Starting a new role during a pandemic: Interview with Joe Curtis
Working life changed drastically when the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year, and for many, it’s been a tough ride to adjust overnight.
We caught up with Joe Curtis, Process & Continuous Improvement Engineer at Sonoco Consumer Products Europe, to hear how he has coped with the challenges of moving to a new house and starting a new role during a pandemic.
Joe joined us at our Chesterfield office in August 2020. He moved from Hull after graduating with BEng Chemical Engineering with first class honours (congrats Joe!).
How did you come to this job during the pandemic, and how are you finding it?
I, like many people during the pandemic, was unemployed and frustrated. At the beginning of August 2020, I received an interview invitation for a temporary 3-month contract as a graduate Process Engineer, I was ecstatic. I signed a house contract the day after accepting the role and moved to Chesterfield on Saturday and started my new position on Monday.
I have worked a few different jobs during my life and starting somewhere new is never easy; but nothing was quite as strange as starting somewhere that must operate during a pandemic. It was odd having to check how many people were in a room before entering and wearing a mask everywhere. Furthermore, the hand washing/sanitising routines were not something I was used to pre-pandemic. With all this said though I am very glad that Sonoco has taken COVID-19 restrictions so seriously and has been actively working to keep everyone safe.
What challenges have you come across during the pandemic, and how did you adapt to them?
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, especially with the quick move, but the Chesterfield team immediately made me feel welcome, even with the tough pandemic related restrictions. Having worked in a few different manufacturing environments I was pleasantly surprised at strong safety culture on the site.
What surprised you within the first 30 days about your new role, and working for Sonoco?
From the very first day I was given the chance to start on real projects to improve the plant, and immediately started learning, whilst shadowing experienced engineers working on the machinery around the plant. Meanwhile, in the office the European Director of Operations was assisting me in my projects and offered valuable insights into continuous improvement. My role is so incredibly varied, which is one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.
What learning opportunities have you had since you joined Sonoco?
Possibly the largest learning opportunity came just after being offered a full-time permanent role in November. I was placed on a lean six sigma training course provided via Sonoco through e-learning and given a major project on one of the main production lines on site. I am just about to start the E-Learning lectures for this and I’m looking forward to earning my qualification!
What aspects of your role are exciting to you?
Since starting here, I have created new standards for maintenance, machine setting and processes, in addition to chairing the daily direction setting meeting to discuss important plant tasks. There has not been a single day that hasn’t been challenging or rewarding and I have thoroughly enjoyed putting my engineering degree to good use. I particularly enjoy designing and creating new methods to set machines so that they work consistently and reliably. The excitement of being the first person to make an easy and effective way of doing something which people find useful is something that really motivates me.
What do you see as the future for your role?
There are also lots of exciting future projects to get involved with, for example, I am currently involved in early discussions of using 3D-printing technology to assist with prototyping engineering parts.
I look forward to developing further at Sonoco and can’t wait to see where this takes me or what I will end up working on as products change and our factory expands to more production lines.
Sonoco Consumer Products Europe