Tony Somers grew up in the inner city of Miami, FL, an experience which shaped his view of the world. “I experienced poverty all around me. Poverty in families and the community, poverty hurting businesses,” said Somers. “Growing up in that environment, and with the influence of my great parents, drove me to become the person I am today.”
From a Job to a Career
Somers’ uncle referred him to his current employer, Flowers Baking Company, where he has been employed for more than seven years, currently as a roll production supervisor. Learning each aspect of the bakery has been crucial to Somers’ career growth. “I started simply throwing trays, running the roll mixer, performing maintenance, learning the bread line, performing receiving tasks, and I’m now a supervisor,” he said.
Each new responsibility he undertook at Flowers gave Somers a deeper appreciation for the baking industry, and for the value of teamwork. “I love getting my hands on what needs to be done, and helping others. Meeting goals and maintaining consistent quality and production can be challenging, but with the team we have, we get things done by working together.”
Furthering his Education
“When I interviewed for my job at Flowers, I told my assistant director that I was looking for a career, not a job,” Somers said. “After I had been working for a while, I realized that one of the biggest accomplishments you can make in the baking industry is to attend the BS&T course.”
Somers talked with his supervisors about enrolling in the Bakery Science and Technology (BS&T) course, and “went full speed towards getting here.” He first successfully completed three AIB baking correspondence courses, and impressed his supervisors with his strong work ethic and excellent performance. “My directors completely supported my interest in attending the BS&T course,” Somers said.
When he is not working or studying, Somers enjoys being with his family and playing basketball and football. For the duration of the BS&T, his focus has been on his coursework.
“My favorite part of the class is being in contact with different cultures and meeting people of different ethnic backgrounds. I also really love the way that the entire course is set up. The instructors are truly professionals in this industry and they've helped promote my excellence in understanding everything there is to know about the baking industry. They're the best,” Somers said.
A Studious Approach
Somers’ dedication to the his work and colleagues is also reflected in his approach to his studies. “You have to take the time to truly understand what the instructors are teaching us. It makes everything else a lot easier than just reading and listening but not asking questions,” he said.
“I have gained mental strength and wisdom throughout the years, and, most importantly, I love to help people in any way that I possibly can. I’m ambitious towards the goals I set for myself and I am willing to teach others along the way.”
Advice for Future Students
To future BS&T attendees, Somers offers some advice: “Stay focused and take complete advantage of the opportunity. Ask questions and get involved in everything that goes on in the labs. Ask your fellow classmates questions about their experiences in the industry.
Don't just read the material—understand the material. Don’t make grades into a competition. What matters is how can you apply what you've learned during your time here to what you do at work and in the future.”
Somers is grateful for the support he has received on the job at Flowers, and at the BS&T. “I want thank John Deleu, my plant president at Flowers Miami, and my mentors, Alex Smith, Andrew Herrin, and Lawrence Cuff—all BS&T alumni! Chesley Rowland has also been very supportive. A very special thanks to Dr. Debi Rogers, Stephen Sollner, Jeff Zeak, Criag Koontz, Alison Olewnik, and the entire AIB staff. You all are extremely appreciated for what you've taught me and many others over the years.”
During the May 21,2014 BS&T graduation ceremony, Somers was named one of two recipients of the prestigious BEMA award for Excellence in Laboratory Leadership. Selected by AIB faculty and staff, the award winners are chosen based on their leadership skills as demonstrated in baking labs.