She never thought she’d stay in the U.S. Now she leads a ‘World Class’ team.

Yirla Morehead was 14 when she came to the United States from Mexico by herself, arriving in Arizona to live with relatives. Learning a new language and a new culture, she became the first member of her family to attend college, graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in chemical engineering.

Then a job opportunity with Procter & Gamble took her across the country to Greensboro, N.C., kickstarting a career in manufacturing that she’s remained passionate about, including throughout her tenure at Molson Coors Beverage Company, where she serves as senior director, World Class Supply Chain.

She’s worked at Molson Coors for the last eight years, where she now leads a team of 12 experts working to improve the company’s processes. And she was recently named to the board of directors of Women in Manufacturing, an organization that supports women in manufacturing fields through educational and leadership opportunities.

“I never knew I would end up far away from home,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity at Molson Coors. I’ve always felt very valued and included — and that I belong here. That’s important to me.”

Yirla lives in Milwaukee with her husband Erich and three-year-old daughter Kitzy.

She spoke to Beer & Beyond about her career. This interview has been condensed and edited.

Tell us about World Class Supply Chain. Why is it important?

World Class Supply Chain is founded in manufacturing operational excellence, but it’s much more than that. It’s a cultural revolution aimed at creating a world-class organization. High performance, no losses. It helps us understand how we can operate optimally at all levels as an organization, from production to packaging to marketing and beyond.

Our team acts as consultants to understand current processes. We use a set of tools to determine the best path forward and empower our people to implement solutions. You want to make sure people are growing and developing and becoming self-sufficient, so all decisions are being made closest to the work. The goal is to be consistent across our sites.

A big part of our work is challenging the status quo and how we’ve done things in the past. It’s hard to change, but I think people see the opportunities and have seen the success we’ve had in making Molson Coors more efficient.

What are you most proud of in your career at Molson Coors?

I’m most proud to see the progress we’ve made. Seven or eight years ago, everyone was talking about this process, but few people in the organization knew what it meant. Now you go to any of our sites, and you see the consistency and you know people are buying into the process.

And you see the career progression with our frontline supervisors that’s come as a result of investing in these processes. I think the biggest accomplishment in my mind is to see the growth in understanding the process and seeing them become better leaders as a result of it.

You were recently named to the board of directors of Women in Manufacturing, beginning April 1. How did that come about?

It’s always been close to my heart to make sure we’re empowering women as much as possible. So, last year, when Molson Coors started a membership program with Women in Manufacturing, I started exploring what opportunities were available.

I noticed they had a program called Empowering Women in Production. Early in my manufacturing career, I was often the only woman in the room, so I recognized the opportunity for a program like that, especially for some the women I’ve worked with who are in hands-on roles.

There’s still a large gap in terms of representation and retention. Attraction and retention go together because we can bring in a lot of talent, but if we don’t retain them, we’re not going to make any progress.

I’m looking forward to bringing my experiences to the board so we can help more women in the field advance in their careers.

What advice do you have for women in manufacturing and women at Molson Coors?

My No. 1 piece of advice is to recognize that you’re always in control. While it may not be easy at times, you’re still always in control of your path, of your career. At times, when I was growing up in manufacturing, I felt like I was in situations where I was limited by the options that were available. I failed to recognize that I was actually still in control and I could have conversations and move to the path that was best for me.

You’re in control. Have those (career) conversations. It takes courage sometimes. The path you decide for yourself is still the right path.