What Diversity in Operations Has Taught Me




Author: Roger Shahnazarian, Vice President of Operations for the Americas


Roger Shahnazarian, is committed to advancing diversity, which is exemplified in the recent announcement of Jabil’s two STEP Ahead Honorees for 2018. Clare Dowdalls was nominated by Roger himself, and Paloma Barraza was recognized by Simon Wilcox, a member of Roger’s team.

Meeting new colleagues, hiring employees and establishing new manufacturing sites has exposed me to many new cultures, backgrounds and languages throughout my career. I find it especially promising to be in a field that is continually progressing. What I love about manufacturing operations is that it’s not about finding the best man for the job; it is about finding the best person for the job.

I pride myself in being a leader who tries to break the paradigm that only men can advance in a corporation and am proud of the work Clare, Paloma and our other female leaders have done. Presently, I have three women on my team and plan to have more join us in the next couple of years. The women in Jabil, and all the women in the manufacturing industry, are a bit hungrier for success. They bring higher energy levels to the table, which shows in their dedication and passion to positively impact the business.

Diversity extends beyond the gender paradigm, though. In fact, when I began my career, none of my employees had English as their primary language; they were culturally diverse, speaking many languages and coming from many countries. It was about 26 years later that I managed my first English-speaking Operations Manager, but the diversity I worked around from the beginning helped shape my career and how I lead. This position has given me the chance to visit 67 countries, which has served as an even better learning experience than my college degrees. Because of the diversity I’ve been exposed to, my career journey has been spectacular.

All that I know now is from what I have learned from visiting Jabil sites around the world and learned from the diverse group of people we employ. When you visit these different sites, you learn culture, you learn humility and you learn about yourself: how adaptable you are and how willing you are to take risks. Working with employees from different countries and backgrounds really opens your eyes to the complexity of the business and the world. It still amazes me at times that I am the only person on my staff that speaks one language. I took four years of French in high school, but it can only get me so far as to order a meal in Paris!

But, overall, do you know what diversity brings us? It teaches us more compassion toward employees, customers and the community. It gives us better learning opportunities – we learn so much from people who are not the same as us.

Given the need to have a diverse and inclusive workforce, it’s also important to maintain a company culture that ensures every voice is heard, which I strive to do in my everyday work life.When people know they have an equal chance for every opportunity, it multiplies employee engagement tenfold.

I like to make statements to the employees in my hiring choices, so I can lead by example and demonstrate how I am committed to continuing a diverse and inclusive environment. At my previous company, I hired the first local Chinese plant manager – now that company has seven. Presently, I’m using my position to bring more women to leadership positions to demonstrate my support of the benefits a diverse team offers the field of Operations and beyond. We are all Joules, we are all Jabil.

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