Achieved Success

Sponsored by Sonoco Products Company

Photo Courtesy of Sonoco

Photo Courtesy of Sonoco

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June 23, 2024 at 7:26AM UTC

Makenzie Grisham was attending a college career fair when she first learned about Sonoco, a global manufacturing company. When she interviewed, she was immediately impressed with their dedication to helping emerging professionals thrive in their careers.

“The college day program in Hartsville is what really sold me on working for Sonoco,” she said. “I liked that they were so invested in identifying and hiring young talent with the intention of growing them through the organization.”

That’s been the reality for Makenzie, who is currently the plant manager for the company in Batavia, Illinois. Having been with the company for more than 10 years, she continues to be excited about managing day-to-day operations and developing long-term strategy for Sonoco. 

During her career at Sonoco, Makenzie has held five different roles in five different locations. She has managed to grow her career by establishing connections with the people she’s met along the way. 

“Each one of the new opportunities has presented itself because of connections and relationships built through the previous role,” she explained. “As an employee of Sonoco, if you deliver against the expectations of your role and make a conscious effort to build and maintain relationships, opportunities will present themselves. And then you just need to be willing to say, ‘yes’ to the new challenge!”

What’s her favorite aspect of her job? According to Makenzie, there are “too many [parts] to list!” Currently, she’s working on restructuring her hourly staff. The Batavia facility has added seven total senior operator positions, one in each department, which will act as the lead and a “voice for change and improvement” in their respective departments.

Makenzie says that this project is fulfilling in several respects. For one, “it has given the employees a roadmap for future growth.” Additionally, “the strongest operators in our building are our technical experts and they should have a voice and influence in the direction of the department they work. Their ideas are so often better than what the leadership team can come up with — because we don’t do the job day to day.”

Watching these senior operators “blossom to their full potential,” Makenzie said, “has been very rewarding.”

That’s not the only thing she loves about working at Sonoco. Her favorite aspect of the work culture is the people. 

“It’s not just flowery language when Sonoco says they believe that ‘People build businesses.’ I’ve seen it reflected and proven several times over through my years with Sonoco,” Makenzie said.

And what does Makenzie advise other women who are currently in or intending to go into manufacturing?

“Jump in with both feet! Don’t be afraid to take on projects or roles that are beyond your current level of capability — you will learn more from being uncomfortable. Advocate for yourself.”

Makenzie also encourages aspiring and new manufacturing professionals to forge relationships with both women and men in their company. She’s reaped the rewards of these types of relationships firsthand. 

“The people of Sonoco are willing to help one another as one big family,” she said. “Connections made early in your career can last decades.”


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