Jessica Jeffery, from General Motors

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Jessica Jeffery, Senior Environmental Engineer, General Motors
#WiMHearHerStory | @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.

My job as an Environmental Engineer is to ensure compliance with all environmental rules and regulations, obtain necessary permits (air, water and waste), and implement and sustain community outreach activities including Wildlife Habitat Certification and GM Global Rivers Environmental Education Network.

A typical day includes working with team members to implement and maintain environmental management systems, planning projects such as how to reduce air emissions or planting of a wildlife habitat rain garden, collecting and reviewing air emission data and completion of regulatory reporting requirements.

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

Before joining General Motors, I worked on environmental due diligence and regulatory compliance projects for an environmental and engineering consulting company. While working for the consulting company, GM became one of my clients and I was instantly drawn to GM and manufacturing in particular because GM had the same values around environment that I do. I could make a positive impact by improving environmental performance, awareness and sustainability. Plus, working in manufacturing is a team sport and I thrive in that kind of work environment. Everyone works together to achieve the best product and it’s so cool to be driving one of those products. 

At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit for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?

In college as a female pursuing an engineering degree, I had to overcome the same challenges mentioned above.  I overcame the stereotypes by working hard, studying with other female students in engineering and with help and guidance of an excellent professor who became my mentor. When I encounter the dirty factory stereotype, I use it as an opportunity to educate the person about manufacturing and General Motors.  I explain that most manufacturing facilities are cleaner than a person’s home because of stringent quality and safety requirements.  I invite these folks on a tour of the plant (if possible) or refer them to the GM FastLane Blog https://fastlane.gm.com/ to read about all of the good things GM does like sending recyclable materials to Arts ‘N Scraps to create art kits for local school children or how 18 GM facilities use solar power. 

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

Absolutely, mentoring has had a huge role in my career and I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of mentors. My mentors include friends, relatives (including my husband who is my biggest fan and harshest critic), and past and present coworkers. I find that it is key to have the mentoring support structure to provide unbiased advice and encouragement, improve self-confidence, help with problem solving and advance professional development. Not only is having mentors important, but you can learn so much by being a mentor.  Being a mentor gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own practices, enhances my interpersonal skills, and gives me the satisfaction in developing and supporting others. 

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?

Women who work in manufacturing need to educate through promotion and recruit younger females in high school to pursue STEM careers by attending career fairs, talking with high school counselors, and encouraging companies to open their doors for tours and mentoring programs.

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, I would recommend a career in manufacturing.  A career in manufacturing is fast paced, challenging, well-paying and rewarding.  I grew up in Montana, which big industries include mining, agriculture and service-type jobs (very little manufacturing).  I stumbled into the manufacturing industry and I’m so glad that I did.  I love what I do and working in the manufacturing industry where at the end of the day I can look at the fantastic product and think I helped!  The people who work in manufacturing are a close-knit group who care about each other.  It’s the people who work in manufacturing that make it great.