Updated: Mar 22, 2019
Q1. What does Empowering Women in Industry mean to you?
What does 'Empowering Women in Industry' mean to me? It means leadership by women and for women. It means community among a group of talented women engaged in contributing to asset intensive industrial organizations as executives, as employees, as vendors, as consultants. Working as a woman in these tough-rough male dominated organizations is not easy to do. 'Empowering Women in Industry' represents leadership by women and for women. Now is the time for such leadership.
Q2. How did you get started working in your field?
Academically I'm a mathematician and therefore a curious problem solver. When began my career as a young woman fresh out of university, my day job was in IT. Interestingly, I was never in a boring job. I started off working as a systems engineer for a major computer manufacturer, then a national retail organization followed by a pulp and paper manufacturer. I had a quarter-life crisis and moved out of the corporate world to pursue a career with a consulting company. I worked in telecomm, online banking, global shipping, and stock exchange internals before I decided that I was missing something in my life. It was children. This realization broke up my first marriage. After I remarried and gave birth to my first baby I set out consulting on my own and never looked back. I've been remarkably fortunate to work with intelligent and gifted people and always found myself engaged in interesting projects. I could justify each of them by what I was able to contribute and what I was learning.
Q3. What do you love most about your job? / What are you most proud of?
My love for mathematics and problem solving began in high school and has never diminished. Fortunately early on in my career I grew to respect the problems business leaders were faced with and realized these business problems were complex and needed to be solved too! One of my first responsibilities as a consultant with DatamastersSoftwareHouse.com was working as a technology advisor and member of a user-directed team at a pulp and paper mill. They were searching for a computerized maintenance management system. This was my first exposure to maintenance. What I loved about this complex area of business was its proximity to the shop floor and intimate relationship with production, the source of revenue for the corporation. But what I loved the very most were the people. They are men and women of action, there to solve problems and make sure the assets are up-and-running. Thus began my career in maintenance, reliability, and now asset management! As a consultant I first found myself consulting in forestry to pulp and paper, box and packaging, OSB and lumber. I moved on to power generation and have done years of consulting in the marine industry for a major international port, several terminal handlers, and with global marine shipping firms. Government too. I'm humbled and proud to say that I've been awarded for my contribution to maintenance and reliability in the pulp and paper industry. What I'm most proud of professionally though is the prestigious international award one of my clients - the University of California, San Diego - received for the asset management process-before-technology project I was involved in for Facilities Management. On personal level I'm very proud of each of my sons who are thriving, contributing members of society.
Q4. What advice would you give someone considering this line of work?
My advice to every woman, every person is "pursue your passion". If your passion is motivated by STEM then you might find yourself working in a male-dominated industrial environment. It's now scientifically proven that men and women think differently where both are of equal value. But statistics show a low survival rate for women as graduates move into the workforce and progress through the chain of command. At the executive level, successful women are hard to find. This has to change. Too much talent is being ignored. My advice remains "pursue your passion"! I never said it would be easy. I have a few suggestions - •Seek the support of successful women who have shared your challenges and can offer support and advice. •Find a person you respect and admire and ask them to be your mentor. •The industrial world is changing quickly; continue on the path of constant learning. •If you get discouraged, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on your path! •Whatever you do, preserve your integrity. Your reputation is all you have. It counts.
Q5. Anything else you would like to add?
Highlights of my career include the opportunity I took to to develop an Asset Performance Accelerator FORTIG.com, a product developed out of my years of practice as a management consultant with DatamastersSoftwareHouse.com focused on maintenance, reliability, and asset management in industrial organizations. I blog about topics of professional interest to me at GailNPetersen.com and support #WomenInSTEM through my commitment to empowering female students to gain mastery in math at LadybugTutors.com.