Karen Way is in charge of Quality and Systems for Kaituna Sawmill and will celebrate 10 years at the mill in February 2016. Karen got into wood processing after deciding to leave her career as a chef and following her partner into the timber industry. After working in remanufacturing at Blenheim’s Flight timbers for six years she jointed the Kaituna team.
Karen is currently one of two women working out in the yard. At times in the past she’s had to put up with odd prank or joke as the only woman in the yard but not at Kaituna Sawmill. “Here I’ve had absolutely no problems. The guys have been really, really brilliant. The guys don’t treat me any differently. They do of course give me more assistance at times, because I’m not as strong. But in terms of the job roles, I do what they do.”
Karen has a diverse job and she enjoys the opportunity to learn different skills. “I look at the sawmill financials and production numbers first thing in the morning. I also monitor equipment effectiveness and do auditing, training, and teaching. It’s a fairly diverse job because you learn a little bit of everything and then you’ve got to pass that on to the next people. We use a buddy system to learn.”
Karen believes that having several people in the team who can operate any one piece of plant or who are trained in each role within the sawmill is a real advantage. “We’ve got people who can back up everybody else. The more we can have that the better. You can go through and learn anything you want to learn really and they’ll buddy you up with someone to teach it to you. They’re really good at teaching and training and offering you the unit standards and things to get some qualifications. I like to learn everything I can.”
That also means that people can move between roles and stay fresh, which has a positive impact on people’s bodies. “If you’re sitting in the same position every day doing the same job it gets pretty tiring on your body. It’s not as hard in terms of manual work as it used to be. We used to cart around a lot more timber than we do now.”
Karen would recommend the job to other women. “You’ve got to be a little bit thick skinned because the guys will try you out, but for anybody that’s interested in sawmilling or yard work, it’s a great job. Particularly this company, I really like this company. They’re very willing to teach you anything you want to learn. You don’t have to go to the gym, you just go to work!”