October 1st, 2019
Born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Shawn Harris chose not to complete high school. Shawn chose to forgo the traditional classroom and instead opted to let his life, work, and travels be his teachers. He worked odd jobs in retail and automotive before deciding to move to the opposite end of the world, and lived abroad in New Zealand for two years. He came back to find another home—with FGF. Having been here for nine years now, through massive change and multiple promotions, we sat down with Shawn to get his thoughts on what led him here.
What’s your name, and what do you do with FGF?
I’m Shawn Harris, the Site Leader at Barmac. I lead a large team and ensure all the operations are running smoothly, ensure the facility is in tip-top shape, and look for ways to improve processes and the day-to-day for my team.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Growing up in Windsor, Ontario was like being in a bubble. I knew I had to travel to get out of it, broaden my horizons and meet new people, cultures and ideas. My friend had been living in New Zealand for five years, so I ventured out there for a vacation and ended up staying there for two years. It’s really an incredible place—I worked for a wonderful gentleman, met some really great people, tried new food, had some new experiences, and visited every city I came across. It really changed my outlook on life. But after spending two Christmas seasons on a deck in my shorts, Home was calling.
How did you start at FGF?
When I was planning my return from New Zealand, I began looking for manufacturing positions online. I happened to come across an interesting job posting for a company called FGF Brands, and applied from overseas. Susana, from FGF’s Health and Safety team, scooped me up fairly quickly. I started within weeks of coming back to Canada. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I could not have ever imagined what a great place this would be to learn and grow.
What has the journey been like since joining FGF?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started at FGF. But when I met my coworkers, I knew I’d walked into something special. The people who work here are wonderful—they’re helpful, knowledgeable, willing to share—just a few of the reasons I knew FGF would be a great fit for me. When I first started, I expected it to just be a job. But it quickly became more than that. It had become my career and my passion.
Six months later, I moved to the Barmac facility. I moved to learn the systems, and at the time, there weren’t many leaders interested in further developing the members of their team. My leader must have seen something in me, because when I got a good handle of the job, they asked me to manage a team of two. As FGF grew, those two would become seven, then nine. I was then promoted to team leader after being moved from afternoons to the day shifts. I became Warehouse Leader in 2016. A year after that, I was promoted to Operations Leader of the Barmac Facility. Last December, I was promoted again and became Site Leader.
Talk about steady progression!
It’s been a crazy journey—every step of the way has been enjoyable and rewarding. I have a deep passion for what we do here. If you asked me five years ago, I didn’t have an interest in leading a team; I was happy learning everything I could, getting better each day. But as I grew with FGF, I discovered that I actually liked leading people and helping my team find solutions to their challenges.
FGF looks internally for leadership. In fact, they have an ‘Unleashing Your Potential’ program that’s built for every aspiring and current leader within the company. It’s an internal training program that teaches you skills in conflict resolution, communication, and team member engagement. Through the program, you also get to work with a private coach to identify your own blind spots and areas of improvement to get better at self-assessing. These coaches work collaboratively with you to create your own development plan, allowing every leader to progress at their own pace—it has been a wonderful learning experience thus far.
In your opinion, what’s the secret sauce that makes FGF a great place to work?
If you ask any of the leaders at FGF—and they all feel the same way—they’d say you’d never get this leg-up professionally anywhere else. The ‘Unleashing Your Potential’ program is a good example of that. Other organizations wouldn’t give us the opportunity to grow like this. FGF is very different in the way they grow individuals who work hard, understand the nuances of their role, and strive to improve it.
It’s also the culture. The people. The family feel. Our Barmac facility keeps growing, yet we’re still incredibly close. Our team members are more like a family—and that comes from company potlucks, Halloween dress-up competitions, and ugly holiday sweater parties during Christmas. We really believe in collaboration here, because our leaders, Ojus and Tejus, live the business philosophy every day. The leaders here recognize that one person cannot come up with every idea or solution—the best ideas come from a collaborative effort.
Any advice for anyone starting a job at FGF?
There’s a motto at FGF—“speed, change and uncertainty”—and we live that motto every day. With our growth and continuous improvement initiatives, FGF continues to change and evolve, each time for the better. Where the company is going—with all of our innovations while staying ahead of the curve—they want us to grow with the company and retire here.
So work hard and be open to change and new ideas. The status quo doesn’t work here at FGF—if you can keep up with the speed, you’ll love it.