We recently caught up with Carina Rojas, West Pak’s busy Program Planning Manager, and discussed what she and her department do and the important role they both play within the overall operations of the company. Find out more about this team player’s deep avocado roots and how she’s carrying on the family work ethic while delivering avocado goodness to customers across the country.
How many years have you been with the company?
I’ve been with West Pak for a little bit more than four years. It will be my fifth year here with the company in December.
How did you come to work at West Pak, and what was your role when you first started?
I have known West Pak all my life; my dad’s been working here for over thirty years. When I was little, I would come here during summer or after school. He’d pick me up, and I would spend the day with him looking at the machines or even just being on the computer.
I graduated from California State University San Marcos with a Bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis in supply chain management; this was my first job out of college in the related field I studied. When I first began at West Pak, I worked under Trevor Newhouse, VP of Operations, and was an administrative coordinator for the Operations team.
What is your current title with the company?
I’m the Program Planning Manager.
How would you describe your department and what it does?
The way I like to describe our department is that we are responsible for inventory management and product allocation. You can almost say that we’re an extension of Supply Chain. Supply Chain is looking at the bigger picture, working a couple of weeks out, while our planning team is looking at the immediate needs for the orders, shipping orders within a 7-day window, and ensuring we have enough product to allocate to our orders. We are following these orders from the time they are entered to when they ship from our facilities. We are focused on proper product placement within our distribution centers in the U.S. We’re coordinating with several departments, including Sales, Shipping, Quality Control, Just Ripe!, Logistics – you name it. We’re dealing with most of the key departments, which means a lot of coordination and being detail-oriented to ensure that we’re executing as seamlessly as possible. Our goal is to meet customer demand by delivering in full, in spec, and on time, making good deliveries to our customers.
It’s kind of the control center, right?
Yes, to some degree. It’s a little bit of chaos, it’s a lot of putting the puzzle pieces together, but honestly, that’s what makes this position and this job fun because there’s never a dull moment here – it’s always something new. Especially during the peak of the season, it’s so busy; it’s non-stop, and our days fly by super-fast.
Does everyone on the team do the same thing?
Our planning team is a group of six people, including myself. Our coordinators manage 1-2 distribution centers each between 8 different distribution centers. However, Planning Supervisor Hunter Arriaga and I oversee all distribution centers. We all follow the same processes and interact with the same departments, and we are planning to every single one of our customer’s orders.
How would you describe your role?
My role is to ensure my team has clarity on the day-to-day plans. With so many changes, it’s easy to miss important details. I’m responsible for streamlining the plans to my team and following through for proper execution up until the time of shipment; it’s what we like to call “the last mile.”
What would you consider to be the best part of your role? What do you love about your job?
The best part of my role is that I’m always learning something new and being challenged daily. There’s never a dull moment here. It’s rewarding to be a manager/leader and participate in the day-to-day decision-making process. They are listening to my recommendations and what I’m seeing, and they’re considering that to ensure we’re making the best business decision here. I am very hands-on and like being involved in everything, understanding the bigger picture, and why we do the things we do. Being in this role lets me do just that, understand the company as a whole.
What would you consider the most challenging part of what you do?
The most challenging is going to be the versatility because there are so many changes that can happen with the day-to-day activities that we’re doing. Because of the type of industry that we’re in, we’re dealing with produce, and it’s a time-sensitive thing. We also hate saying “no” to our customers, so it’s always like, “yeah, we have it.” If our customers want to increase their orders, if they want to make adjustments, or if they’re trying to ship from different locations, for us, it’s always going to be “yes,” and then we come up with the game plan to make it work. So, with that being said, there’s always going to be some kind of change within our plans, and the most challenging thing is being quick problem solvers and being very solution oriented. It’s just part of the job that makes it fun.
How do you incorporate West Pak’s principles and values into your job?
One of West Pak’s core values is caring about employees and investing in their people. Now that I’m a manager, I try to incorporate that as well, and honestly, I have the best interest in mind with my team for personal growth and career development. With all the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the past four-plus years, whenever we’re onboarding anybody new or even with our existing team members, I try to spend time with them and teach them everything I know. As issues come up throughout the day, I’ll guide them step by step on how I would handle it and the logic behind it – the reason behind what I’m doing. Because sometimes, somebody can just say, “hey, go do this,” but you might not understand why they are doing it that way. So, I really try to guide my team and be very transparent about my thinking process. That way, the next time they have a similar issue or question, they know how to answer it and where to find a solution.
So, it’s just investing time in my team and showing them that I am there for them for any need with the day-to-day tasks that we are completing.
Tell us a few things about yourself. What do you like to do on your time off?
I’m Mexican, and in the Hispanic culture, family is very important. So, I like to spend most of my time off with my husband, friends, and family, traveling with them. It can be going on vacation, going out to dinner, or going to the beach; I mean, just spending time with them as much as possible is really a priority, so most of that time is dedicated to them.
Do you have a favorite motto or words you live by?
Be better than you were yesterday. I’m all about improving, taking that next step, and improving myself to further my career. I’m so career-oriented – it’s everything to me, so that would be my favorite quote.
What’s your favorite way to eat or prepare avocados?
I actually just made guacamole yesterday. I like adding a little spiciness, so I’ll put a green pepper in it. I love to eat spicy guacamole with my toast.