Natalie Glumm, Manufacturing Sales Manager at Midland Plastics, Inc.

Natalie Glumm, Manufacturing Sales Manager at Midland Plastics, Inc.
#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.

Midland Plastics focuses on performance plastics with four main divisions: distribution, fabrication, thermoforming and extrusion. My role is to manage the sales of all divisions. My workdays are consumed with customer attraction, retention and growth. It’s extremely important to know your customers and work with them to be a partner in their business. For example, many of our customers’ products are cyclical and we keep track of when our customers will need their products. When we call a customer in September (because they always need their parts in October) before they have even sent in a purchase order, we show them that we are proactive and their business means something to us.

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

I arrived at my current position through years of experience in performance plastics and by staying in contact with people from Midland, even though I took some time away from manufacturing and went into the nonprofit sector. I fell into this position purely by accident. In 1991, I needed a job, so I went through Manpower temporary staffing. Manpower set me up with a company that focused on plastics. They simply needed someone to answer the phone and help out with some clerical work. It was supposed to be a three-month temporary position, but after three months, I was hired on full-time as an administrator. From there, I worked my way up to inside sales and outside sales. What was supposed to be a three-month gig turned into a twelve-year gig with that company! During those twelve years I learned a lot about plastics, manufacturing and sales. It’s a great industry to be in and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. My hope is that instead of hearing stories that women, “Fell into manufacturing by accident,” we start hearing that it was their choice because someone, or something like WiM, introduced them to the wonderful world of 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?

Yes, unfortunately, but it’s not surprising. Most of the jobs for women in manufacturing have been tied to clerical or accounting work. Throughout the years, I have seen more and more women sales people, but you still don’t see many women on the shop floors and in the C-suites. I don’t have time for ridiculous stereotypes. My best way to overcome stereotypes is to simply not give them any attention. It’s kind of like child psychology and not giving bad behavior any credit because the minute you do, the bad behavior is reinforced. Another important rule is to continue your education. This helps ensure your worth to colleagues, production teams, engineers, CEOs and presidents. It also says that you care enough about your career to keep learning.

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

Yes, absolutely! The manager from the company I was at for twelve years was my mentor. I am forever grateful for his belief that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. He had an incredible gift for bringing out the best in all his employees. He had this uncanny way of leading me to come to a solution, where I felt like it was all my idea or doing, when in reality he knew the outcome all along, he just wanted me take ownership of it. Anyone can be told what to do, but there is a lot more power and buy-in when they think it was actually their idea. 

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?

Have more people join WiM! It would awesome if there were a chapter in every state supported by manufacturing companies regionally and ultimately create unlimited opportunities to collaborate with area businesses, chambers, alliances, educational institutions and other organizations focusing on manufacturing.

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?

Another yes, absolutely! It’s an extremely rewarding career and as we see more and more technological advancements the field is only going to get more innovative. One thing that really needs to be communicated more is that manufacturing is creative. We need to break down those perceptions that it’s the same thing every day, making the same stuff. You may be making the same stuff every day, but there are always better ways to make it with the use of new technology, materials and applications that all require a creative and innovative approach. We also have to be sure young women know that a career in manufacturing has opportunities for growth and is sustainable in raising a family. I am a single parent and was able to give my son a safe, secure upbringing and help him develop into the successful young man he is today, who also, by the way, knows full well that women can do anything he can!