Often when you ask people how they ended up with the job they have the answers are pretty similar: “I don’t know, I just sort of fell into it.” Or, “It’s what my old man did.” Or, “I just always wanted to do X.”
Rarely do you find someone with a story as interesting, deliberate, and inspiring as Samara Thompson’s.
Sam is a Warehouse Coordinator for our InfraBuild business in Tasmania, Australia. And she’s earning high praise for her work. But Sam didn’t start out in a warehouse. In fact, if it weren’t for the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008, she may never have found her calling…
Here’s Sam’s story:
“I spent just shy of 20 years working on a shop floor in manufacturing. The pay for unskilled labour was good and the overtime was there for the taking. I worked hard, I earnt a lot and enjoyed the fruits of my labour – overseas holidays, boats, motorbikes, 4wd drives etc, etc. If I wanted it, I bought it. Then came the GFC and everything changed.”
Like so many people around the world, once the GFC hit, Sam found herself unemployed.
“I didn’t want to fight for unskilled jobs on minimum wage, so I researched industries with shortages and long-term growth prospects. It seemed there was a need for qualified supply chain and logistics people. The job wasn’t sexy, but the pay looked good and everyone seemed to share a common strategy of searching for more women in their ranks.”
With her industry research complete, Sam needed to up her education.
“I had the marks to do uni, I had just never known what I wanted to do.
I started university two weeks after the lights were turned off on my former life. The government had kindly offered some assistance for those burned by a downturn in Australian manufacturing – one option was an eight-subject scholarship at university.
I was not an academic kid, I hated school and it had been 23 years since I’d put a pen to paper, but perhaps I could wrangle my way through an eight-subject diploma?”
Fortunately for Sam, she had an incredible support system, including friends in recruitment who cheered her along and reminded her that “You’ve got this!” They convinced Sam to take the hardest two subjects first, and if she could handle those, she could nail the course.
“I smashed my first foray into academic life out of the park and I was on my way. I worked full time whilst I got my diploma, went on to get an associate degree, and then a Bachelors in Global Logistics and Maritime Management. It was a business degree with a specialist major and it covered all the essentials – accounting, economics, law, marketing, HR – as well as chartering and broking, import/export, maritime law, transport systems, logistics, and warehouse management.”
As Sam was completing her degree, she was offered a 12-month maternity contract in sales at InfraBuild that lined up nicely with her graduation date.
“I accepted and as my end of contract loomed, COVID happened and my plan of travelling the world and working with my internationally-recognised degree went up in flames as everyone came to grips with a new pandemic normal.
Then the Despatch Clerk quit, and I was offered the role of Warehouse Coordinator, which I accepted.”
Sam admits that initially, people doubted her. It didn’t help that her new working environment needed some work…
“The despatch office was sad, dark, and depressing, covered in dust and unloved. Fast forward a couple of weeks, the blinds were up, the dust and oversized furniture were gone, and the regular customers noticed.
I have been slowly trying to implement change, but change is difficult. I have worked on improving communication between the office and warehouse, streamlining inbound freight planning, forward thinking about how to manage impending ‘known demand’ alongside the ‘daily erratic demand’.
All the academia focuses on the ‘last mile problems’ in eCommerce, but steel is an entirely different construct. It’s heavy, dangerous, often oversize, non-homogeneous, and virtually impossible to streamline.”
The final frontier Sam is working to concur is the gender stereotypes. Working in a traditionally male industry sadly means that sometimes Sam has to work even harder to win some people over.
“There are some people affronted that a woman was the person chosen to replace a male in a male-dominated industry. I am doing my utmost to change that perception one customer at a time.”
Andrew’s side of the story:
There’s no doubt, listening to Sam, that she’s smart, tough, and motivated. And she’s got some big fans inside the business. Tasmania’s Regional Safety and Operations Manager, Andrew Thompson (no relation!), knows that Sam is a superstar.
“I worked with Sam for about 20 years at ACL, a large portion as her supervisor. I can tell you, Sam’s self-motivated, accurate, and consistently does what needs to be done.
When the despatch role became available, I immediately thought of Sam. I was confident she would do this role successfully and make significant change to how our warehouse, despatch/inbound, freight planning etc was run.”
Andrew says that even if some people doubted she’d last more than a few weeks, he knew she’d smash it.
“And Sam has proven herself in this role and gone well beyond the expectations of the guys in the ‘blokes world’ of the warehouse. Knowing Sam, I was confident they had no idea how well she could do the role, and this has been the case.
Sam is doing a fantastic job in progressively changing and improving our warehouse operations, identifying where the operational issues are coming from and pushing to rectify them, and improving communications between the warehouse and sales to no end.”
The best news, Andrew reckons he’s not Sam’s only fan.
“Sam has earnt the respect of the whole team in Tasmania – Launceston and Hobart – with her cheerful approach, her attention to detail, and her clarity of requirements with the team.
She’s just a fantastic person who I have great respect for, and I really enjoy working with her.”
Got a story like Sam’s? Tell us about it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you!