When she began volunteering as a counsellor in an alcohol and drug rehabilitation and prevention program, Yvette Langston was certain she would become a full-time clinical psychologist.

Having lacked the funds to pay for her tertiary studies in psychology, Yvette instead opted for an internship as a laboratory technician at an electroplating company after finishing high school. She completed her chemistry studies and continued to work in the industrial chemical industry.

But the desire to help others through counselling continued to pull at her and she signed up to study psychology via correspondence.

“I’ve always loved working with people and my volunteer work had provided an outlet for me to express this,” she says.

Sixteen years ago, Yvette moved out of the industrial chemicals sector into the fast-moving consumer goods industry, and into ABI (now Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa), a Coca-Cola bottler. She was appointed Supply Chain Manager two years ago.

As she became settled in her job in the beverages sector, Yvette realised that her role enabled her to combine her scientific background with her love of psychology and she converted her degree from clinical to industrial psychology.

“As my work has evolved from a specialist role into one managing people, I’ve used many aspects of my studies,” she says. “I really enjoy motivating and developing people, creating an integrated team that is forward thinking and not afraid to perform at their best.”

Yvette admits she gets a kick out of watching how people improve their competencies on the job. Putting in place a number of small innovations has improved not only efficiency and productivity targets but has had a knock-on effect on cost control and people engagement.

“It’s really self-fulfilling watching the improvements in the plant happen by making positive interventions in the way people work,” she adds.

Responsible for everything from raw materials, to manufacturing, planning, quality, engineering, warehousing and distribution at the Nigel depot, Yvette is also passionate about bringing more young women into the traditionally male-dominated areas of supply chain management.

At the bottler’s annual career day, she is intimately involved in spending time with Grade 10 students to take them through the full operation of the plant.

“When girls see the process of manufacturing beverages from start to finish – the operators on the lines, the logistics involved behind delivering each drink to a supermarket shelf – it can open up their minds about future career possibilities,” she adds.

She has also helped her two daughters Olivia (18) and Keandra (20) to follow their dreams in their sport and studies; both are National Underwater Hockey players and studying for degrees in areas they are passionate about.

“What you study is just a foundation for later on – ultimately, the goal should be to grow into a career that integrates your skills and what you’re passionate about.”

Yvette Langston: Passionate about people