College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

“Food brings people together”: Ani Yam engineers manufacturing processes for meals meant to be shared

Ani Yam holds a box of Cheerios

Ani Yam (’22 industrial engineering) loves to create connections and community – and what brings people together more than delicious food? So after getting a taste of the food industry in a summer internship, Yam is now a manufacturing and engineering associate at General Mills.

Ani Yam holds a box of CheeriosAs a process lead, I work in the cereal packaging department, where all the cereal is bagged up and boxed. I am the technical expert on my lines and use continuous improvement tools daily to handle and eliminate defects and improve reliability.

We run all sorts of varieties and sizes of cereal (my lines run Honey Nut Cheerios), ranging from regular-size boxes, mega-size boxes, or bulked in large totes, and varieties that are domestic, Canadian, or even Icelandic!

I got my start in the food industry during an internship at Conagra Brands (I spent all summer of 2021 in their sauce kitchens, and I loved it!). It was so fun to go grocery shopping and see the products we made and have family and friends understand what I do at work. Food always seems to come up in conversation, and people really enjoy hearing the behind-the-scenes of how their food is made.

What it comes down to is everyone’s food is made by a bunch of people working together! A big part of my job is working in teams with people in diverse functions to troubleshoot problems effectively. I started developing those collaboration skills in my industrial engineering classes. In group projects, group labs, or group assignments, I got a lot of experience taking on challenges with people who have very different leadership and problem-solving styles.

Going from campus where I had a built-in community of fellow students, our faculty, Women in Science and Engineering, and the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) student group, to my job, where I am the only woman and youngest person on my team, has been a big change.

However, all my experiences as an Iowa State student taught me to seek out others and build my support system. I always tell others to find people you can go to when you need help or have help to offer, so that is what I have done in my position now. I want to make every person I cross paths with to feel welcomed and supported however I can!

One of the reasons why I like my job so much is because I meet and learn from so many people with different backgrounds than me. And I hope that people remember me as someone who made them feel included and special.

Another reason I love having a job in the food industry is that everyone can relate to it, and food brings people together. When new cereal products come out, people go crazy on social media, talking to each other about it. I can come to work every day and know that people out there will get excited about what we are making – and share it with their family and friends!