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"From Graduate to Director: The Journey of Becoming a Leader"

By Amena Kadibhai, Director of Quality, Dewey’s Bakery Inc.

Amena Kadibhai, Director of Quality, Dewey’s Bakery Inc.

I want to take you through a journey of learning, growth, and self-confidence.

Flash-back to 2011 when I first began my journey in the food industry. I was fresh out of college and eager make my mark.

I started working at a meat processing company as the Quality Supervisor in charge of the “raw” process on night shift. This is where I was first introduced to the idea of leadership and like many new leaders, I had the insatiable hunger to over commit and that too often led to under delivering. This definitely proved to be a difficult lesson for me to learn. I struggled with time management, prioritization, and delegation. I thought to be a good leader, I had to learn it all, know it all, and do it all. Through the many ups and downs during my tenure with this company, I learned that being a leader meant thoughtful compromises and teamwork.

Leadership is formally defined as the office or position of a leader.

The term leader is defined as a person who leads or commands a group or organization. This became my mission. I sought out to be the best leader I could be. A person who was dependable, approachable, supportive and lead with integrity. Over the course of the next three years, I took to heart what I learned. I worked shorter stints at two other manufacturing companies in the Quality department as a Supervisor and Manager, respectively. During my tenure as a Quality Manager, I was challenged to limits I was not accustomed to. Let me explain.

When I was hired on as the Quality Manager, I was inexperienced in managing salaried employees. Needless to say, I was apprehensive. During my 2-year tenure, I was focused and committed. I was determined to be a great leader however with limited success I decided to change course and focus on forming a personal relationship with my staff. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to go the way I planned. Instead of forming unity with my team, I seemed to drift farther away. I learned that being friends with my direct reports left with no room to be a good leader. I was offered an opportunity closer to home in North Carolina therefore left before adjusting course again.

Fast-forward to 2017, I accepted an opportunity with Dewey’s Bakery as Director of Quality.

I have been employed with Dewey’s for almost 2 years. I was cautious when accepting this opportunity because of the magnitude of the role; Director. 

It all sounded very intimidating. However, in the short time I have been with the company, I have figured out my niche. In the last two years, I have led four successful SQF audits, customer issues and met the needs of my department. More specifically speaking, my area of responsibility lies with two manufacturing plants geographically located close to each other. This is been a challenge; managing my time between two locations. However, I have learned to manage my time effectively. I work with a dedicated and knowledgeable team.

This is a novel concept however, when executed correctly, the biggest asset; the team. Allowing others to use their areas of expertise and knowledge to helps me be a better leader. Allowing others to suggest and implement new ideas helps me be a better leader. This is hands-down the most important lesson.

True leadership lies in the strength and dedication a team. My previous roles shaped my ability to be an effective leader. Through my experiences, I have learned to work with my team to make improvements and navigate forward. I will say that at Dewey’s, my opinion is important, my thoughts are valued, and my needs are met. I have been received with open arms and felt the true value of teamwork. Dewey’s has allowed me to grow as a leader.

I will leave you with this lasting thought: being a good leader, or even a great leader is not done in a silo. No person can lead without a supportive team. Trust your instincts and believe in your team. You will soar.

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