Bob Thieme, Group Operations Manager, Kenya

At Seaboard, we create career opportunities for select individuals that are passionate about working for a multinational company in exciting locations. We enjoy the challenges that come with operating a successful business with operations around the world. Our team is made up of talented and diverse individuals that bring a unique blend of qualifications and experience to our business. The best way to learn about a career at Seaboard is to hear from our employees in their own words. That said, we will regularly profile some of the key roles at Seaboard around the world.

Bob Thieme, Group Operations Manager, Unga Holdings Limited, Kenya

How long have you worked for Seaboard Overseas?
I have been at Seaboard for 8 ½ years. I started my career with Continental Grain Company, a partner of Seaboard and saw the Kenya job posting on the Feedstuffs website. Seaboard knew who I was through Continental and construction contractors.

What are your duties?
I am responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all the buildings, machinery, and the grounds at five sites in Kenya, and one in Uganda comprising of two maize flour mills, three wheat flour mills, one porridge plant, two feed mills and one premix/mineral plant. I am also in charge of the group’s procurement and quality assurance, which includes the laboratory, security, safety, health & environment, fleet transportation and nutrition departments. Also, I am responsible for projects within the group, and I provide technical advice for a customer’s feed mill in Tanzania.

What are some of your Seaboard career highlights (i.e., favorite project, the things you are most proud of, or efficient processes you’ve implemented)?
I am very proud of overseeing the construction of a new feed mill at an existing site in Nairobi. Also, I am very proud to oversee the completion of a new 300-ton wheat flour mill in Nairobi; which was on time and within budget. I am currently working on the following projects: building a 12, 000-ton grain storage in Eldoret; a 1.5 metric ton (MT) per hour fish feed plant in Nairobi, and concrete silo rehabilitation in Nairobi. I am very proud of turning the Unga Farm Care sites into profitable, efficient mills, which are comparable to the top feed mills in the World.

What do you enjoy most about working for Seaboard?
I enjoy interacting with knowledgeable agribusiness people who understand our needs, which include receiving sound advice for new milling technologies.

What education and/or skills from the past have prepared you most for your current role?
I earned a degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and started my career as a Quality Assurance Supervisor (QA), holding various plant production jobs. Plus, I have overseen construction of several “green field site” feed mills in the United States, as well as one in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This gave me the invaluable experience of starting from scratch, and all that entails: from building the foundation to installing utility lines. Ultimately, I think the ability to adapt to change and interact with people of all backgrounds is an attribute that prepares one for many challenges.

How did you end up in China?
At the time, I was with Continental Grain Company and had built a mill in Kentucky. The mill launched into production without a hitch – it was perfect, so I was asked if I would go to the PRC, which I did. China was just waking up in those days and there were very few foreigners there, so it was very exciting.

Why did you choose to work in the agribusiness industry?
I was raised on a farm in Central Illinois and agribusiness is all I have ever known my whole life. I guess, “once a farmer, always a farmer.”

What made an Illinois farmer want to work in China and Kenya?
I really enjoy travelling and learning new cultures, and hopefully making a difference where I work.

Which publications (industry, business, technology) do you read regularly?
I read World Grain, as well as Buhler newsletters.

What advice would you give to a potential candidate for your role?
Depending on their experience level, always seek the opinions of others, listen well and be humble enough to admit when you do not know the answer.

What are your hobbies away from work?
I love the outdoors anywhere I am but love spending time in the mountains of Utah where my wife and I have a home, and spending time with our seven children and eight grandchildren. I recently purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle, which has been a dream of mine all my life. Someday I intend to ride off into the sunset.