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Making the cut: How Cargill’s first female fabrication manager is forging new paths

November 29, 2018

Twenty-one years ago, Selia Perez followed in her father’s footsteps when she applied for her first job at Cargill. She knew she wanted to start her career here, as her father had found success in his 25-year career at Cargill after immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico.

Selia’s first position was a blade meat trimmer at Cargill’s beef plant in Dodge City, Kansas. In the beginning, she wanted to be a food safety, quality & regulatory manager. To pursue this goal, she relocated to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where she was offered a position as a food safety superintendent.

“I would say Fort Morgan was the turning point in my career,” she said. She reported to a female general manager— and had never seen a woman in that role before. “It piqued my interest,” she said.

During her time in Fort Morgan, Selia was told by a supervisor that her drive and perseverance would open many doors. She took these words of encouragement to heart and began to consider her next steps.

She decided to move to Dodge City, Kansas, to be closer to home and family, taking on a role as trim and grind superintendent. There, she worked her way up to her current role as fabrication manager.

Engaging a team

Selia is the first woman in Cargill to hold a fabrication manager position. Meat fabrication, which is the process of cutting, boning, and portioning large cuts of meat to specification, is critical to any meat processing operation.

She oversees 1,300 employees at the Dodge City facility, Cargill’s largest beef plant. Selia credits her success to her ability to engage her team by making her expectations clear and setting the bar high. By creating a competitive environment and holding her team members accountable, she encourages her team to take pride in their work and strive for maximize results.

“There is nothing more satisfying than to see the results of actions you have put in place being executed by your team and achieving the desired results," she said.

She also mentions the importance of respect and personal accountability. She says, “No matter what my role, I will never be better than anyone else, nor would I ask anyone to do anything I would not do myself.”

When she holds herself and others to the same level of accountability, the results fall into place.

Strengthened by diversity

Selia is currently working her way toward becoming a general manager and is eager to reach her goals at Cargill. She is grateful for the opportunities she has had with Cargill and the many people who have believed in and guided her.

She credits being different in this business as a key to success and “diversity of thought” to making the team stronger on many levels.

To her female coworkers looking to advance their careers, Selia advises them to take risks.

“There is nothing preventing us from achieving whatever role we want," she said. "The more women begin to take on larger roles, the more common it will be. One day, we will not have a conversation about male or female, we will only speak to qualifications.”