Finding the Thread of StretchSense’s Sewing Team with Jackie Pako
Our work in the smart fabric industry makes sewing a vital part of StretchSense. Jackie Pako, our Fabric Technicians Team Lead, is known for keeping the whole company in stitches — not just in a literal sense!
What was your background before starting at StretchSense?
I’ve been sewing for most of my adult life, usually piecework on a line in big manufacturing organizations, boring stuff like that. After raising my children I decided to upskill, so I went to the Sewtec fashion design institute to relearn industrial sewing and pattern making.
What roles have you had at StretchSense?
I started in a casual needleworker position that I heard about through Sewtec; at the time I was told I would probably get 10-15 hours a week. There were initially two on-call people, but now we have a core team of five people, plus two casuals.
The Team Lead role came about when it started to feel like we needed one voice to help coordinate the team. We grew from one domestic sewing machine — lovingly named ‘Betty’ and still in use on the odd occasion — to a whole room of ‘sewing stuff’.
What does an average workday look like for you?
I get here early, which gives me time for coffee and dealing with emails before the team comes in. We then have a toolbox meeting every day with the other departments so I know where we fit in with what’s happening throughout the day. Very rarely can I get from the sewing machine to the kitchen without being stopped by people for a variety of reasons, so I’m a copious note-taker!
My team has far more technical fabric knowledge than I do. They’re just really clever, and I made a really clever decision in hiring them! I fit in where I can, making sure they have what they need for each project. People call me the team leader, but really my team leads me.
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
I enjoy the great variety of work. Stretchy fabric is very tricky, but we’re a stretch sensor company so it’s all we get to play with most of the time. I’ve been blessed with a team who are all highly skilled, and if we’re needed to help outside of specific sewing tasks we gladly do. There is no ‘ordinary’ day, especially not in our department.
Jackie in her element, doing what she does best.
How do you think your work has had an impact on our customer experience?
The key thing that the sewing department does is prototype the visions and ideas of clients. We work closely with Sales, R&D, Production — pretty much everybody. We can also be the first port of call when different project managers or clients are pitching their concepts.
If you weren’t doing your current job for a living, what would you be doing instead?
Māori fine arts is my passion, and I’ve been weaving for more than 20 years. I just signed up to do a bachelors degree in Māori fine arts, it’s something that just makes me glow. I get the privilege of learning from people within that realm that have forgotten more than I will ever know, and that ancestral memory of how things were done for generations on end is something I hold very dear.
What is your life outside of StretchSense like?
Alongside weaving, I’m also a single mother of wonderful, clever, witty children. They are just really amazing young people who are out there living their lives in their own right. My youngest son actually also has a role here at StretchSense, learning how to use the machinery in our manufacturing facility and he just loves it. He has grown in strength in his role, and I’m really proud of him; it makes me really love the family culture of StretchSense.
What are you proudest about having achieved during your time in StretchSense?
There’s a constant evolving of what we do and how we do things, and that’s part of the excitement. It’s all a learning curve, and sometimes a roller coaster!
I’m proud to have brought my sense of humor here to the company, and I think it’s really important. We definitely take our work seriously but always try to make it fun. Our room is a place of sanctuary for a whole lot of people in different departments, somewhere they can come, enjoy our stash of chocolate and just sit in one of the coolest parts of the office.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work at StretchSense?
Be open — things can change at a nanosecond in the StretchSense world, so you have to be open. A sense of humor is very important when you’re dealing with a lot of departments with different requests and priorities. Definitely listen, but also speak up if you feel that things aren’t going to work quite the way that other people do. A difference of opinion is not a bad thing, it’s just a difference.
Find out more about how StretchSense works with customers in our previous Spotlight on Staff with Llewellyn Sims Johns.