When was in her twenties, she began working with Coca-Cola in her hometown of Mobile, Ala. There, she met her future husband — a forklift operator at the company — and they fell in love over lunch breaks and eventually relocated to Houston, Texas, where she worked at the Gulfgate facility before transferring to the Bissonnet, Texas, bottling plant.
“I got married on February 23rd, 1980 and started at this particular Coke facility on February 25th,” laughs Evelyn. “I’ve been here 33 years!”
Between raising her children and part-time ministering, Evelyn became a Coca-Cola Quality Assurance Technician, who sees “caring about what you do” as a job prerequisite. Here, she gives us insight into her daily life at Coca-Cola.
Q: What exactly do you do each day?
Evelyn Milton: As a Quality Assurance Iab tech, I make sure that every ingredient, before it’s bottled, is correctly balanced and 100 percent up to standards. Once tested, I give a release so they can go ahead and bottle it. Nothing is being produced without passing quality inspection.
I clock in at 5 a.m. and my coworkers who worked the last shift fill me in on how the lines ran that night and what we’re about to run. Then I go to the laboratory and set up my computer.
First, they bring in the product and we do a pre-start check to see if the line should start running. I test for CO2 and for ratio (water to syrup). Once we start bottling, I do the first check within 15 to 20 minutes. Within 30 minutes, we check net contents to make sure, for instance, that exactly 20 ounces is going into each 20-ounce bottle. After that, I do torques to check the tightness of the bottle caps. We also check the labels on the bottles against the book we have as a guide. The lab is a very interesting job!
Q: Have you always worked the same position?
I had small jobs before I started at Coca-Cola in Mobile. I was in college and then I worked in New York for a car rental company. But my biggest job has been with the Coca-Cola Company.
From the beginning, I started out in Quality Control. As years go by, things change, but I’m basically doing the same job. When I first started, we were using a measuring method; now we have machines to run all the syrup through that tells us if the levels are what they should be. Each year, I learn more about scientific methods of calibration.
Q: What do you find challenging and/or rewarding about your job?
I don’t find anything hard, I guess, because I’ve been doing it for so long. Everything has been made so plain, there’s little or no room for error.
But we can’t take our minds off of what we’re doing or get too comfortable. We could miss something and then the ingredients go directly to our bottle line. But we are trained technicians, so that doesn’t generally happen. We put out the freshest products.
I feel like we are family here. It really gets me when I see a loved one or friend drink a Coke and then tell me how good it is. I know I tested that! That gives me joy.
Q: What has kept you in your job for so long?
There are some who have been here longer than I have! We have a transport driver named Frank, who has been here for about 45 years. One of my coworkers has been here for over 40 years, too.
What I love about my job is the team that I work with. I love the management. I love the taste of the product! I love how the company takes care of their employees. I love the benefits—they’re awesome.
We just had our Family Fun Day a couple of weeks ago. Each year, they do something for the employees with giveaways to show appreciation.
My son begged to work here when he was in college. They had a summer program back then and he loved it.
Q: Is there a particular reason why you feel such loyalty to the company?
Well, I’ve received awards for attendance with savings bonds. But one standout moment for me was when my son was hit by a drunk driver. He was in a coma for six months and Coke stood by me. Even Coke in Atlanta was concerned. When I was down, they were there for me, and that means a lot.
Q: You’re set to retire soon: what will you do?
When I’m at home, I spend time with my family. My husband is retired and I’m a churchgoer and a minister. In the summer, I travel a lot. We’ve gone on cruises to the Bahamas and Cozumel and next year we’re going to Hawaii.
I’ll also spend more time in nursing homes, visiting the sick and with my 4-year-old grandbaby who lives with me, and my 17-year-old grandson.
Q: What is the most important quality a Coca-Cola employee must possess?
You must care about and love what you do. Be concerned about your customers. Be concerned about your company and your job. Don’t just come in to get a paycheck; come in to work to hold up the company’s standard.
I’m retiring, but I don’t want to leave: I love my job and I love my company!