Vanessa Gilbert, Marketing Manager at Zerust


Vanessa Gilbert, Marketing Manager at Zerust
#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.

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At WiM, much of our work is dedicated to refuting outdated stereotypes about the manufacturing sector: stereotypes like the workplaces are dirty and dangerous and that the field and skills required are a better fit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