Women Impacting Moldmaking
Honoring female thinkers, organizers and relationship builders who are influencing our industry’s future.
MoldMaking Technology continues to honor and celebrate the women who help make moldmaking such a dynamic industry. This month, our honorees are women who provide expertise on several levels within the moldmaking companies for which they work. They serve in roles that support the backbone of each respective company: marketing, finance, training and administration. Dubbed “support pillars,” these women promote growth, impact the culture, engage industry, develop customers, instill passion and energize the next generation of women in moldmaking.
Each woman was recommended by industry peers when the concept of this special feature was introduced. The hope is that this inaugural female-focused spotlight will entice others to contact us about women worthy of being recognized and enable us to do this again in the future.
We set out to discover how these women got to where they are today, to learn about their biggest contributions to their companies and to the industry, to understand how they see their roles evolving in the future, and to hear what they believe is the key to bringing more women into moldmaking.
Senior Buyer, Crest Mold Technology Inc., Oldcastle, Ontario, Canada
Michelle Cipkar joined her family’s company, Crest Mold Technology Inc. (CMT), full time 13 years ago, right out of high school. “They offered me a position in purchasing, as I had gained some experience in that area while working during summer breaks from high school,” she says. “Where has the time gone?”
Despite her part-time experience, Michelle says it was quite a learning curve getting acclimated to her new, full-time purchasing role. It wasn’t just a matter of learning how to be an effective purchaser, she says. Working in a male-dominated industry presented challenges as well.
“I think it pushed me to learn more about the products I was required to purchase and to really understand their role in the overall process of moldmaking,” she says. “Core pins, electrical components and blocks of steel—let’s be honest, not all that riveting for a woman. The more I knew about what I was buying, the more value I was adding to the company, and the less it mattered if I was a woman.”
An eye-opening experience for Michelle was an open house event hosted by Milacron in which it invited several local businesses to participate in a small-scale trade show at its facility. The experience gave Michelle the chance to see a variety of molding presses running and producing parts, which she says was extremely beneficial, as it allowed her to understand the “complete picture.” “We just make the molds; we don’t have the opportunity to run production,” she says.
As CMT continues to grow and expand, so does Michelle’s role, along with responsibility and accountability. “As a purchaser, my role does not simply revolve around buying items needed by the shop,” she says. “It also requires me to be as diligent as possible with sourcing the best products at fair prices while managing the expectations for delivery by the fast-moving and rigorous production schedule.”
Finance Director and Purchasing Manager, CS Tool Engineering Inc.,
Cedar Springs, Michigan
Cindy Baas’ introduction to moldmaking was not planned. Growing up, she was unaware of this industry. However, after earning a degree in financial management and accounting, she took her skills to the tool and die trade as an accountant for CG Automation & Fixture, a sister company to Commercial Tool & Die. She worked there for almost eight years before accepting the finance director position at CS Tool Engineering, where she just celebrated her 10-year anniversary.
Cindy is very familiar with operations on the shop floor as well as in the office. Her experience includes human resources, purchasing and shopfloor management. She even took an apprenticeship training course where she built a V-block. “Being active across the company has helped me to understand the needs of each department and how I can use my skills to help in those areas,” she says.
She is also involved in the Whitehall Township Tooling Coalition and has been on the board of directors for West Michigan chapter of the American Mold Builders Association for more than eight years as treasurer.
“I don’t sit still very long, and I’m constantly looking for more opportunities to gain knowledge. Most recently, our purchasing manager retired, so I took over those responsibilities to build stronger relationships with our vendors and learn more about the material, components and outside services we use.”
To keep this industry going, Cindy believes exposure to opportunities in moldmaking during middle school and early high school is essential. “If I could go back, I’d take some tech classes. Then, who knows? Maybe I’d be a journeyman moldmaker today instead of an accountant.
“I have worked in primarily male-dominated industries and have grown quite comfortable in that environment.” She’s also been accused of being a workaholic. “I’m not afraid to learn new things, and I’m always asking for more. That is what got me to where I am today,” Cindy says.
Her advice to women is to consider moldmaking. It is a high-demand, exciting and challenging career. “The constantly changing software, machinery and tooling technology is fascinating and rewarding. Better yet, many times you can get a high-paying job with no college debt,” she says.
Geralyn (Geri) Anderson
Marketing Director, M.R. Mold and Engineering Corp., Brea, California
Geralyn (Geri) Anderson is well-acquainted with moldmaking, since she worked as the member liaison for the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) in the early 2000s. Having a father who was a mechanical engineer at Motorola for 42 years provided early exposure to manufacturing, and she says she remembers him trying to explain this new project he was working on called a “cellphone.”
A Chicago area native, Geri says her career in manufacturing began in high school when she worked for a local manufacturing company as part of the school’s work program. But her life took a detour, and she worked in the legal, healthcare and childcare fields after earning a two-year degree in the legal field from Triton College. She also started a family. “I have four wonderful kids and five adorable grandkids. My life is full, and I am happy!”
When life brought her back into manufacturing via her role at the AMBA, Geri says she met many wonderful mold shop owners, including Rick Finnie, president of M.R. Mold and Engineering Corp. (MRM). “In 2009, NPE was held in Chicago, and Rick asked if I would help in the booth. They gathered at least 70 solid leads, but had no luck contacting them. I asked if I could try, and Rick agreed. The first three people I called answered, and I held my own in conversations with them, armed with only a marketing brochure. When I told Rick, he hired me. I was a contract employee for MRM for seven years, finally joining their staff officially in January 2016.”
Geri attributes her success as a marketing professional to her people skills, which is a trait she’s proud to have inherited from her dad. She has become an integral part of the MRM management team, and continues to keep MRM in the public eye through trade events and media relations.
She says “education, starting at the grade school level” is key to bringing more women into manufacturing. “I am seeing more woman in engineering than in the past. We need to continue this trend in every aspect of our industry,” she says.
Marketing Manager, MGS Mfg. Group, Germantown, Wisconsin
Rebecca Reed has been in sales and marketing for most of her career. She’s worked in a variety of end markets, starting in 1988 with numerous opportunities within the beverage industry that helped to build her sales and marketing experience. After eight years, she decided to move into a completely new market and worked for an equipment manufacturer in the beauty industry. As marketing communications manager, Rebecca was responsible for executing external communications and managing all trade show coordination. As a member of the product development team, she was involved in creating new products and developing tactical marketing strategies for their successful promotion.
“Being exposed to those various positions over 12 years gave me new skill sets for which I sought out a new opportunity within the world of plastics at MGS Mfg. Group,” Rebecca says.
As MGS’ marketing manager, she has been fortunate to take on numerous responsibilities, including editor of the corporate employee newsletter, developing corporate press releases, assisting colleagues with marketing projects, and overseeing the company’s social media sites.
“I also enjoy being a partner to our business development team, assisting with administrative tasks, participating in customer meetings, fielding incoming sales calls and responding to RFQs,” she says.
She says that one of her most meaningful contributions to MGS is her willingness to do what is necessary to help get the job done. She believes work ethic and the ability to adapt to various roles and new tasks are essential for growth. This ties in nicely with being an “industry champion.” Rebecca is a staunch advocate of getting the word out to the next generation about the exciting and lucrative careers that are available in manufacturing and, more specifically, in the plastics industry.
“In addition to participating in various student career fairs, I am privileged to be the main point of contact for coordinating and participating in facility tours for high school and college students, where I can speak with students about their future career paths,” Rebecca says.
When it comes to women entering moldmaking, Rebecca believes it starts with turning the wheels of the younger female generation earlier. “Getting one-on-one time with young women can reveal how their interests line up nicely with careers in manufacturing,”
Director of Human Development and Marketing, Westminster Tool, Plainfield, Connecticut
Kylee Carbone came to Westminster Tool as a recent college graduate in business and marketing from Eastern Connecticut State University with a desire to apply what she had spent the previous four years preparing for and make a difference. “I knew I had a love for small, family-owned businesses, but I had no idea about mold manufacturing. I sat in the conference room during my interview looking out at the shop in complete awe,” she says.
Kylee grew up seven miles from Westminster, but was unaware of the work that was being done in her own community. She accepted a part-time position as a marketing intern, and says she was excited and nervous about the opportunity.
She believes her biggest contribution to the company is her ability to blend marketing/public relations with human resources. “It seems like an unusual combination, but the current manufacturing industry is so focused on workforce development that it is a central topic at most industry events,” she says. It was from these events that Kylee took information and applied it back at Westminster. For example, in Connecticut, there are incentives available to manufacturers that can offset training and equipment costs. Westminster used these incentives to train new talent and is now considered a success story.
When it comes to the industry overall, she plans to continue to raise awareness about manufacturing locally and was recognized by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce with a “40 under 40” award, which honors citizens younger than 40 who consistently demonstrate excellence in their profession, as well as leadership, commitment and service to the region. This commitment to awareness includes getting more women involved, and one way Kylee recommends for accomplishing this is “to continue celebrating some of the amazingly talented women who are already making a positive impact in this industry.”
Kylee plans on retiring at Westminster because she strongly believes in what the company stands for. She won’t predict where or how her role may change with time, simply because she never thought that her marketing career would lead her to dabble in human development.
Vice President, Diamond Tool & Engineering
A few years after Dorothy Smith married Kent Smith, president of Diamond Tool, the economy started to slow down and customers started sending work offshore. Having office experience, she volunteered to come in and help the company in any way she could. She discovered that she enjoyed the challenge of constant dilemmas within all aspects of the business.
This mentality was rooted in her upbringing. “I had the opportunity to grow up on a Midwestern family farm, where I learned the value of hard work, faith and being a team player. When problems arose, it was never, ‘It can’t be done,’ only, ‘How can we do it?’ I have used that attitude throughout my life to overcome challenges, raise a family, and help grow a mold-building company,” she says.
Over the years, Dorothy has helped the business run smoothly by assuming responsibility of accounting, human resources and IT, which includes invoicing customers, paying vendors, doing payroll, providing employee health insurance and benefits, ensuring taxes and bills are paid on time, and maintaining the computer network. This involves generating accurate reports with the company’s job costing system that reveal what is costing the company money and what is making the company money.
To bring the next generation into this industry, Dorothy simply suggests, “Tell more people. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors and tell your family members about the job opportunities in moldmaking.” She also recommends going into the schools and speaking to students. “We have students come in from nearby schools to learn and see what we manufacture. To help them assess their skill set and interests, we have them create, design and produce an actual part.”
As for engaging women, Diamond already has women working in accounting, job scheduling and polishing. She says they are also looking for women to run machines and design molds.
Dorothy’s future entails more training and mentoring to pass on her 20-plus years of experience, while continuing to look for ways to improve processes, scheduling and problem-solving.
Executive Director,American Mold Builders Association (1977 – 2007)
One can make the argument that Jeanette Bradley was the first woman to publicly work to support the U.S. moldmaking industry since, at the time of her passing in December 2007, she had served as executive director of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) for 30 of the 34 years since the organization was founded.
Born and raised in Chicago, Jeanette knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the business world. She attended Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After working at a legal firm for one year and spending three years at IBM, she decided to leave the working world and devote her time to raising her children.
That all changed in 1977. What started out as a small favor for her husband Olav Bradley, co-owner of PM Mold Co. in Schaumburg, Illinois, would become her new career and passion.
“Olav came to me and asked me if I could help write a letter for a group of mold shops,” Bradley recalled during an interview with MMT in mid-2007. “That was my first assignment with a group that became known as the AMBA. I discovered that AMBA needed someone to organize and handle the daily affairs of this young association. And so it started.”
Even after 30 years, Jeanette’s passion and involvement with the AMBA and its membership never wavered. “To watch an association expand its membership from 35 to its highest at 450 over the years was truly a remarkable experience,” she said. “The changes in the industry over the years offered a challenge to every member. Shops had to learn to work smarter, not harder. The AMBA offered opportunities and information to all its members to help them compete.”
Moldmaking is better because of the service Jeanette gave to the AMBA and the industry as a whole. “I will cherish every memory I have of life with the AMBA,” she said. “It was a wild ride, and I am thankful I was privileged to be a part of it.”
Amber L. Zapatka
Plastics Engineer, NyproMold Inc., Clinton, Massachusetts
In 2015, Amber Zapatka was a 27-year-old plastics engineer at NyproMold who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. While at NyproMold, Amber was given an opportunity to grow in virtually any direction, and, by the time her internship ended, she knew she wanted to be a full-time employee. The endless opportunities are what kept Amber at NyproMold, as well as the freedom to take on projects that challenged her.
Amber was a rising star in manufacturing. Her passion for the industry was evident and her energy was contagious, according to all who knew her, and she shared that passion in a recruitment video created by MoldMaking Technology titled “Moldmaking Matters: Your Career Can Make a Difference” (short.moldmakingtechnology.com/matters). The American Mold Builders Association, the Society of the Plastics Industry, the Mold Making and Mold Design Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers and Project Lead the Way sponsored the video, and Creative Technology produced it.
NyproMold and Nypro also jumped on board. Amber was one of six young manufacturing professionals who starred in the video and offered an inside look at the processes and people behind mold manufacturing. The video debuted at NPE 2015.
Unfortunately, Amber perished in a motorcycle accident in July 2015. Her obituary, which was published in the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun, says that Amber “began working at Nypro as an intern during her freshman year of college and was still employed there, as a Project Engineer Level II. She was also certified as a Master Molder Level III Instructor aka Train the Trainer (only 1 of 2 females worldwide to hold this certification). She enjoyed helping out at the annual kids Christmas party and spent oh so many hours making hundreds of Christmas ornaments for all the staff.”
Amber was a young woman who made a difference, and through the video and all she did during her time on this earth, she will no doubt continue to inspire the future generation of manufacturers.
Young professionals are vital to the moldmaking industry, and it is important to acknowledge those making strides in shaping the industry's future. MoldMaking Technology recognizes the industry's young talent through its inaugural 30-Under-30 Honors Program.
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