Female Focus: Women in Supply Chain (1)

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Charlotte from the Marketing team took a trip to our offices in Limerick, where she had a round-table discussion with five remarkable women with a collective 63 years working across various roles within ESCS. This interview series aims to shed light on their unique experiences and insights in the supply chain industry, highlighting their contributions and the diverse perspectives they bring to our organization.

I’ve heard it said that people, especially women, don’t tend to choose supply chain, they seem to end up in it. Has anyone got a comment on that or how they managed to end up here at ESCS?

Catherine: I studied insurance at university and I started off my working career in the insurance industry. I was in France for a couple of years, and when I came back I kind of fell into supply chain. I was looking for work and a lot of the insurance jobs would have been in Dublin at the time, and I didn’t want to leave where I’m from, which is in the Midwest. So I just took the job and it just started from there, and that was a long time ago!

Aga: For me, it was an accident. So I was studying economics in Poland, and after my first year of college I came here for two months just to  [earn] money for a car, because I was trying to start a second course at a different university at the same time. 17 years later I’m still working in Exertis. I started on production in Limerick, then have been relocated to Poland in 2009. I’ve had different positions in the company, I’d say 10 or 9 different positions across those 17 years.

Christina: This is my fourth ever job. My first job was between 5th year and 6th year working in a factory, then finished school, went into a shop while I was studying courses like reception skills, and then I went into a dental surgery for a year and a half. Then I got my interview here and I was just and the end of my 21st year.  I started out on reception and was there for 12-13 years, and while on reception I did everything: all the reception stuff and I started doing HR stuff while there.  I looked after AMCS, I looked after some parts of Dell at one stage, I looked after Apple products when they were here- Aga remembers helping me out with that! So that’s how I got into HR: the HR team got smaller but there was still work to be done, and another colleague recommended that I get a qualification in HR She really encouraged me to go for it so I ended up going from certificate level to degree level because I enjoyed it so much, and I’m about to finish my masters in e-learning this year. So the company for me has been really supportive in that way, in that they put me through college, they have let me progress in the role, and I’ve been able to try new things. 18 years is a long time, and looking at it from an HR perspective, there are days where we complain about things (because everybody does) but I’ve learned that the grass is not always greener. Some people leave and are sorry they left, others are happy where they end up, but I’m happy where I am both in my career and in the company.

That’s a long time to stay in one company! What do you think makes people stay here?

Catherine: It’s a good reflection on the company that people have such a length of service, it means it’s a great place to work and the people are so nice and that’s a huge part of any business, it’s the people that make the business.

Aga: I believe, there are still around 20 people working in Exertis for more than 15 years, 20 years.

Geraldine: I used to work in Dell for two different periods, the longest being 12 years. I left and I went back for two years, but outside of Dell, this is the longest period I’ve spent in any company.  All of the other jobs I had in between Dell and ESCS were all around one year or two years, so I agree that it’s a good reflection on the company that so many have stayed for so long. Staff don’t tend to leave, there isn’t a high turnover.

Charlotte: I have noticed that everyone I’ve met across all the Exertis businesses tends to have been here for at least five years, if not 20 years.  People who have been in the business for 5 years still describe themselves as new to the business!

Christina: Our longest serving employee is 41 years. When I first started here in 2005, there were around 400-500 people between agencies and everything, and then we went through the downturn and many people took redundancy.  But we actually had several people who have come back since then, and recently another colleague celebrated another 10 years with Exertis after returning from redundancy, so we definitely have people who are reluctant to leave!

I’ve heard of quite a lot of people within ESCS and across Exertis businesses changing roles and going in a different direction, would you say that the company enables and encourages that, or does anyone have a comment on changing roles?

Aga: Yes, I’m the perfect example because I was changing my position every two years on average.

Catherine:  Did you want that or was it something that was forced on you?

Aga: It became part of the natural progression of my career, but it was also something I wanted. If I hadn’t wanted to change role I could have stayed where I was, but I saw the progression as a good thing and a development opportunity. Also, the people around me were encouraging me to take the opportunities, the next step in my career.  I met many amazing people and I had many great managers in this company, and actually when two of them left the company I was crying because they were those who motivated me to do more. With that said, I think the motivation to change roles has to come at least half from you.

Catherine:  I feel the opposite, I’m in my current role 14 or even 15 years now, but I love it. I don’t want to progress from managerial level because I just want to manage myself and my work, I’m not interested in managing people.  I think I wouldn’t be that ambitious in terms of changing and doing something different- that’s just my personality. So I’d say if you want them, the opportunities are probably there, but if you don’t seek them out, people might not come to you saying you’re a good match for a particular role in terms of a career development plan, or this is where we’d see you going. So from that perspective, I’d say the onus is on the individual as well to go searching for new opportunities and to want to progress, but I’m very happy where I am.

Christina: I agree, the people here are really good. We have a really good group of people. Would I have that someplace else?

Catherine: I think this is a very unique company in terms of the personnel and the relationships that we’ve built up over the years. We were all working together. So it’s like a second family and when we were here five days a week, we were here more than we were at home. So it was and still is very important to have good people around you.

Aga: But it’s interesting what Catherine said, that she’s comfortable here. When I was younger, I was so ambitious and wanted to climb the ladder and take on more and more responsibility, but now that I’ve had a high-pressure job for a number of years, I’d like to slow down maybe take on a slower-paced role to reduce the stress level.

Geraldine: It’s true, you realise it when you take a good look at your work/life balance and you think “do I need that addition?” and you think to yourself no, I don’t need the added pressure of striving for more, I’m happy where I’m at.

Catherine:  My philosophy is I work to live, I don’t live for my work. I was always like that, and everybody’s different. Some women, and fair play to them, they’re so ambitious, so driven. And I think it’s amazing, especially when you see women going up the chain into senior positions that’s brilliant. But everybody’s different and we all want different things from life; it’s ok to stay where you are and not want to take on more responsibility.


Name, position, years at the company

Catherine Kearns, Senior Account Manager, 18 years

Geraldine Toomey, Buyer/Fulfilment Specialist, 8 years

Agnieszka Nowicka, Buyer Planner/Account Coordinator, 17 years

Christina Hayes, HR Generalist, 18 years


If you want to hear more insights into Women in Supply Chain, stay tuned for our next blog post where we delve further into our Female Focus!

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