Mary Fitzgerald, President at Acme Wire Products

#WiMHearHerStory ,

Mary Fitzgerald, President at Acme Wire Products
#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 two brothers and I run a job shop specializing in custom tooled wire and metal components called Acme Wire Products in Mystic, CT. Acme Wire Products is a second generation family business started by our father in 1970. The company forms, stamps, bends, machines, welds and assembles parts as diverse as a simple wire form which might be used as a handle or hold down, to a welded fan guard or face masks for sporting goods. We also manufacture material handling baskets for automation equipment. I have been with the company since 1985 and handle marketing, office administration and management. Most days I am working with customers and prospects on new and existing projects, handling contracts, employee issues, training and any other issues that arise.

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

I was familiar with working in a manufacturing environment since I had worked for the company during my high school and college breaks. My dad would bring the kids in to assist with various tasks (there are seven siblings) and we would break the work down into smaller units for operations such as finishing, inspection, kitting and packaging. My first job professionally after college was working at another wire company, Durable Wire, which processed round and shaped wire. It taught me other facets of the industry and how to work with many different types of people. I always liked to learn how things were made and to see how there could be different methods to make the same item. After working several years at Durable Wire, I joined Acme Wire Products as the Sales & Marketing Manager. After more than 30 years with the company there are still new challenges, new product applications and new technologies.

Have you encountered stereotypes like these in your education or career and how did you overcome them?

I studied English and Science in college and most of my classes were mixed genders. I went to school with many smart, motivated people and there didn’t seem to be any barriers to what you could succeed. I didn’t have a plan to go into manufacturing but I also didn’t think that it was a career that was closed to me since I felt comfortable in a factory setting. I didn’t see any barriers or boundaries, just possibilities. When I began my career in manufacturing though, I realized that there were not many young women peers. When I encountered people who didn’t like/want to see women succeed in manufacturing roles I felt that those were views that they would have to change.

Has mentorship played any role in your career?

My own father was very encouraging in showing me different career paths but not pushing me in one direction. Some of my mentors/guides were the fathers of my college classmates who, like my father, ran small manufacturing companies and owners of other family businesses. They were very encouraging to me, especially when I questioned whether having a career in manufacturing and raising a family would be compatible.

What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in modern manufacturing?

I think that the more frequently that girls see women in different types of careers then they can start envisioning themselves in those situations/careers as well. For instance, television shows, movies, commercials, ads, etc. showing women working in a variety of manufacturing fields can help change the view of what manufacturing is like and the viability of those careers.

A manufacturing group I belong to hosts a program that links groups of high school students with manufacturing partners to create videos to educate fellow students and the community about careers in manufacturing. Sometimes the message has to be heard and seen many times before it makes an impact.

I have also worked with elementary, middle and high school classes to provide manufacturing career awareness and show how the skills that students learn in the classroom apply to the work world. As a Girl Scout leader, I coordinated career workshops for my daughter’s troops and participated in Camp CEO for two years. Our company also hosts open houses and tours for high school students to show them different manufacturing processes.

Would you recommend a career in manufacturing? And, if so, why?

There are so many diverse skills needed in manufacturing from marketing and finance to human resources to quality to production planning to purchasing and logistics to engineering and technical programming. Manufacturing jobs pay well and provide an opportunity to be creative problem solvers. Every day brings new challenges. It is never boring!

Why did you decide to join Women in Manufacturing? How do you personally find value in WiM membership?

I joined Women in Manufacturing last year after participating in the events for several years as a nonmember. There was a local (state) chapter forming that I wanted to become more involved with and membership was a good way to continue my engagement and involvement. Membership also allowed me to take advantage of the discount when attending the National SUMMIT. I have enjoyed each of the SUMMITs I have attended and look forward to the 2017 SUMMIT in my home state of Connecticut!