To say that Norma Nagel arrived at her current place in life via an unconventional route is an understatement. She has defined her own journey by living by her passion – working in Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS). But what was it that originally led her to her current role as EHS manager in Shildon, UK? And how does she maintain the work-life balance of being her son’s ‘supermom’?
A Unique Road to EHS
Thirteen years ago, Norma was a qualified somatologist and make-up artist. She had no idea you could make a career out of something like safety management.
Dubbing her then-self as a “fresh-out-of-court divorcee simply looking for a job”, she found a typing position in the training department of a chemical company. This then led to a permanent job within their EHS department on the condition she obtain an EHS qualification.
It’s been 12 marvelous years since then, and I now have a B.Tech. (Baccalaureus Technologiae) degree in safety management under my belt.
‘Nothing in My Career to Date Has Been So Rewarding!’
Norma joined us at PPG in 2015 as our South Eastern Africa EHS, maintenance and facility manager. She was invited to join the EHS Compliance assurance auditing group in 2017. Then, four years later, she took the bold step of packing up her life in South Africa and moving with her then four-year-old son to a new country.
Nothing I’ve done in my career to date has been that challenging... But I can honestly say that nothing in my career to date has been so rewarding.
Norma with her colleagues at the annual Wellness Day in 2018, South Africa
So, in 2019, Norma became our EHS manager for Aerospace in Shildon, United Kingdom. She was also invited to join the PPG EHS/Product Stewardship Advisory Council the same year.
Then, to add yet another well-deserved feather to her cap, last year, Norma received a special recognition award for her total commitment to delivering mutual value to our customers during the pandemic. It also recognized her closure of the EHS audit, despite the pressures she and her team were under.
Stepping Through Open Doors
Norma knows her previous role of a maintenance manager could be considered as one of the more ‘male-dominated’ positions a woman can have.
When I started in EHS, men wouldn’t react well to me telling them how things should be done.
But over the last few years, she’s been amazed by how many doors are open if you are willing to step through them.
The sky is the limit if you are willing to speak up and work hard. Don’t ever be afraid to put your hand up for any position you think you might be great in!
A Supermom’s Secret to the Work-Life Balance
As a single mother, Norma’s greatest source of motivation is her son. She says he keeps her honest.
Being a single mother with a career has its challenges. But he thinks I am ‘supermom’ and I kind of like that, it drives me to do better!
When it comes to maintaining a good work-life balance, she says that if she has something on her mind regarding work that’s not sorted or done, it will bother her. Her son has come to realize that that isn’t healthy for them at home.
So he is forgiving on some days and my manager is forgiving on others. It’s a fundamental balance between a family that understands and a manager that not just has a job, but also a heart.
One of Norma’s tastier tactics for winding down after work and switching off is baking. In fact, her masterpieces have earned her something of a reputation as a “sweet-toothed” cake afficionado, which is almost as much of a mouthful as her cakes are!
'We’re Here to Ease Your Fears'
Like many of us, Norma and her team have come to realize over the past year just how much of her job can be managed from home. But equally, just how much an EHS presence means on site.
Day to day, face to face – even if at a distance. That physical presence of showing that we are all in this together, matters.
But on site or off site, Norma likes to remember that nobody can be motivated every single day, especially under the current circumstances, which are challenging for our mental wellbeing.
Have discipline on your off days, and have patience with others on theirs.