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Faces of Avena: Silvia Sibrian

On the frontline at Avena’s Pulse milling facility is Silvia Sibrian, Administrative Assistant and Customer Care Representative. Silvia’s friendly, cheerful nature is appreciated by customers and colleagues alike.

Manning the order desk, she is the point of contact for customers placing an order, and at the heart of day to day activities. She coordinates information flow amongst operations, quality assurance, sales, and customers, tracking details of 40 or more orders on any given day.

Silvia holds a BA in Business Administration from El Salvador, her birth country. She has been in Canada since 2016 and first started working at Avena Portage in 2018.

How did you come to work at Avena?

When I moved to Canada, I had an admin degree and 10 years experience in logistics and sales. When I first arrived at Portage, I knew that if I wanted to be successful in making this beautiful little town my home, I had to improve my English skills. So I registered for English classes at the Portage la Prairie Literacy and Learning Centre and began doing volunteer work for them. They gave me a part-time job as Administrative Assistant and I was able to learn the administration terminology in English. That was key to all the opportunities that followed. I got a term position at Red River College. Right after that, Avena took a chance on me. They opened the door for me to show my abilities, my knowledge and the person I am. At the beginning, my English wasn’t fluent. But it is better now. I have learned and grown. Portage might be a small city, but there are a lot of opportunities here.

What is your role at Avena?

I have two main roles – administration and customer care.

In my administration role, I am the employee contact to Human Resources at the Regina office. I support coworkers with questions about company programs. I process all purchase orders and I also work closely with Accounting and Finance in Regina and organize social activities in Portage.

My other big role is customer care. It is my job to efficiently communicate updates and order statuses to both Avena’s customers and sales representatives.

I am the main point of contact for orders, so we get a lot of customer questions and requests. I do not always have the answer, but I am the best person to reach out to the team to get what our customer requires. I diligently respond to every email as quickly as possible.

I work with a great and amazing team which contributes to successful customer care. We are committed to providing the best service to our customers.

How do you keep it all organized?

All the details for all the ingredients we produce are tracked in an Order to Production Record log. If you want to see what’s going on at the Portage plant, that’s where you look.

We also have a daily huddle meeting, where we discuss orders and make sure we’re all hitting the same goals. The huddle, or as I like to call it “The Hud”, is attended by Evan (Dupont, Food Safety and Operational Analyst), Diana (Mucha, Inventory Coordinator), Wendell (Martens, Logistics Coordinator), Mel Pawlyk (General Manager, Portage), Will Pigeon (Plant Manager), Jake Robinson (Production Manager), Scott (Dupont, Warehouse Lead) and me.

How do you stay positive and keep on top of all the daily changes?

No matter what challenges are going on around me, I like to always be positive on the job. If you’re positive, you will always find the better answer and attract the best results.

I have learned to let our customers know that I care and keep them informed about their orders. The key is communication. Our customers really appreciate that.

What excites you about working at Avena?

It’s the people who make this place a great place to work. Avena pays well and there are good benefits. But more than that, I feel so happy to work with great people who are committed to doing their job in the best way possible. We are a strong team. We always work together to provide the best ingredients and service.

What keeps you here?

This company does little things for employees that have a big impact. I am part of Avena’s social committee. Every month we try to organize activities and events for employees – a draw, a riddle, a quiz. Before COVID we did barbecues and potluck lunches.  At Portage, each person gets a birthday card signed by everyone who works here. It’s a little card, but it makes you feel like you are important to the company and the people you work with. We are like a family at Avena.

How has Avena changed since you’ve been here?

There is a lot of innovation underway and that can be challenging. We have been in transition, developing new ingredient lines, expanding our capacity, restructuring. We have just implemented a new ERP system. Roles have become more defined. Things are more organized now than they were three years ago when I first joined. Little by little, we are growing.

I see myself growing with this company as well. I want to learn more.

Where do you see Avena in the future?

As Avena creates new products and enter new markets, we’re going to gain more customers and I will be busier. This growth comes with new challenges and but is good motivation.

I see a company working for a better future, working to produce better food for people and the environment. Our mission at Avena to create safe, healthy products for a sustainable world. That makes me feel good.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I continue to volunteer at the Portage Literacy and Learning Centre. I talk to newcomers like myself and share my experience of arriving at Portage and the steps I took to be successful. The center often calls on me to speak to the media as well.

And I spend time with my husband, Leo. We love the quiet time in Portage. I grew up in a small town. In summertime, we like to play basketball. We play tennis, go to the lake, go fishing. I like dancing and singing. I like to party and celebrate and share with friends. Even though the only family I have here is my husband, we have made many good friends from different countries which I consider my family as well.