Conestoga Meats’ Michael Boileau Shares How He Grew a Great Career

Your career trajectory can take a turn in ways you never imagined.

That’s what happened with Michael Boileau when he hung up his apron for a production coat at Conestoga Meats.

After working 25 years in the restaurant industry, Boileau decided he couldn’t do it anymore. The hours working as a chef were long and no longer work for his life. for that point. He decided to make a change and take on a role at Conestoga Meats on the production line as something temporary, a way to decompress.

But it soon became his new career path.

“[I took on a role at Conestoga Meats] and it was great just to decompress. I worked on the line for four years and started doing some training on a volunteer basis in the organization and discovered that I loved it and had an aptitude for it,” said Boileau, during a recent CareersNOW! mentorship session.

“I went to night school at a community college locally and got a certificate in adult learning. That really opened the door here. I had no idea that they were going to have a position open anytime soon. It was just something that I liked doing.”

Boileau found success in training those within the organization. He would train others on roles within the production facility, teaching them how to be effective on the job. For him, it all came down to putting yourself in their shoes and trying to think ahead of time about what questions they might ask or need help with. The key question was, “What would my learner need to know?”

“What kinds of information do I need to pass on to that learner?”

Using transferable skills at Conestoga Meats

Today Michael Boileau is a Training Specialist at Conestoga Meats, a uniquely integrated processor of premium quality, fresh pork that has been in operation since 1982.

He contributes much of his success to his multiple years of being a chef and food and beverage manager at a golf club.

“As a chef … you have to be very efficient in how you organize your day, organize your week. You’re juggling multiple things. Standing in front of a classroom with people, you’re doing the same kind of thing,” said Boileau.

“There’s a lot of transferable skills there. If you can make it in the food business for 10 years or more, there isn’t a job you can’t do because the skills required to survive and excel in that industry are transferable to many different things.”

It wasn’t just his skills in training he was able to transfer.

“Multitasking, prioritizing, problem-solving, critical thinking…[As a chef] you’ve got to solve a problem very quickly without your guest knowing it,” said Boileau.  “It may not seem like it’s transferable to training, but I’ve managed to draw from all of those things at different times.”

Boileau’s role at Conestoga Meats is constantly evolving to match the changing needs of the organization. Initially, his role didn’t even exist! Instead, Conestoga Meats developed the role for him. In the years prior, he was building health and safety modules and developing and maintaining visual cards. Over the last year, his role has developed into creating training modules for their salary group.

Like many other food and beverage processing companies, they like to hire and promote from within.

“I’ve been fortunate in my career as a chef and in HR training that I rarely had someone telling me what I couldn’t do,” he said. “When I moved into my role in training, the president told me that I had an opportunity to define the role since no one had done it before at the company. I took that seriously and embraced my curiosity and willingness to learn new things.”

How to grow within an organization

For those looking to advance their career within a bigger organization, Boileau offered this advice:

“Be positive and take some courses to figure out where [you] want to go. It’s important to let your supervisor know that you’re taking these courses and remind them gently a couple of times because you’re just one of 146 people,” he said.

“If you conduct yourself well and professionally, that’s how you can stand out and show that you’re important. So be positive, act towards your aspirations, and let your supervisor know about it.”

Watch the full CareersNOW! Mentorship session with Boileau and other industry professionals from Conestoga Meats below!

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