|Andrea Michelle, Continuous Improvement Facilitator at Myers Container|
Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I am the continuous improvement facilitator at Myers Container, a steel drum manufacturer based in Portland, OR, with facilities in CA and NC. As CIF, I am first and foremost responsible for driving a systematic approach to continuous improvement though the leadership of kaizen events. For me, this is much more than project management; this is a mission to develop a customer-minded culture. It is a steady journey; we think big and celebrate all victories.
How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
Born and raised in Michigan, several of my family members have pursued careers in manufacturing. I suppose you could say, in some respect, that I was born into it. I’ve held various positions in this industry, from working on the production line, to customer service and, most recently, as a business analyst. I have remained working in manufacturing because the industry is ever evolving and opportunity abounds. Glimpsing back over the past 70 years, the world has made monumental changes in how we manufacture and we continue to discover innovative methods of improvement. Simply stated, I want to be part of that.
At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for men. Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?
When it comes down to it, I believe that a fundamental core value of every company should be respect for all people who work within that environment. Providing safe, clean and efficient work spaces and equal opportunity jobs for all employees is our responsibility. I have definitely been faced with unique challenges as woman in this industry. And I have chosen to be very vocal about them at my workplace because so often these challenges, these “opportunities for improvement,” are a shared experience, need and concern within the overall culture; I’m okay with being the person who makes us all uncomfortable as long as we use that discomfort to enact positive change in our workplace.
Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career?
I wish I could say mentorship has played a larger role in my development. Truth be told, I didn’t fully recognize the value in mentorship until I met an incredible WiM member at last year’s 2015 SUMMIT. This was a game-changer moment for me. For the first time in my adult life, I wanted to be just like someone. I genuinely hope everyone, at any level in their career, has the opportunity to work with their own superhero. We all need someone who will challenge us to keep pushing forward.
One of the key findings in WiM’s survey is that there is significant overlap between what young women want in careers and the attributes of careers in manufacturing today. But the survey also found that, too often, young women are not aware of the opportunities available in manufacturing. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?
When I was hired on at Myers, years ago, I started as a customer service representative. I have always considered my time in CS the gateway job into my career in manufacturing. When the company recognized my interest in production and process management, they supported my development and gave me the opportunities to grow within the company. Educating young people throughout grade school and college about the opportunities available in modern manufacturing gets the ball rolling. But we need to continue this education through team-member development and by identifying opportunities within the industry, within our own organizations.
Our survey also found that the majority of women in manufacturing today would recommend the sector to young women considering career options. Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?
Absolutely, I would recommend a career in manufacturing. Manufacturing is fun! I am passionate about this industry because it’s creative, challenging, rewarding and in a perpetual state of progress. There never need be a dull moment; there is an opportunity around every corner.
Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?
I joined WiM when I realized that I wanted more for my career, more education and more for myself, and I knew that I needed support to make it happen. Through WiM, I discovered a group of amazing women who are making their “more” happen every day. I am blessed to be a member of WiM and grateful for the website resources, incredible SUMMITs and inspiring members that have brought positive change into my life and are helping me achieve my “more.”