Aneesa Muthana’s first days in manufacturing were spent in her parents’ machine shop. In 1993, Aneesa assumed leadership of Pioneer Service Inc., where she currently serves as President and co-owner. Most recently, the Manufacturing Institute named her as a 2017 STEP honoree for promoting diversity and teamwork in the workplace, and for excelling as a mentor for women and youth looking to become leaders in the industry.
“Manufacturers are makers. The process of bringing people together to MAKE something that will go on to serve a bigger purpose is where my passion lies. Knowing that the parts that leave my shop are contributing to the world at large, touching lives, and benefiting people fuels my passion.”
I’m often asked how women can succeed in manufacturing. The assumption is that women are at a disadvantage, or, worse, that they’re doomed to mediocrity.
This is inaccurate. One of the biggest challenges facing women is the same one faced by the industry as a whole: our business went overseas, and we want it back. To reclaim it, we need a skilled, efficient, and technology-driven workforce. And for that, we need a deep talent pool that includes both women and men, millennials and veterans.
With that in mind, here’s the sum of my learning from over 30 years in the industry.
Don’t play the victim. Man or woman: the world doesn’t owe you anything. Find your niche and shine!
Respect everyone regardless of age or tenure. Forget the negative stereotypes of “old white men” and “entitled millennials” that obstruct the collaboration at the heart of every successful project. The best results come from the right mix of old school and innovation.
Build relationships. Create connections with others in the industry, including shop workers and especially your competitors. Network with people that make your industry stronger, particularly in local and national associations. Work together to keep manufacturing onshore.
Get your hands dirty. Nothing beats the value of hands-on experience, even if you’re planning on a desk job. If it feels weird, then force it until it becomes natural.
Believe in yourself. Leadership qualities are neither feminine nor masculine. Put the title of “leader” first, and your gender second. Better yet, just forget it altogether.
Stay humble. The hardest part of my job is dealing with arrogance, which can create toxic work environments and strangles relationships. Humility leaves you open to the lessons taught by others, no matter who they are.