Allison Giddens, Director of Order Management at Win-Tech, Inc.

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Allison Giddens, Director of Order Management at Win-Tech, Inc.
#HearHerStory / @womeninmfg

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.

Please tell our readers a little bit about your job and what your work looks like every day.

I am the office manager and director of order management for Win-Tech, Inc., a precision machine shop based 25 miles northwest of Atlanta, Georgia.  Our customers include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell and other commercial and government entities. Win-Tech is a small business, so I wear many hats.  I handle general front office oversight, human resources and payroll, as well as IT duties.  I assist with marketing strategies, serve as a customer liaison for questions regarding their orders and work with engineers to help determine an overall plan for projects and scheduling.  I run costs and research job history to assist with future quotes, and I handle accounts receivable and billing.  I may spend one day with large blueprints spread out all over my office, scouring the internet and making phone calls to help track-down purchased parts on a bill of materials for C-130 ground support equipment.  Another day, I may be doing an analysis on our employees’ health insurance renewal.  I make a point to visit the shop at least once a day, whether it’s to say ‘hello’ to the people who make Win-Tech tick or to check out what unique parts we are creating that week.

How did you arrive at your current position? What attracted you to a career in manufacturing?

I was working at a large corporation in Atlanta after graduating from The University of Georgia with a dual degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice.  I had just received a Masters of Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, and I still didn’t know what I wanted my career to look like.  I soon realized that I’d be best suited in an environment where taking initiative was encouraged and being a self-starter was valued.  I knew that a long-time family friend owned a machine shop and I was fascinated with the aspect of working for a small business.  I had absolutely no manufacturing education or experience.  After interviewing with the owner of Win-Tech, Dennis Winslow, he offered me an accounts payable role in the front office.  He also immediately put me in a group with four lifelong machinists and tasked the five of us to “lean out the milling department.”  I found myself learning more about manufacturing within six months than I had ever thought possible. I loved the logic of lean and its intended simplicity.  I enjoyed coming up with ideas and putting them to work.  At the end of a day, I was amazed that you could see tangible progress in what you did. 

Those four machinists could have easily put me, “the new girl”, on the back burner, running with the project on their own to get the job done.  Instead, they treated me kindly and included me.  By doing this, they left me with a positive first impression of manufacturing.  I equated machinists with intelligent, hard-working and patient.  The project was a success! Although some of those individuals have retired or left Win-Tech, I am grateful for the first impressions they gave me of the industry.  Within three years following that project, I was running the front office and not long after that, I could read blueprints and was familiar with basic operations and chemical processes. 

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 I first entered the manufacturing industry, my young age was just as much of a factor in stereotypes as my gender.  Although some people I initially came into contact with may have looked at me as “just the front office,” holding my own in meetings and on projects has helped solidify that I have earned my place at the manufacturing table.  Stereotypes exist in every industry.  Any chance I get to talk to people about manufacturing, I work to turn around the notion of the “dark, dirty and dangerous.” I paint a picture of an industry that centers on hard work and innovation.  When people tour Win-Tech’s clean, organized and safe shop, with men and women of all ages making it happen, they get a better picture of what manufacturing truly entails.

Research shows that women, especially women in STEM fields, do better if they have a mentor. Has mentorship played any role in your career?

My mentors have been informal yet invaluable.  My likely mentor is Win-Tech President, Dennis Winslow.  He has supported efforts in establishing a Women in Manufacturing Georgia Community Chapter.  He takes the time to walk me through projects and specifications that are out of the norm – just to expose me to different scenarios in manufacturing.  My unlikely mentor was my wedding coordinator! Rhonda Eggert became a very close friend eight years ago.  As a former army nurse and cancer survivor, she is amazingly resilient and is someone I can count on to give me a realistic perspective on anything I ask for her advice on.

I also ended up with 46 mentors after graduating from Leadership Cobb this past year, which is a program put on by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Our tight-knit group spent a year together exploring each other’s industries, including education, business, government, non-profit, manufacturing and more.  We are there for each other and work to cross-promote each other’s events, attend industry functions and grow as individuals, no matter the industry.  It’s great to have people to bounce around ideas with that are in your industry, but it’s equally as important to find professionals outside your industry.  As a woman in manufacturing, I am proud that I am a representative of manufacturing to many of my cohorts, and thus, the community.

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?

We need to do a better job of not limiting the manufacturing industry to the production floor or engineering.  There is so much more to manufacturing than production staff and engineers.  While many young women are perfect for those positions, there are still more young women looking for something else.  There are plenty of roles that don’t necessarily require a desire for hands-on manufacturing involvement or a post-undergraduate college degree.  Manufacturing requires people who are organized, who like analyzing data and who are good at finding cost savings. Manufacturing also needs people with marketing capabilities and to assist in training, safety and human resources. Manufacturing is a great industry for people who want to be a part of a supply chain and for people who can see the big picture.  

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!  It’s amazing to be a part of an industry that gives you a bigger picture of the world in general.  No matter what role you take in manufacturing, you become part of a supply chain.  There is always something to learn, and without a doubt, there is job security in an industry that makes the country run.  I am as effective and as efficient as I want to be, and manufacturing allows you to surround yourself with people and projects that push you to be better.  I cannot imagine myself in a better role.