Adria Bagshaw, co-owner and vice president of W.H. Bagshaw in Nashua, New Hampshire and Tanya DiSalvo, owner and president of Criterion Tool in Brook Park, Ohio, share their journey to manufacturing.
Adria Bagshaw’s Journey (In her own words)
When I was graduating from the University of New Hampshire, I thought I wanted to work in Human Resources. I had several job prospects, but the one that interested me the most was production supervisor for the machining department of a high tech company. I loved the company culture and most of what was described in the role was human resources: hiring, firing, developing training plans, coaching, planning, analyzing and executing.
I was a very feminine 22 year old walking into a machine shop and I always had a male supervisor as I moved up the ranks. One guy quit outright! I developed a thick skin, learned quickly that I needed to learn how to listen and rely on the expertise of the operators (which I still do today!)
I had the great fortune of being internally recruited by a woman ten years my senior who is still a mentor and friend almost 30 years later! She pushed me hard, but also recognized my strengths. I spent four years supervising before working in HR as the college recruiting manager. I was laid off shortly after 9/11, after laying off all the college recruits I had helped hire, an experience that shaped how I now approach hiring and growth planning today. I had a two year stint as an account manager at a contract manufacturer that had monthly finance meetings for the entire staff. I had no idea how helpful that monthly and review with the controller would be – I use their models today at W.H. Bagshaw.
I met Aaron Bagshaw on a blind date in early 2000, and was intrigued when I learned he was also in manufacturing. I was in the corporate world and didn’t ever imagine being a part of his family business. In early 2004, when we were having our first child, Aaron was actively leading the W.H. Bagshaw Co through some changes: customers leaving for cheap overseas vendors, implementing an ERP system. After our son was born, I had to choose between a part-time admin role at my current position, staying home full-time, or looking for something new entirely. I had experience and perspective to help with the ERP implementation so I gave notice at my prior job and went to Bagshaw Company part-time on a trial basis, with a newborn in my arms. I not only realized I could help, but that I needed to do everything in my power to help stabilize the company. I added hours and eventually became full-time. Aaron was in the process of researching automation to diversify what we could do, and I loved being a sounding board and helping validate his vision. Having worked at two successful but larger manufacturing companies, I was able to bring in the best of those experiences, while honoring the small family business mentality. We really tackled this phase as a start up…and 140 year old one. Now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else!
Tanya DiSalvo’s Journey (in her own words)
In a family business, you might think it would be easy! Sometimes there is more than meets the eye. In high school, I had to help my dad with a mailing. I stuffed the envelopes, applied a label, and sealed & stamped them. Upon inspection by my dad- he said the labels and stamps were all crooked, and it didn’t look like anything he wanted to send out from a PRECISION MACHINE SHOP. Told me to redo it. Then he promptly took my car keys and wouldn’t pay me! I sure was mad at the time….. fast forward to 1995, when Criterion moved into a new building and was looking for an outside salesperson. I jumped at the opportunity to take my experience from the automotive aftermarket and put it to work for the family business. I joined Criterion in 1998 and have never looked back. Working with both my parents has been great for our business and our family.
What do you like about your position/manufacturing?
To this day, its the difference we can make by giving people opportunities. While yes, HR issues are the hardest part of running a business, they’re also the most rewarding. I love reflecting back on the career path and growth that I see from our employees, both inside and outside of the company. Nothing makes me happier than hearing someone was able to buy their dream home or afford a vacation with their family that was never possible before.
Making stuff is cool! It takes so many manufacturing processes of different types to make the world go around. At Criterion, I am thrilled we have the expertise to support the medical device and the weapons/defense industries. Promoting rewarding careers in manufacturing really gets me excited!
Advice to Women (or Anyone) Seeking a Career in Manufacturing
It is intimidating going into a male dominated environment, but if you lean into it, and mindfully approach it leveraging the skills you have, you’ll be successful. Be a good listener and collaborator – those skills are sometimes otherwise lacking in manufacturing. Also – manufacturing is a lot more fun than people realize. There are so many ways to appreciate it – the way teams function together, there’s an analytical aspects to it, you can ALWAYS make improvements, and its tactile. So very cool! Seek out mentors, and specifically partner with women working in similar companies. Seek out opportunities to network and attend conferences or join professional associations.
GO FOR IT! Manufacturing companies need support at all levels. You may think just about the manufacturing flooring running a machine… but there is so much more. The quality department has a huge impact on a manufacturing company. Still heavily involved with manufacturing but focusing on the process and outputs. Engineering support is needed and requires math & computer skills. Operation support, purchasing, accounting, marketing, sales…. If you have a passion – we could use it in the manufacturing community!