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Women in Manufacturing is a community created by Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) members and designed exclusively for women who have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry, and want to share perspectives, gain cutting edge manufacturing information, improve leadership and communication skills, participate in sponsoring programs and network with industry peers. Visit the Women in Manufacturing website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

#WiMHearHerStory with Irene Grabowski President at CAM Engineering LLC

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.

Irene Grabowski, President at CAM Engineering LLC
#WiMHearHerStory / @WomeninMfg

Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
My job covers a range of areas. As the owner of a start-up company in aerospace composite manufacturing, I have the following responsibilities: sales, accounting, quality, research & development, HR, recruiting new talent, and strategic planning for not only the immediate future but also long term.

How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
I have been in manufacturing for over thirty years in various industries such as automotive, medical and now aerospace. I grew up in Michigan and manufacturing is a way of life for most. I got here through a series of visits to Georgia when I worked at a company that had a sister company here. It was part of my position then, to implement their quality systems for AS9100 and TS16949. While working on those systems, I met my husband and we launched our current business together in the aerospace sector here in Georgia. Prior to both of these I did consulting for quality, safety and environment in manufacturing, medical and laboratories, third party auditing for a registrar and held many jobs along the way, including running an insert injection molding press, that gave me invaluable skills. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Quality and Engineering which is ideal for the work I do in manufacturing.

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?
There are still a few people out there that have the 1950’s thought that women have a place and it isn’t in manufacturing. I have worked for several over the years but stood my ground and proved that it isn’t just a “mans” world. I have also worked in the forging industry, aluminum injection and many welding shops, and I have excelled. I find it exciting to prove otherwise and to learn different industries.

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 have had very few mentors along the way. I have a stubborn nature so if I was told I couldn’t do it, I did it! I went to community college using my vacation time so I could further my skills. I found a way to pay for my education so I could continue. I research and educate myself to get to the next level. I also looked up to many of my instructors in the manufacturing and engineering fields. I looked for top female business owners to hear them speak and learn how they got to that level of business owner, president, V.P. or director. I am a person that watches, observes and backs up what I saw with data. I think STEM is a great program and I think everyone should have a part in the STEM fields. More legislation should be in place that pushes schools and business to participate in STEM.

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?
Having the right individuals and line of communication to promote what is available to young women. Middle and High Schools, vocational and technical schools, the chamber of commerce. Social media. There is so much that can be done in this area. Counselors, mentors and business professionals in the community talking to our schools so they can hear right from those in the field what is available to them.

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? 
Yes. Manufacturing provides a way to use analytical problem solving skills, creativity, team building and improvements on a day-to-day basis. For me, I get a great satisfaction in knowing the products I have manufactured are of the best quality that are always improving, evolving and done in a safe manner. We look at how can we make it better and get involved with others to collaborate. To me, this is exciting!

Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?
I joined to meet others in the industry to learn and grow. It is invaluable when we meet new people, learn new technology, get educated and can then come together to further share and make it even better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

#WiMHearHerStory with Andrea Michelle Continuous Improvement Facilitator at Myers Container

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.

Andrea Michelle, Continuous Improvement Facilitator at Myers Container
#WiMHearHerStory/ @WomeninMfg

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.”

Friday, April 8, 2016

#HearHerStory with Vanessa Gilbert Marketing Manager at Zerust

At Women in Manufacturing, we are committed to supporting women in the manufacturing sector. We firmly believe that mentorship and community-building will help attract and retain women in manufacturing.  As part of our mission, we feature on our blog the stories of women we admire who are currently working in manufacturing.  The following is the latest installment of our "Hear Her Story" series.
 
Vanessa Gilbert, Marketing Manager at Zerust
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg

Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.
I am the marketing manager for Northern Technologies International Corp and its corrosion solutions business unit Zerust®.  Our company is headquartered in Minnesota, but we service manufacturers all around the world and I support our local and global partners with marketing materials. The Zerust product is a technical product and protects metals from corrosion, so I work closely with our lab and engineers to keep product information updated.  I support the sales and technical service teams with graphics, photos, literature and presentations. Zerust attends about 15 tradeshows and conferences a year and I coordinate the materials for those events.   I oversee our website, www.zerust.com, with the help of our web content manager as well.  I like that I get to do a bit of everything and be creative since I studied marketing and art in college.

How did you arrive at your current position?  What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?
I was very fortunate to find my niche early in business-to-business technical marketing. I started working as a marketing communications manager for a plant floor communication device and PLC networking company for five years. I then moved to my current company, as marketing manager for Zerust, and I have been here for eight years. I really enjoy working in the manufacturing field because it has such a positive influence on people’s everyday lives and the economy. I feel like what I work on is making a difference.  It is something tangible and beneficial. I like seeing behind the scenes how things are made and how things are connected.  When I drive my car, I know how much went into it now. It is also exciting to spot some of our consumer corrosion inhibitor products for fishing tackle or tools in local hardware stores or the newspaper.

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? 
I try to go on as many plant tours as possible and I haven’t been in one yet that felt dark, dirty or dangerous. In fact, I am always impressed with the safety measures that are taken and the emphasis put on them. I do feel that I have been pre-judged based on my gender, age or appearance, but I overcome it by trying to exhibit my knowledge and passion for the topic or industry. You can’t win everyone, but if you study hard and work hard, that will speak for itself.

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 have never had a direct mentor. However, over the years I have received many words of wisdom and I hold them dear. Through organizations like WiM, I have been exposed to powerful women leaders. It’s a great time to be in the manufacturing industry; there are more women who have had successful careers in manufacturing and we’re able to learn from them.

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?
This is a challenge because I went through college imagining myself with a career in consumer marketing.  It was just by chance that I got into a more technical marketing field. I think back to how I learned about careers. Growing up, it was through school, television, real life/shopping/consumerism and seeing what our parents did. 

By reaching children at a young age, through learning programs or something similar, they can grow up knowing that a career in manufacturing is a possibility. For women who are investigating career and education paths, it would be helpful if they knew some of the benefits of working within manufacturing, like high entry-level pay, rapid advancement and job stability. I think that internships are a great way to get students interested in manufacturing. Maybe more manufacturers could offer paid internships to students. They could even have programs where half of the students’ hours were in the classroom and the other half were in the manufacturing plant. Exposure to manufacturing will help people uncover hidden interests and talents.  

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 manufacturing as a career path. It is an exciting field that is full of opportunity. Manufacturing technology is amazing and rapidly advancing.  There are so many roles in manufacturing, such as accounting, sales, customer support, purchasing and engineering.
There are even law firms dedicated to certain types of manufacturing! I also really feel that talent and dedication is honored in manufacturing. Plus, the options are endless.  Just drive down most city streets.  There are multiple types of manufacturers and industries on each one.

Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?
I joined WiM because I was excited there was a group dedicated to the issues I care about and advancing women in my career field. I have found a lot of value in WiM through meeting like-minded ladies.  I am always energized by the people I meet through WiM and their positivity, knowledge, and their willingness to help and share their experiences.