CMTC's Shifting Gears

We succeed because you do.

Season 2 Episode 6 - Women in Manufacturing

Posted by Rachel Miller


Episode Show Notes

Episode 6 features Natalia Sephton, President & CEO of M&R Engineering; Sarah Myers, Founder & CEO of HMP - Hemp Made Products; and Lisa Anderson, Founder & President of LMA Consulting Group Inc.. Natalia, Sarah, and Lisa discuss their experiences as women in manufacturing — how they got started, their professional accomplishments, and the current state of opportunities for women in the industry.

Natalia Sephton, President & CEO of M&R Engineering, acquired M&R Engineering in August 2018. She initially joined the company in 2016 as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining M&R Engineering, she managed Torrance Operations for Alcoa Fastening Systems (Arconic Fastening Systems). Natalia worked for Alcoa for 14 years and held multiple roles in engineering and operations with progressive growth in responsibility. Natalia received an undergraduate degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering and an MBA from the University of Southern California. Natalia always puts the customer first and looks for ways to improve overall customer experience.

Sarah Myers, Founder & CEO of HMP-Hemp Made Products, is a lifelong entrepreneur/creator/food enthusiast. Her on-point intuition led to JamWest Foods forming the Kitchen Incubator, a fixture in Los Angeles, CA since 2007 that aids in launching startup food brands. She has helped to mentor several local businesses that have been able to grow independent with some featured on Shark Tank. Her latest focus and passion is her very own brand, HMP-Hemp Made Products, a healthier, dairy alternative food, and wellness brand. Inspired by the super benefits of Hemp (aka HMP), she launched her first product  —  "The Original HMP Cheez". She is currently scaling to bring this and other developed items to market.

Lisa Anderson, Founder & President of LMA Consulting Group Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in manufacturing strategy and end-to-end supply chain transformation that maximizes the customer experience and enables profitable, scalable, dramatic business growth. Lisa is ranked Number 16 in SAP’s Supply Chain Influencers and recognized as one of the top 1 percent of consultants worldwide. Known for creating bold customer promises and profits, Lisa is experienced in working with closely-held, private-equity-backed and large, complex organizations in industries ranging from aerospace and defense, building and industrial products to food and beverage. Lisa has been named a Top 46 Supply Chain Influencer by SAP, a Top 50 ERP Influencer by Washington Frank, a Top 40 B2B Tech Influencer by Arketi, a Top Woman Influencer by Solutions Review, a Top 100 Supply Chain Blogger by SupplyChainOpz, and a subject matter expert by West Stringfellow.


00:00:00 - Introductions

00:03:02 - How they got started in manufacturing and the path to their current roles

00:11:13 - What keeps them involved with manufacturing

00:13:59 - Professional accomplishment they’re most proud of and why

00:17:22 - Role models or mentors and how they inspired them

00:22:09 - Current state of opportunities for women in manufacturing

00:26:20 - Advice to women exploring educational options and making decisions about their careers

00:32:31 - Vision of where the manufacturing industry will be in next 5 to 10 years


Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing, change is the only constant. How are small and medium-sized manufacturers, SMMs, to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries? Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC, highlights leaders from the modern world of manufacturing from SMMs to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sectors' latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC. I'd like to welcome you. In this episode I am joined by Natalia Sephton, President, and CEO of M&R Engineering; Sarah Myers, Founder and CEO of HMP Hemp Made Products; and Lisa Anderson, Founder and President of LMA Consulting Group Inc. Natalia, Sarah, and Lisa discuss their experiences as women in manufacturing — how they started out, their professional accomplishments, and the current state of opportunities for women in the industry. The group closes with advice for the next generation of women leaders and their predictions on where they see the manufacturing industry in the next 5 to 10 years. Welcome, Natalia. It's great to have you here.

Natalia Sephton [00:01:27] Thank you very much, Gregg. I'm very excited to be here.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:30] Natalia, can you take a minute or two and tell us a little bit about yourself, your current role, and your company.

Natalia Sephton [00:01:35] Absolutely. I'm currently the CEO and President of M&R Engineering. I'm also the owner of the company. So, I have all those hats in one responsibility. We are a contract manufacturer specializing in precision machining for metal and plastic components. We work with aerospace, defense, commercial industries, just to name a few. We have over 100 customers across all those industries. It's great to be here. I'm really excited to have this discussion today.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:03] It's great to have you here, Natalia. Thank you. Thank you so much. So, welcome, Lisa. I'm so happy you could join us today.

Lisa Anderson [00:02:09] Great. I'm glad to be here.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:10] Lisa, can you also take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about yourself, your current role, and your company?

Lisa Anderson [00:02:15] Absolutely. So, I am a consultant. I work for manufacturers and distributors to help them improve their overall performance and value. I was a former Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain for a mid-market manufacturer. Now I've been consulting for about 16 years.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:35] Sarah, glad to have you here, as well.

Sarah Myers [00:02:38] Thanks for inviting me.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:39] Sarah, can you also take a minute or two and tell us a little bit about yourself, your current role, and your company?

Sarah Myers [00:02:44] I own a commercial kitchen, and I incubate, and co-pack, manufacture for small businesses as well as my own product, which is a non-dairy vegan cheese as well as other products using hemp as its core ingredient.

Gregg Profozich [00:03:02] Excellent. Excellent. Welcome. Thank you for being here today. So, I am really looking forward to our conversation today. The topic of women in manufacturing, I think, is particularly relevant. The manufacturing industry is facing an unprecedented shortage of skilled qualified workers. According to the US Census Bureau, an estimated 3.5 million jobs will go unfilled in the next 10 years. These jobs are not the dirty, hot, dangerous manufacturing world of our grandparents' era. They are the clean, modern, technology-centered manufacturing world of today with roles from design and engineering to the production floor to the supply chain to the back office to administrative and leadership roles, roles that pay well, offer job stability and great transferable skills and are really deeply rewarding, roles where women have been and continue to make real and lasting contributions. Each of you know these things firsthand. So, let's get into some of your personal experiences. Tell us a little bit about your interest in manufacturing. How did you start out, and what has been your career path to your current role? Let's start off with Natalia.

Natalia Sephton [00:04:04] Sure, Gregg. It's always a pleasure to share my experience. I have a unique story. I came to the US when I was 16. Came to a community college, Santa Monica Community College, fresh out of high school not knowing anybody, knowing anything. I came to study business. I quickly realized that there are a lot of American people that were studying business, and I had to differentiate myself. I wanted to get a job at a reputable company. I was really good at math and science. I took advantage of that. When I transferred to USC, I got a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. All along I never dreamed about working in manufacturing. Look at me now. I own a machining company. My real passion at the time was consulting. During my last year at USC, I had an opportunity to do an internship working for Alcoa Fastening Systems. Upon graduation a year into my consulting career I got a call. The person who I used to work for said, "Hey, you really need to come back. I'm starting this new job, and I need somebody who can help me. You're really great. Why don't you start working for us as an engineer?" That was a much bigger company. I said, "Okay. Well, let's give it a chance." So, I worked for Alcoa for 14 years giving it a chance. I was responsible for various sized businesses. I got promoted early on in my career, and I had lots of opportunities. Every time there was an opportunity I'd raise my hand, and I'd say, "Hey, yes, sign me up. I want to do more; I want to learn more; and I want to contribute to the business." I was very successful improving the bottom line and developing employees. Fourteen years later I had another opportunity to run a smaller-sized business, M&R Engineering, as the CEO. I joined the company. A few years into it I bought it. The last three years I've been running and operating a contract manufacturing company. The rest is history.

Gregg Profozich [00:06:09] Excellent. Thank you for sharing. So, Lisa, how about if you go next?

Lisa Anderson [00:06:13] All right. So, I started with my interest in manufacturing in college. I tried different majors. I thought perhaps I'd be interested in engineering, perhaps accounting. So, I tried different avenues. Then I took an operations management course. Then I found that really spoke to me because it was much more about how to optimize many competing variables. It wasn't black-and-white. I enjoyed it more. We did a senior project that was managing multiple variables, in essence, in a manufacturing company. So, that was an exciting project. I utilized that project on my résumé to help me land my first job, which was at Coca-Cola Enterprises. I ended up planning production for the west coast facilities. So, that was a great role to start with out of college. I really enjoyed that process. I went to a plastic injection molder a few years later, and I did production planning, purchasing. I learned about inventory management, as well, in that role. Then a few years after that I went to an absorbent products manufacturer. I did pretty much every role within supply chain, a few in operations until we bought a division of P&G and also bought a smaller entrepreneurial company at the same time that it was Y2K. So, we were also, of course, implementing a new ERP system just to make things interesting. I was promoted into the position of Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain. We did find private equity backers. There was a whole host of activities in terms of relaunching product lines, and then turning around the production facilities, and doing all sorts of other activities in terms of freight and supply chain, as well. So, after that role I thought, "Why not put all this to great use?" That's when I started consulting. So, I've been consulting now for the last 16 years, working with manufacturers and distributors to help them improve their operations and their overall business performance.

Gregg Profozich [00:08:25] Excellent. Excellent. Thank you, Lisa. So, Sarah, tell us a little about your interest in manufacturing. How did you start out, and what has been your career path to your current role?

Sarah Myers [00:08:33] Well, I started out, really, when I was pretty young. I was always seeing a hole and wanting to fill it. Being an entrepreneur, I think it's just in my blood; it's in my family's blood. I had an invention that I drew and sold when I was living in Canada. It was a finger toothbrush. So, the first thing where I really officially went into business after college was music publishing. I saw a need. I was in copyright while working for an agency. I saw a need in music publishing in Jamaica. Being how my background is Jamaican and Indian, that gave me the foundation in intellectual properties as well as contract negotiation. So, fast forward, got married, moved to California, had a family, and immediately saw another need here, which was healthy fast food. In Jamaica, we have a product called the Jamaican patty, which is similar to a Spanish empanada. So, I decided I was going to open up my commercial facility to make Jamaican patties. This was a huge undertaking. Not being in the food business I had a lot to learn. So, that is where I set out with the commercial kitchen. In 2007 when I opened the facility, the recession pretty much hit, and all the doors that were open to me back then for this product quickly closed. People were no longer in those positions, or they couldn't afford the product. So, I had to pivot. Pivoting has been something I think I've been doing since I started in manufacturing. So, we pivoted to event catering, productions, movie sets. Whatever I could get to pay the bills I did. Then I realized that I could take the lessons that I've learned over the years managing and operating this facility and pass it on to other people that had ideas to go into the food business. A lot of people have ideas to go into the food business. They think it's an easy thing, but it's very difficult. It takes huge amounts of money. There's endless certifications and learning curves. I decided at that point that I was going to incubate other businesses, and that would allow me more time with my family and keep the bills paid at the kitchen.

Gregg Profozich [00:11:13] Thank you for sharing. Three very impressive and very diverse backgrounds. I think some common themes coming out, though — seizing opportunity, continuously learning, pivoting, continuously looking to challenge yourself, and look for opportunities to serve and balance things in your lives is what I'm hearing so far. So, what is it about manufacturing that keeps you coming back for more? What do you love about it? Lisa, why don't we start with you this time?

Lisa Anderson [00:11:38] I would say what I love about manufacturing is that there's always something new to be considering. There's many variables that you have to think through. It's not a black or a white situation. In addition to having the multiple variables, there's people, there's processes, there's systems, there's how do you bring all these pieces together. It's exciting, and it can have a significant impact down the line. So, every product that's manufactured creates jobs and entire ecosystems. So, there's a lot that manufacturing has to offer. I think that it's also where you're producing something of value.

Gregg Profozich [00:12:16] Sarah, what are your thoughts? What is it about manufacturing that keeps you coming back for more? What do you love about it?

Sarah Myers [00:12:20] I agree with Lisa 100%. I love the creative process. It's exciting to hear somebody's product idea. I try to help people adjust before too much is spent, invested. That's really what keeps me coming back. I love creating, and I love filling holes and creating great food products for people that I know are wholesome and nutritious.

Natalia Sephton [00:12:45] I'd also like to echo with Lisa's point, the value add of manufacturing something that you can touch the products that you make, then you go to consumer shelf. Again, we're contract manufacturer, B2B products, airplane parts, and fasteners. But you don't realize how important they are until you get on that plane and you see a color on that entry door. Like, "Oh, I probably made those." The second part is personal. I'm a problem-solver. So, I love the opportunity every day. Trust me, every day, there is an opportunity to solve a problem. It's eternal problem-solving that manufacturing brings to you. You're always looking for your root cause analysis, what happened, why it didn't work. The other part two, you always have an opportunity to start clean. So, anything that didn't work out, you learn with time that hey, you know what? It was a bad month, but we will fix A, B, and C, and next month is going to be better. You put actions to play, and you measure your results. That's very gratifying to see that what you do is paying off. I love my job.

Gregg Profozich [00:13:59] I know that each of you have made significant contributions to your companies and your industries across your careers. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of and why? Sarah, maybe we'll start with you this time.

Sarah Myers [00:14:10] I'm really most proud of the businesses that were born out of my facility who have made it and gone on to become their own manufacturer. That has really translated into so many more jobs and wonderful products. At the same time, I'm thrilled with what has developed with our hemp-made products. It's an exciting time to be in the market with a plant-based sustainable superfood. It's really at the forefront of the trend. So, I'm really most proud of that. But ultimately, I would say that my proudest moment is that I know that I raised three boys one and a half years apart while doing all this. 

Gregg Profozich [00:14:53] Absolutely. Those are some amazing accomplishments. I hear all of you talking about the sense that you're making a contribution to society, you're filling basic needs, and you're using your creativity and problem-solving skills to do it. I think that's the thing that, to me, is most exciting about manufacturing. It's tangible. Next up, Natalia. You made some significant contributions across your career, as well. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

Natalia Sephton [00:15:18] Gregg, I'd like to answer that twofold. One is, of course, I'm in engineering. Being an entrepreneur and owner of the company and seeing the company grow and our great reputation in the industry that I can be proud about it. It's been great. The second part is while I was at Alcoa Fastening Systems, I was a president of Alcoa Fastening Systems Women's Network. That talks about results and how you see other people flourish in the company. When I started in that position, there were just a few women participating quarterly. I've created a very robust leadership development program. We used to fill the room with 40 women participating every quarter because they couldn't get enough of the self-development and opportunities. It was great. I'm really proud of that.

Gregg Profozich [00:16:10] Excellent. Lisa?

Lisa Anderson [00:16:11] I would say that working with clients to help them gain substantial results, both from turning around a situation, from providing service levels of 50%, 60%, to bring it up rapidly to the high 90s in addition to providing more of a superior customer experience, that's very exciting for my clients. They can build their business, and their customers are much happier. Also, working with clients to see their employees go from following processes because that's what they've been trained to follow to understanding how they fit into the big picture, the value they're bringing to the business, and become engaged, much more proactive, innovative, and productive. That's really exciting to see as well as, of course, increasing profitability, and increasing your inventory turns, and accelerating cash flow. So, just seeing the results happen is, I think, very exciting.

Gregg Profozich [00:17:12] All very multifaceted levels of reward, from personal to professional to helping other people and helping develop other people throughout your manufacturing careers. 

Lisa Anderson [00:17:20] Absolutely.

Gregg Profozich [00:17:22] So, let's talk a little bit about role models. Have you had any role models or mentors in your career? If so, who are they, and how do they inspire you?

Lisa Anderson [00:17:30] Well, I had many. So, we couldn't talk about them all. My first boss out of college was a distribution leader at Coca-Cola. She took a chance on a new, fresh out of college talent that she could see had some new and interesting ideas. I learned a lot from her, especially on the transportation replenishment type of thinking. In my next role, I actually met a mentor that was related to finance. So, I learned a whole lot about inventory and how it all related to the financials. At my next job, I met several mentors. One was the head of operations. It's funny. I recently had a client that reminded me a whole lot of this person. His name's Dave Franklin. He just was very upfront, down-to-earth, he held high standards, but at the same time, he was very appreciative and genuine type mentor. So, I met him. I also met an HR mentor. Without her, I would never have been able to get through how to deal with difficult people, the whole organizational development side of operations, which is the 80/20 of success and making lasting change occur. I've been very fortunate to find mentors all along the road. Very few, if any of these, were formal mentors. I just chose them along the way. I was very fortunate to find them. 

Gregg Profozich [00:18:55] So, in that choosing, was it just you got a sense that this is somebody I could really learn from? What did that process look like for you as you went through it?

Lisa Anderson [00:19:03] Yes. I've always been good at seeing trends and seeing people that I respect, even the worst boss that I ever worked for, which I won't name. You learn something from everyone. So, I found people along the way that I respected a certain aspect of what they did. Many times they didn't really know they were a mentor, anyhow. But you would just ask questions. If you're trying to provide value to folks that are mentoring you, they're more than happy to help you along the way. It becomes a win-win relationship.

Gregg Profozich [00:19:41] So, Sarah, let's talk a little about your experience.

Sarah Myers [00:19:43] Like Lisa, I've had many. Some I chose, just seeing that they had knowledge that I really wanted to learn; others chose me early on. In food manufacturing, Jecky Bicer from Jecky's Best was extremely generous to me with his time and expertise. I don't know what I would have really done without him, because there was such a learning curve in food manufacturing. At that point when you've invested all this money, what are you going to do? You're just going through... You just have to learn. You have to work your way through it and make it work somehow. Just being able to turn to somebody that you trust that can just keep you going, gives you the right advice, has the contacts that you need.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:33] Natalia, your thoughts on roles and mentors?

Natalia Sephton [00:20:36] Early on in my career, when I just started to work for Alcoa Fastening Systems, Olivier Jarrault — he was the president of the company at the time — he had a great vision. He had a way to motivate people. He also taught — not just me, I think the whole company — financial discipline. So, know your KPIs, know your leading lagging indicators, how do you make the P&L work in the right direction, what are the levers of success. So, that was really important. The other person, Sean Khosrovani, who gave me that opportunity and was my champion, really, to present to the president the first year of being on the job. Sean Khosrovani, he made me believe in myself that I could do anything. That was very important. Sometimes you need to help the people around you to gain confidence and feel like they can walk across water and do everything that you need them to do or they need themselves to do. Lastly, my last mentor that I'd like to mention is Kristin Walle. She was my formal mentor. She worked for ADP at the time. She helped me to see that you need to motivate people differently. So, every person needs to be treated the way they want to be treated. Don't just treat them the way you want to be treated, because your buttons are really completely different. Things that motivate you may not necessarily motivate somebody else. So, that was very important when we deal with people when we own our own business when we deal with customers, vendors, suppliers.

Gregg Profozich [00:22:09] So, as I listen to the three of you talking about your mentors, I hear you talking about both the technical skills but also very much the soft skills, the people skill side — how you manage, and motivate, and inspire. For young women emerging into the workforce, what's the current state of opportunities for women in manufacturing?

Sarah Myers [00:22:26] In the food business there is a lot of women emerging in the food business. We have great ideas. We want to feed the world. We have nutrition on our mind first. That is where we're moving collectively as a population. So, it is expanding for women in food than previously, I would say. Now there's more awareness of the need for women to have an equal equity in business. So, government and private sector are providing more opportunities for women to help close the gap. I think we're seeing more contracts being awarded to women-owned businesses. We've still got quite a ways to go before we're on level ground, but we're moving in the right direction.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:16] Thank you. Natalia, your thoughts?

Natalia Sephton [00:23:18] I think there are lots of opportunities right now in the machining world. Women, men, anybody who's willing to learn, and develop themselves, and put their 100% out there, and work hard, there are lots of opportunities. If you want to work from the ground level, there are opportunities. If you want to work on engineering level, there are opportunities. If you want to go to business school and earn your MBA, there are opportunities on every level of the organization. You may end up in the same spot. You may end up on top of the organization leading the organization regardless what career path you choose, as long as you are willing to work hard and you are willing to take the opportunities and risks. But also, I think what's interesting about the environment right now is that, at least in the machining world, it is not the same industry that it was 20 years, even 5 years ago. When we think about manufacturing, it's a dingy, dark place, hard hats, very dirty. A lot of the machines are using very clean coolants. Machines are much quieter now. At M&R Engineering we are investing in the future. We are investing in the work environment. Today you do not necessarily have to be able to bench 50 pounds to do the job. You can program the machine. You can do setup even if you don't have the physical attributes of men. Not to say we have more women on the shop floor, but we'd like to at least even the scale as we move forward.

Gregg Profozich [00:24:56] Excellent. Thank you. Lisa, your thoughts?

Lisa Anderson [00:24:58] There's vast opportunity for women in manufacturing from all levels, from entry-level through executives and by sector. I work with clients in food and beverage industry, in building and construction products, healthcare, and bioscience. I find that across the board they're looking for talented people who are interested in innovating, utilizing additional technology, and who are looking at how to increase the customer experience, profitability, cash flow, and how to put all these pieces together. So, it really doesn't matter whether you're a woman, a man, old, young. I find that manufacturing is a great place to go because, on the whole, they're interested in finding talent. They're looking for the future of manufacturing. I think women have a significant opportunity. What I have found is that if you believe that you have an opportunity, you will have an opportunity. If you believe that you're a woman in manufacturing and that's a problem for some reason, you will have a problem. If you're a woman and you are interested in the opportunity, go for it, and don't even be thinking about being a woman and what that means. So, I find that you can be extremely successful that way.

Gregg Profozich [00:26:20] Great advice. Thank you, Lisa. On the topic of advice — I think, Lisa, you got us started there — the next question is all about what advice would you give to young women who are exploring educational options and making decisions about their career? Is there a best way to go, a preferred way to go? Natalia, why don't we start off with you?

Natalia Sephton [00:26:38] I think you need to be bold. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid of math, don't be afraid of science as you're choosing your career path. If you like doing those things, try it. Some people cut themselves short by saying, "I'm not good at math. I'm not good at business. I don't even want to try it." I've talked to many high school students, and they shy away from technical fields. If you are at the university, or community college, or wherever your education takes you, try everything. Try as many things as you can and see what you like, because what things you may think you don't like you may really enjoy and excel at. At that point, the stakes are very low. What's the worst that can happen? You pass the class, you get some credits, and you realize you are not going to make the worst mistake in your life and choose the wrong career path. That advice I can give you along the same lines — talk to different people; do internships. Because as you do those internships, you realize... As many as you can get under your belt before you graduate. Every summer you should be doing something. You can learn about different industries from people or from hands-on experience. Do you know every aspect of this job? Make that your passion, because if you're not doing something new, or if you're not searching for things that you can excel in through your life, you can just waste 20 years in the company that you don't like and you don't enjoy. But without trying, you'll never know what makes you happy. Network with people. Call up some business owners and say, "Hey, I really would like to learn about this industry. If you don't have an internship, I'm really excited about your company. Can you have a Zoom call with me?" That's what we're all doing. You'd be surprised how many people will come forward and say, "Yeah, sure. Not a problem. I'd like to share my experience. What questions do you have?" That kind of initiative will differentiate you from other people.

Lisa Anderson [00:28:52] I really like what Natalia said about being bold and having confidence. One of the things you can do if you're feeling a little tentative is pretend as though you have confidence until you have confidence. Sometimes it's like smiling. If you smile, you might just become happy. But one of the ways that you can build on that is by having a broad range of skills. I think in today's world in manufacturing it's going to be challenging to be a specialist in just one sliver of the pie. What every manufacturing client is looking for is people with a broad range of skills. So, look at operations, look at planning, purchasing, accounting, HR. You can try your hat building your skills around several of those topics, and then you could always expand upon that with internships. If you have trouble finding an internship, don't give up. Make an offer of some way you can provide value to someone you know who's in manufacturing. Really, overall I find that women in manufacturing — but it's true no matter if you're a woman or a man — is there's the technical side, and then there's the presentation style or communication style side. You have to have both. If you focus all of your energies on the technical side, you could be the best technician there is, and you'll probably be overlooked for almost every role, unfortunately, because that's just how it works. So, you really need to be confident, because no one wants an empty suit if you will. So, you need to be confident and always building upon your skills, and continually learning. But at the same time, you got to focus on the communications, presentation. How do you talk to peers? How do you talk to managers? How do you talk to people who work for you someday? So, learn about it, and try it out. Search out mentors. Find a path where you can try, you can fail, you can try again. Don't give up, and you'll eventually be successful. So, it's very important to stay connected with groups of influence, if you will. So, there could be groups of colleagues — former colleagues, current colleagues — groups like trade associations, where you can gain experiences related to your field. Then there's industry groups so you can continue to learn about your industry. So, stay connected to all these different communities and be continually learning and continually building upon your skills in terms of technical and communication presentation. You can turn 1 plus 1 into 21. 

Gregg Profozich [00:31:34] That's powerful. Sarah, your thoughts on advice?

Sarah Myers [00:31:38] I recommend just knowing your strengths and your aptitudes. Being an entrepreneur, it's not for the faint of heart. It's constant. You wake up, you go to sleep thinking about your business. So, you have to be practical and not let resources prevent you from following your dream. Make sure what you decide to study is at least a passion of yours so you spend your days doing what you love, and believe in it. Never be afraid to ask. The worst thing that can happen for someone is that they hear the word no. So, you just keep on, keep on. Do your research. Be on top of what the trends are so you can capitalize on being ahead of the curve. Stand up and demand what's equitable treatment for you as a woman. But most of all be fearless and resilient.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:31] Excellent advice. Thank you, Sarah. So, the last question as we wrap up here: where do you see the manufacturing industry in the next 5 to 10 years?

Sarah Myers [00:32:40] I think the most important topic about manufacturing right now is sustainability. It's a huge cost for the manufacturer to become a certified facility. It's constantly evolving. So, we have to keep up with that. The compliance, the verification, it makes it hard for the little guy. So, small manufacturing facilities like mine find it difficult these days just because of the mere cost of keeping up with technology and becoming a sustainable business.

Natalia Sephton [00:33:13] I think manufacturing industry is going... At least on the machining side, it's going through some level of consolidation. It's fueled by the generational shift. A lot of baby boomers are retiring. So, what happens to the businesses? They either get gobbled up by these giant private equities that consolidate into bigger companies or younger generation — the children or the grandchildren — are stepping up and running those businesses. So, it's a very interesting shift. Hopefully, there are lots of opportunities during that time. We also see millennials actively in the business, and now you have Gen Z entering workforce. So, there's a lot of things that we need to change to adapt to the new generation. The whole notion that they will do it the way we did it, it's just not going to work. So, the new generation is really aware about the environment. It costs money to be more environmentally friendly, but you know what? That's important for us. The last thing, as I mentioned earlier in our conversation, is that technology and automation will be on the forefront of the growth. There will be jobs where you're not just operating equipment; you are dealing with sensors, and you're programming robots. There will be lots of technical opportunities, and it's a very exciting time for manufacturing industry.

Gregg Profozich [00:34:38] Lisa, anything to add to those concepts?

Lisa Anderson [00:34:41] Yeah. I see that the future of manufacturing is bright. They're going to need more people, more talent than ever before. As the labor costs of products has been coming down in relation to the other costs, as the negative effects of sourcing from places like China have come to light, as we've realized that we can implement technology in a way that will allow us to be more flexible so we can provide a superior customer experience closer to where our customers are, and we can do so fast, we can be very responsive. At the same time, we can focus on not only being cost-efficient, we can add resiliency to that mix. So, we can be equally as focused on resiliency as we are cost. I see that there's a very bright future for manufacturing. It's gaining in popularity, and it's going to continue to rise. So, I think that the future is bright.

Gregg Profozich [00:35:40] I think you're right on target there with the resiliency aspect of it, as well, adding on to the environmental piece, and, really, the technology piece. So, thank you so much, each of you, for your comments. So, I'm going to try to do a quick summary here. There are lots of opportunities for women in manufacturing. The key is for young women coming in or considering the industry to seize those opportunities. Learn; challenge yourself; be willing to pivot. It's an incredibly rewarding career because it's about creating value. It's about making things that are tangible that help satisfy basic human needs. I see lots of opportunities for problem-solving in doing that. It's about helping others, helping other people expand their careers as well as creating jobs, high-paying jobs, and good-paying jobs that help have a multiplier effect in the economy. I think the statistic is for every manufacturing job in the economy, two and a half other jobs are created in support of the direct manufacturing role. Look for mentors, some formal, some informal, but learn something from everyone. Ask questions. Be continuously sponging in information. Learn the technical, the hard skills, about the costing, about the engineering, about the setting up things, about how operations and distribution and all those things work. Also, the soft skills, how to get along, how to work, how to adapt and work with different people, the importance of working hard, taking advantage of the opportunities, taking risks and managing those risks effectively and intelligently. Perhaps one of the most important things is belief to go after what you want, and don't let anything stand in your way. Be bold. Talk to people. Learn. Try different experiences. Network. Make learning your passion. Project confidence. Sometimes you really don't know. You're new at something. You don't have the confidence but project it anyway. Keep developing that broad range of skills. Don't be a specialist, but develop a broad range of skills and work that develop the skills and balance — again, that hard side, soft side thing. Those are the key points I took away from our discussion. Did I miss anything?

Natalia Sephton [00:37:37] You're hired. You do a very good job writing.

Lisa Anderson [00:37:41] You covered it well.

Gregg Profozich [00:37:42] Thank you for that. Natalia, Lisa, Sarah, thank you so very much for being here today. I really appreciate you joining me and for sharing your perspectives, your insights, your personal experiences with both me and with our listeners.

Lisa Anderson [00:37:55] Absolutely. I enjoyed it.

Natalia Sephton [00:37:56] Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.

Sarah Myers [00:37:58] Yeah. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Gregg Profozich [00:38:00] To our listeners, thank you for joining me for this conversation with Natalia Sephton, Lisa Anderson, and Sarah Myers in discussing women in manufacturing. Thank you so much for your time. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears — a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC's mission is to serve as a trusted advisor, providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California's manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC please visit For more information about the MEP National Network, or to find your local MEP center visit

Topics: Women in Manufacturing, Future of Manufacturing

Tell Us What You Think