2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Octavio Páramo

Director of Operations
Mann Packing
Gonzales, CA

Age: 37
Hometown: King City, CA
Hobbies: Horses, His children’s sporting events
Family/Community: Married, 5 children, St. John’s Catholic Church
Motto in life: You have to work hard in the dark to shine in the light.

Páramo was born and raised in the Salinas Valley. Although surrounded by agricultural fields, his first experience in produce was at Dole, coring cabbage on a processing line. After a few months covering various areas of the production process, he moved to shipping, where he eventually was promoted to foreman. Wanting to expand his experience in this industry, he decided to transfer to the maintenance department and took a $4/hour pay cut to become a maintenance parts clerk. He quickly moved up the ladder, wearing many hats, including parts clerk, requisitioner, supervisor, planner and, finally, manager. During his time as maintenance manager, Dole introduced the RTE products, and Páramo’s team played a big role in the launch.

In 2021, he joined Mann Packing as senior maintenance manager. During this time, Mann was in its final stages of transitioning from the old processing facility in Salinas, CA ,to a new state-of-the-art facility in Gonzales, CA. Páramo quickly gained the trust of the company’s engineering leadership team and led the execution of many projects, including automation of equipment and entire lines to energy savings. Early last year, the company received an award for one of these projects from Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) for the reduction of kw/h consumption by over 1 million annually. In 2023, he was promoted to director of maintenance where he was responsible to lead engineering projects for all Mann Packing facilities in California and Arizona. Later in 2023, he took on his current role as director of operations, where he oversees the production, receiving, maintenance, facility and refrigeration departments. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations and overseeing the receiving and issuance of raw product, as well as the maintenance and refrigeration departments’ needs.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I started in the produce industry right after high school. The plan was to work for a year, save money for college and pursue a career in law enforcement. During that year, plans changed. While working there, I quickly realized this was something I enjoyed. Twenty years later, I’m still in the industry.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

I wish I would’ve known more about the produce industry. Starting at a young age, with no knowledge of the industry, made the process much more difficult. I had the drive, but I had no idea what direction to move toward. It took me a few years to really understand and grasp the industry.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?

It all starts at home, by introducing the importance and benefits of eating fruits and vegetables at a young age, and serving those on their plates. Also important is preparing and serving veggies at schools and campuses in more appealing ways to make them interesting to kids.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?

Automation and robotics are two of the biggest changes. Over the last 20 years, we have seen a big increase in automated processes versus manual labor.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

I’m most proud of the growth I accomplished throughout my career — to look back to when I first stepped onto a production floor as a general laborer and know that now I’m responsible for overseeing the entire production process as director of operations.