How Aruna Saraswati, Plant Manager at Palmwoods, Queensland Leads His Team to Success
Aruna Saraswati has been an employee supporting McCormick’s Gourmet Garden brand (located in Palmwoods, Queensland, Australia) for his entire adult life, and he says he's lucky to have the opportunity to work at a company that continuously puts its people first. "The people-first culture is something we pride ourselves on," Aruna says. "It makes McCormick a great place to work, and it allows you to enjoy the people you work with."
He started working at Gourmet Garden (prior to the McCormick acquisition in 2016) when he was 18 years old. Over the last 14 years, he has worked in multiple operational roles, from a Forklift Driver to Supply Planning Logistics Manager to his current role as Plant Manager, where he leads the cross-functional Palmwoods site leadership team as well as his day-to-day responsibilities for supply chain and operations. To support his leadership ambitions, Aruna decided to pursue formal qualifications and seven years ago, he completed a Bachelor's in Business while working full time.
At the start of his career, Aruna said it was exciting to work with many of his friends, who also held operational roles at Gourmet Garden. But now, after a successful integration into the McCormick organization and more than a decade in the business, he says it's pleasing to see other employees who started with him continue to progress in their careers as well. "We've all grown up together," he said. "And I've been lucky. Every time I have felt that I needed a change in my career, McCormick has supported a switch to a different business unit. It's been a great learning experience."
Now, as the Plant Manager, Aruna leverages his 14 years of experience with different areas of the business to lead his team to success. "I give my team 100 percent trust to run their departments," he said. "We're all constantly working together to get the best outcome. I believe that everybody comes to work to give their best."
Aruna said the entire site responded extremely well to the demand challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is proud of the unmatched cross-functional collaboration between departments. "I think what COVID forced us to do is to think about things differently and challenge our ways of getting better," he said. "Everybody embraced everybody else's ideas, and we figured out the best ways to move forward as a whole." For example, Aruna said a lot of the ideas to improve operational efficiencies came from people on the lines. "Challenging times could lead you to lose hope or end up stronger," he said. "We definitely ended up stronger."
As a leader, Aruna prides himself on creating a psychologically safe space for his team and not accepting the normal way of doing things. "My role onsite isn't to make every decision. My team and their teams run the factory, and I'm there to help break down any barriers," he said.
Outside of work, Aruna enjoys spending time at the beach or playing sports with his partner and his 3-year-old son. He said many people on his team might be surprised to learn that Aruna spent a lot of his childhood in yoga centers. His parents opened multiple yoga studios around Australia when Aruna was young, and his mom continues to teach today. Aruna doesn't actively practice yoga, but he continues to meditate when he's feeling stressed – which might just be his secret to success.