Business In Brewing - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Patricia Henry
AGE: 55
OCCUPATION: Plant Manager Miller Brewing Company
LOCATION: Eden, North Carolina
DUTIES: Managing all facets of beer production
SALARY RANGE: $100,000+
When Patricia Henry applied to Miller Brewing Company in 1977, her interviewer was so impressed with her he exclaimed, “Gosh, with your background, you could be the brewmaster!” In 1990, she did, becoming the first female brewmaster to head the Eden, North Carolina, plant’s entire brewing process. But not even Henry believed that she would become the first African American or woman plant manager of any beer brewery in the United States. “I really thought I’d retire as brewmaster,” says Henry, who has overseen the plant’s operation and more than 700 employees since 1995. Henry earned her B.S. in chemistry from Bennett College in 1969. Her science and computer background helped her find work as a systems analyst for Dupont, GE, Ethyl, and Norfolk Southern Railroad after graduation. Although there seemed to be no direct correlation between the two fields, Henry says that a decade of systems analyst work helped prepare her for a career at Miller. “Making a product usually involves the same things,” she explains, “knowing how much it costs, earning a profit, applying quality and employee controls, and creating a more efficient environment in which people can take a lot of pride in what they’re doing.”

o Making it at Miller: Henry joined Miller as a brewing supervisor. Raising two small children at the time, she was attracted to the company’s 12-hour, four-day workweek and the opportunity to apply her chemistry background.

Henry climbed steadily through the ranks, working in the plant’s brewing, shipping, packing, production, and quality departments. But after serving five years as brewmaster, she thought she’d reached her plateau. That changed when the company sent her to a creative leadership workshop. “We had to do an experiment where we had to write down the job we didn’t think we could get, but might want, and I wrote down plant manager,” she says. After returning to work, Henry became serious about moving up the ladder. “I watched the plant manager in meetings, and told myself I can do this, and within six months I had the job.”

A Dynamic Field: Henry says that neither her gender nor her race have hindered her career. “I don’t look at hurdles. I look above them,” she says. “I assume that the people I work with are looking at me as a co-worker and not as a female or an African American. I believe you get what you think about.” Henry is aware, however, of the predominance of men in the industry. She notes that out of seven Miller breweries, four are headed by African Americans and three by females. “It can be kind of different in meetings being the only woman,” she admits. “But at least they notice you.”

The brewing industry has provided her with an enjoyable career, Henry says, and she believes that the future is bright for anyone interested in pursuing a career in beer manufacturing. “The industry is pretty

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