Gary Thompson has been working at the Ballarat Mars factory for more than 30 years.
A reassuring presence with his beard and friendly demeanor, Thommo is a trusted mentor for other workers, having taken on almost every role in the place across his career.
He's keen to point out the different workings inside the factory - where the Maltesers are made, where the M&Ms get their colour - but he's also a heavy-hitter in the innovation-focused business.
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He began at the factory about the same time peanut fryers were installed for the brand new peanut M&Ms - naturally, getting the new equipment up and running was his first job.
"They hadn't even pressed the button," he said.
"There were seven of us who started on the same day, and we started as the commissioning crew to get this fryer up and running."
Years later, he's now in charge of the peanut fryer - he's now the senior engineer on the bite-size product, process translation and support team.
Helping with the Maltesers part of this team is Joe Gulay, who's been at Mars for almost five years.
"There was a career fair at the university - I wasn't actually considering Mars, there's so many to consider when you're at uni - (but) I put in an application, went through the graduate interview process, and got the job," he said.
He started out in packaging development, but now he's a production engineer, and said he's enjoying the opportunities.
Mars was named the fifth best place to work in Australia according to the independent 2019 Great Place To Work survey, for the third consecutive year.
Both Thommo and Joe said they were amazed at their careers.
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Last year, Joe was part of the Mars Ambassador program, and spent time in India working with mint farmers on business plans with Mars employees from across the world.
"The idea is, if Mars can help make farming mint a more financially viable and attractive option for Indian farmers long-term, then farmers will continue to farm mint and Mars will have that supply of mint," he explained.
"Although we're not directly benefiting necessarily from those farmers by sending associates like myself to help them, we are in the long-term ensuring that from a business point of view, we're sustainable, and it helps them too - we don't know a lot about farming mint but we know a lot about how businesses work and how to do cost analyses.
"It was cool to work with an NGO over there, it was something a bit different."
In 2016, Thommo's work in improving the coating on Maltesers was recognised when he was nominated for a Make the Difference award - that's a big deal for Mars employees.
He got to go to the global final in Washington DC to present to the Mars family with another Ballarat employee, Mick Quinney.
"This experience was absolutely amazing, to be able to take my wife with me as well and be part of this amazing event was something we both will never forget for the rest of our lives," he said.
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He's also helped to get plants in China and the UK up and running, "daunting experiences", he said.
He's positive Mars will be sticking around in Ballarat for the future - he remembers the parties in the early days as the company ticked off milestones in Australia, but he's impressed at how the focus has changed to creating new products.
"When I started, we were just making (Mars, Milky Way, and Snickers), then we bought the M&Ms plant," he said.
"You're really trying to embed some of our brands within the Australian market and get the standard, core products going through.
"Jump ahead all these years, once that's embedded in and those products are doing well ... it's about growth and innovation.
"Let's show what we can do around innovation, like different variants and different types of flavours."
Joe was quick to agree.
"Definitely with bite-size, we want to be known, not only in Australia but in the region, as the plant that can continue to deliver and supply not only to our high standard, but also with new innovative stuff," he said.
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