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“People expect this to be a man’s job”

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Angela Swanton is the General Manager at one of Teva’s manufacturing plants in Irvine, California. Here, as part of International Women’s Day 2019, she explains how she went from being an architect to running a huge plant, and why seeing friends can be a guilty – and expensive - pleasure.

People expect this to be a man’s job. My plant is about 500,000 square feet across a number of buildings and I look after almost 390 people. I recently talked to a guy at a dinner who works in the same area and he said ‘You run that place?’ There is a stereotype.

My advice to other women is don’t try to be someone else. I think women sometimes like to act as someone else because there’s a perception they should be a certain way. My advice would be to be yourself. Have the courage to do things without seeing any boundaries.

My mentors said I would make a good site leader. I worked for Pfizer in New Jersey, which started as a design and build-focused job but I transitioned to operations, such as plant reliability. Then I started putting steps in place to broaden my experience and go down the path to be a site leader.

Every day I connect with my team. I will walk the plant to connect with people. Sometimes it’s going to their team meetings or just talk with people on the floor. I want to know what I can do for them.

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I like to “make better days” for our colleagues. The Teva branding is used a lot in our plant and ‘making better days’ is a key part of that. I like to connect with the team and ask colleagues what they need. Just by having simple conversations I can learn a lot about where I should have an impact and what I should focus on. 

People are the engine that drive the business. I took a position in Sweden to be the engineering leader at a manufacturing plant. In the plant there were people you could describe as sleeping, where they were just checking into work each day. I worked with an organizational psychologist because we wanted to awaken them and get them excited about their job. I worked with one utilities team leader who was tucked in the back corner of a plant. He used to play hockey professionally in the U.S. and had a brilliant career, but he was not using his leadership skills. I shared the forward vision with him and got him to lead change. He got fired up and enjoyed the journey. When I left that plant he was my replacement.

I’ve made some major shifts in my career, but they felt smooth at the time. The most significant move I made was my first move from Melbourne to Sydney in Australia - even though it was only an hour’s flight away - that was a line in the sand for my family, as I was leaving my home base. My Dad was full of encouragement, telling me to make the most of the opportunity.

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I’m open to new experiences. After Sweden I then went on to a job in Supply Chain Management in Belgium to broaden my experience. I enjoy keeping on learning. I don’t think I understood the importance of ‘learning agility’ when I was young. These days I think kids of that age have a far better understanding that their careers are going to change a lot.

Taking a break from work took courage. I stepped off the treadmill before I took my job at Teva. I’d not really considered the idea of taking a break to be an option open to me, but it was a great move.

I’m a contemporary architecture fan. My first degree was in architecture and I’m still very interested in it. When I look at houses I look for integrity in the style of the house, even if it’s kind of outdated. 

Seeing my friends and family is my guilty pleasure. I enjoy yoga and paddle-boarding, and making time to see my friends and family even if that means getting on a plane to see them. I spend a fair bit of money going to see my mates.

Find out more

  • We’re hiring! Are you interested in what Angela does, or want to know about other roles at Teva? If so, check out our latest vacancies.

  • Learn about Teva’s core values, such as ‘getting it done together’ and ‘making our families proud’.
  • Meet more of our experts! Like Sara Zavaleta, who talks about what it takes to run a huge supply chain operation and the importance of doing the Gemba Walk every day.
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