When Ony Mgbeahurike joins the team, the team wonders how it ever functioned without him. He’s just that kind of guy, with that kind of “let’s do this” energy. From his time on the U’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies campus to his ongoing participation in the Twin Cities chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), to his current role at General Mills working in supply chains and international export, he goes all-in with his time and team-strengthening management.
Ony graduated from the Manufacturing Operations Management (MM) program in 2013. We spoke to him about what he’s doing today and the role that strong leadership plays in his life.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Nigeria and moved to Minnesota when I was 12. After returning to Nigeria to complete my high school education, I came back to Minnesota for college at the U of M. I knew I wanted to study something technical, something business-related, something I could be a leader in, but I wasn’t sure what it was at first. After some soul searching, I decided to go into manufacturing. They call the Manufacturing Operations Management Program the “make stuff” degree, and that fits really well with my interests. I like learning about all the processes and teamwork that go into making something—taking raw materials and transforming them into something shelf-stable and complete.
You were really active on campus. Tell us about the organizations you participated in.
I like to get involved. When I came to the U, I joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and really enjoyed contributing to events they put together. A lot of the leadership skills I have today have been the result of participating in this nationwide organization. It’s an amazing group to be a part of. Any African-American who’s in the technical industry will probably have been in NSBE at some point. It connects you and makes you feel stronger for being a part of something great.
What roles did you play in leadership or development in NSBE?
In 2012, I became a Career Development Chair for NSBE. This meant creating panel events for students with industry professionals and helping to work events and career fairs giving opportunities to our members. In the summer of 2013, I became a Chapter Advisor for NSBE, giving leadership and guidance to the U’s 13 board members. I coached and aligned members in organizational goals and strategy to achieve goals. Then, this past summer, NSBE Twin Cities Professional Chapter was chartered, and I became President of that, leading a seven-member board promote NSBE’s mission with programs.
Currently, you work for General Mills as International Logistics Operations Planner. What do you enjoy about this position?
For me, it’s really exciting to see how General Mills products are made. You have Cheerios, Chex Mix, Yoplait yogurt, Betty Crocker baking products—you name it. Manufacturing these products with consistency and making them safe for consumer consumption by choosing the best ingredients and the best sanitation practices… this is what I love.
I started out working in a plant and rotated through different roles to learn about every facet of production. It was like managing your kitchen at home, but on a very large scale. You’re bringing in truckloads of corn. Truckloads of sugar. Truckloads of canola oil. You’re constantly replenishing your inventory because you don’t want to run out of raw materials and have machinery idle. I saw it like running a small business. I was managing the inflow and outflow of ingredients and finished cases of products to customers.
After working at the plant, I returned to General Mills just as an International Logistics Operations Planner position opened up. I took it, and now I manage the export of General Mills products to anywhere in the world you can think of. This requires knowledge of supply chain complexities, working with lots of people to get the job done, getting products where they need to go and adhering to unique countries’ requirements. I’m creating supply chain solutions, and I love it.
What goals do you have for the future?
My long-term goal is to become an international business leader. Specifically, I want to bring General Mills business to Africa. I’ve spent a lot of time in Nigeria, and I understand the market there, so I think it’ll be a good fit.
I still have a lot to learn before I get there, but when the opportunity comes I want to lead the way and do bigger and better business.