ABBers earn kudos with Manufacturing Institute’s STEP Ahead awards

Accolades recognize women who exemplify leadership within their companies

The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards, which recognize women in science, technology, engineering, and production careers who exemplify leadership within their companies, will be officially handed out at a live and online event in Washington, DC on November 4.  This year, ABB’s Tracy Long and Victoria Tester are being honored as STEP Ahead and Emerging Leader award winners respectively.

Tracy Long and Victoria Tester - STEP award winners
Tracy Long (Left) – STEP Ahead Award winner and Victoria Tester (Right) – Emerging Leader award winner


 

We sat down with Tracy and Victoria to learn a bit more about their careers, what motivates them and how we can support women in manufacturing.

How did you get started in manufacturing?

Victoria: I was a senior in college, fueling airplanes at an airport, about to graduate with a degree in international business. I had heard of ABB as a good company to work for and when an internship came up, I applied for it. It was in supply chain, and I just fell in love with it and with the manufacturing business. After the internship, I was hired full-time and I’m now a supply chain manager.

Tracy: I graduated with a marketing degree and moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas where I got a temp job working at Baldor Electric. I moved into a permanent role and I never left. It’s been 33 years. I spent 18 years in finance, then investor relations for five years, and after ABB acquired Baldor in 2011, I moved into marketing and communications. I really appreciate working for a company that manufacturers something tangible like electric motors that makes so many other things possible.


What motivates you?

Victoria: I think about the employees on the floor—my job wouldn’t exist without them. My role in supply chain is to get them what they need when they need it, no more no less. Of course, my husband is a tremendous motivator, too—he’s my number one fan.

Tracy: My motivators have stayed the same in all the roles I’ve had. It’s about making someone else’s job easier, whether that’s an analyst writing a report to recommending the company’s stock or giving sales teams the materials and support they need to sell to customers. I get satisfaction from the fact that I’ve helped promote this business and made someone else successful.

Talk about your mentors—who were/are they and how have they helped you in your career and outside of work?

Victoria: Within ABB, Myla Petree, my plant manager Dexter Lekwa, and the person who hired me, Michael, all play huge part in encouraging me. Sometimes I need to be “pushed off the ledge.” I want to know everything about everything before stepping into job, but that’s not how it works. They give me confidence by telling me “you can do it.”

Tracy: I’ve never been in a formal mentoring relationship as a mentee, but I’ve had several informal mentors over the years. They set good examples and gave advice without giving the answers. I’ll never know it all—every day I can learn from the people I work with about the way they solve problems. For years I watched [former head of US communications] Mary Flieller handle situations and was in awe of how she made it look easy. Now I’m a mentor to a couple of people, and that is also valuable for me because I get to hear other perspectives.

How has your experience at ABB shaped you as an engineer, coworker, leader, etc.?

Victoria: I like to say I’m ABB-grown. The people I’ve worked with and the leadership at ABB have made me what I am today. I’ve gone from intern to supply chain manager in five years, and I also got my master’s degree during that time. Someone took a chance on hiring me, and later on making me a manager, but the leaders of the organization have cheered me on the whole time and watched me grow.

Tracy: I grew up at ABB—this is literally the only building I’ve ever worked in, and I’m deeply grateful for the career I’ve had. I’ve had a huge variety of projects to work on. I was given opportunities and said yes to almost every one, including getting a second bachelor’s degree. You have nothing to lose by trying a new endeavor. Get outside your comfort zone, take ownership, and you’ll get opportunities to solidify your place as a team player and be someone your colleagues can rely on.

Victoria: There is no limit to what you can do at ABB if you rise to the challenge. I’ve been forced outside of my comfort zone many times—it’s good for you and makes you a well-rounded person. I like challenge all the time–I’m in supply chain, after all—but after my first week at ABB I cried to my mom because I didn’t know anything about anything. My boss was very supportive and said, “don’t worry—SAP is not easy, but you’re going to master it.” ABB sees your capabilities even when they’re hard to see yourself.

Tracy: When moving into a new role, you can’t even imagine what that job four steps away entails. How could you do that one day? But as you do different things and gain experience, you gather those skills. The closer you get, the less scary those things become.

What can we do to get more women into STEM careers?

Victoria: Exposure. There is a stigma with manufacturing that you’ll be in dirty boring jobs, working mostly with men, and it won’t be a comfortable environment. But that isn’t true at all. There are many opportunities within manufacturing—look at the women who have made careers in this business. I’ve been given so many opportunities at ABB within supply chain that I wouldn’t necessarily get elsewhere. It’s all about educating women about those opportunities and then giving them a chance.

Tracy: Regardless of your educational background, it’s about aptitude and mindset. I like math and I like doing analytical things and I’ve been able to do that in many roles. I think it’s important to get girls interested in STEM through things like this activity we did with Girl Scouts. The kids made catapults out of popsicle sticks—they were doing engineering, solving problems. We need people who can do that.


 

The STEP Ahead Awards give women across the country a platform to showcase the incredible opportunities the industry has to offer, whether they are running the company, designing the next big product, or testing innovations on the shop floor. This national honor identifies top talent in the manufacturing industry, and further encourages award winners to mentor and support the next generation of female talent to pursue manufacturing careers.

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About the author

Bob Fesmire

Bob Fesmire is a Content Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 150 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, industrial automation and big data. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry.
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