Hone-All Director Andrea Rodney’s rise up the corporate ladder didn’t begin with a specific career goal or an extensive leadership training programme. It really started from her desire to fully understand the technical elements of the manufacturing business where she joined simply to help out. She drew up her own process diagrams and cheat sheets and decorated her admin office with product schematics and diagrams. Soon, Andrea could answer any question put to her by a customer.
However, this was only one of the benefits. For as the company expanded and acquired a larger factory and expanded service range, Andrea began taking over more duties, from quoting, implementing approved Quality systems and procedures through to production management and marketing. Bringing her background in sales and customer service to her expanding responsibilities, Andrea was able to bring ‘softer’ skills to the company. For example, she made internal communication a focus through a regular employee newsletter and monthly forums where staff could share challenges and ideas for the workplace.
Although her colleagues respected her abilities, Andrea often stood out (especially 20 years ago) as a woman at exhibitions and industry events. Engineers within the industry would often discount her initially based on her gender, and were surprised to discover her in-depth technical knowledge. She now shapes the industry as a leader in groups such as Chair of the EEF Regional Advisory Board in the East and advises for a number of industry councils.
Over the years, Andrea has become recognised as a savvy businesswoman, receiving the Beds Businesswoman of the Year (for business leaders in Bedfordshire) and spoken at high-profile events, such as the EEF National Manufacturing Conference and the House of Commons.
In fact, it was the increasing volume of public talks she was asked to give that encouraged Andrea to work with a business coach.
She explains, “I had focused on the business for so long, I had forgotten to continue to develop myself. One of the most important things I learned was to understand that you don’t need to be what people expect you to be. Being yourself in a male dominated environment can be challenging, but you can bring different approaches to problem solving that can transform the business.”
Andrea also expands her knowledge base by connecting with other professionals in manufacturing. She regularly has visitors to her facility to learn about what Hone-All does well, and Andrea uses the opportunity to learn about best practices implemented across all aspects of the business. The wide variety of areas to learn about is part of what keeps her fascinated by her manufacturing career.
For women considering a career in manufacturing, Andrea advises that they can look beyond just the shop floor to sales, accounts, HR, quality management and beyond. One of the benefits of working in manufacturing, she says, is that there are many paths to leadership.
She says, “Always try to learn about all aspects of your business so you’ll have the knowledge to gain respect and present new ideas for moving the business forward. Question the way things have always been done, come up with ideas for improvement and don’t be afraid to present your ideas.”
Visit our Women in Manufacturing campaign page to find out more.