He’s been here longer than anyone
Myron Uecker, 74, began working at our James Ford Bell Technical Center in Golden Valley, Minnesota, on March 25, 1965.
It’s hard to tell if he’s being pragmatic or self-deprecating when he says, “I think they hired me because they had 100-pound sacks of flour and sugar to handle. I was a big enough guy that I could handle that. I always thought that if I had been smaller, I might not be working here now.”
Research in the General Mills Archives indicates Uecker’s 53 year anniversary matches the record for employment in the company’s 151 year history.
Raised on a farm, he learned to solve problems and repair equipment. He had completed nearly three years of college when he discovered that General Mills was hiring.
Uecker recounts his 53 year tenure at General Mills, in this audio clip.
He worked in cake mixes, early on.
“It was highly competitive. It was Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and Pillsbury, which we didn’t own then,” says Uecker. “I’d work in a room with a woman who would bake cakes from various formulations. How high does this one rise? How chewy is it? Then a panel would taste it.”
During his time in our Corporate Research department he worked on many outside-the-box projects.
When General Mills owned Red Lobster, there were thoughts of developing a shrimp farm. A colleague had more than a dozen aquariums in which shrimp were fed different food. Did the food affect taste? Growth rate? Uecker prepared different feed formulas, and even developed an artificial worm that was tested by pros in a fishing contest.
An irony: He doesn’t care much for sea food.
Uecker has not only seen many changes in his time with the company, but he’s also worked in many countries on many brands. Bugles. Fruit Snacks. Nature Valley. Old El Paso. Wanchai Ferry. Yoki. Golden Grahams. Trix in Japan.
He has worked in France, China, Argentina, Spain and more, helping hundreds of employees, including some who became General Mills executives.
Today, Tricia Kinney is vice president of our Global Cereal & Snacks group. In 1992, she was a chemical engineer when she moved into Research and Development. Uecker, she recalls, was eager to share his decades of learning, never growing frustrated with questions or mistakes.
“We didn’t really understand how to create new processes,” she recalls of the young engineers who rapped out solutions with Uecker’s guidance. “Myron helped us with the practical part of our jobs … He was willing to share. Myron was very patient, and since then he’s been able to do that globally with multiple cultures.”
Now a senior development specialist in our Innovation, Technology and Quality area, Uecker says he had contemplated retirement before he got into his international role. He loved the work and travel.
“I consider myself very lucky to have gotten into international. That was a big, big deal.”
There’s been memorable work and training in our plants worldwide, and an exposure to cultures that he treasures.
Uecker also says he likes working with his younger colleagues, he will tell you right off the bat.
“They come along with a knowledge of technology, collecting, organizing and presenting information. Most schools don’t have the processing equipment we have here and at our plants. That’s where technicians like myself can help them,” he says. “On the other hand, one can learn by teaching. So, they learn and I learn. It’s a two-way street.”
“He has a breadth of knowledge and real passion for training,” says Kinney.
Uecker’s wife retired 10 years ago. They have two children with families in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
“She’s wondering when I’m going to retire,” he says.
After 53 years, he’s still not certain when that day will be.
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