Within TDC’s Premier Industrial Parks there are many businesses that literally keep us moving. Air Industrial Park hosts 25 businesses, Banker Road Industrial Park hosts 6 businesses and within these parks, a wide variety of international industrial manufacturers do business. Within those businesses are thousands of men and women assembling cables, machines, lighting, trains and buses by hand. This month, in honor of Women’s History Month, we will be focusing on the women working in the manufacturing industry here in the Greater Plattsburgh region. During the next few weeks we will be sharing local stories of women within the industry in a variety of positions.
We asked a set of questions to learn what led these professionals to manufacturing and, to share what advice they could offer other people, especially women-to-women. These stories will certainly inspire others in many ways. They may validate current work or career paths, influence a change in job field or, pique the interest of young people as they enter the workforce or head off to college. Each woman's pathway is unique and we are thankful for their hard work, dedication, perseverance and contributions to the North Country and to the manufacturing industry. This month, we celebrate them and all women who make us move!
Since this article was published, Heather has been promoted to Plant Manager.
1. What education (formal or informal) pathway did you choose and how has it helped you through your career?
I completed my high school studies in 2001 and enrolled in community college for a semester, which I quickly realized that sitting in a classroom setting was not for me. I decided to enter the workforce and went straight to manufacturing and warehousing. I thought it would suit me well, I enjoy being hands on, and busy.
Over the course of 20 years, I have worked in various manufacturing and warehousing facilities here in Plattsburgh. Each one of these jobs has helped bring me to where I am today.
I now work for Imeco Cables America, which produces wire harnesses and power cables for many clients in the transit industry. I started at Imeco 8 years ago, as a harness assembler. I challenged myself to learn every aspect, while also maintaining speed, efficiency and a high standard of quality. I then took a role in the testing and crimping aspect of harness assembly. This allowed me to learn even more, I knew the whole harness assembly process. Afterwards, I was promoted to the quality department as an inspector. In that role, I had a vast amount of information at my disposal. I again pushed myself to learn anything and everything available to me, even if it wasn’t directly related my job. I then moved into the role of First Article (Sample) Inspector. I was tasked with final inspection of all first article samples. A few years into that role led to a promotion to Quality Supervisor, which oversees all aspects of the Quality Department and I manage two floor inspectors. In May of 2021, I was also asked to manage the production floor.
Currently, I oversee all day-to-day activities regarding production and quality and, I manage a team of roughly 40 employees. I feel that my decision to leave post-secondary education and enter the workforce has allowed me to move very freely within Imeco Cables. I have no degree tying me to one field in particular, but rather a vast knowledge of all aspects of the trade. I also feel I would not be in the same position I am today had I stayed and completed a 2 or 4 year degree.
2. What advice would you give to young people, especially young women going into male dominated industries?
My best advice would be that you can do anything you put your mind to. Challenge yourself, always. Set goals. Do not set unrealistic expectations, as this leads to let downs. Apply yourself, even where not required. Learn everything at your disposal. Always offer your help and knowledge to others. Be on time, and have good attendance. Carry yourself in a respectful, friendly way.
Most importantly, remember that in order to succeed, you must first fail. Failure is ok, it’s nothing more than a learning tool.
3. Did you have a mentor?
Yes, that would be Tammy Cole Sherman. Tammy was my boss at a local warehouse facility many years ago. She gave me the guidance and push I needed as a young adult in the working world to really get going. She taught me many things related to warehousing, cycle counting, picking, and receiving. She listened and let me apply my idea of how I thought we could achieve picking orders at a faster, more efficient rate through what we dubbed “bundle picking.' Tammy also showed me that even if you are in a higher position, you help your people. Many times she would change into her steel toes and come out on the floor in a skirt or dress slacks, and work alongside us. She always demonstrated friendliness, and fairness. Her camaraderie was warm and welcoming. Tammy would always remind me how smart I was, and how she believed that one day, I too would be in an office position somewhere. I have taken her many lessons with me on my work journey and appreciate her willingness to believe me in.
4. What do you love about living, working and playing here in the Adirondacks?
For me, this is home. I was born and raised here. I have a rather large extended family, most still residing in this area. Living and working in this area has allowed me to maintain close relations with family and friends.
It has allowed me to grow my roots even deeper. I have visited some places, however, there is no beauty quite like our Adirondacks.
I enjoy the laid back pace of our area, versus the hustle and bustle you find in large cities. I enjoy having so many outdoor activities readily available for our pleasure. I am an avid camper, fisherwomen, and explorer of our area. Packed with the smell of fresh pine, beautiful lakes, rivers, and mountains, there’s not a place I have found in my travels yet that is near comparable.
5. What positive changes would you like to see in your industry and/or in the Greater Plattsburgh region?
I feel Plattsburgh has a bright future if the time and effort is put into attracting and retaining more manufacturing businesses. We sit in a well-positioned gateway between our neighbors in Canada and large cities, like New York City. This gateway opens the door for so much potential and growth, not just in my industry, but in all manufacturing and warehousing industries. In the coming years, I hope to watch our area boom with prosperity from new business endeavors.
Imeco specializes in the manufacturing of power cables, wiring harnesses, control panels, and over molding applications. Imeco Cables serves the industries of transportation, heavy equipment, control panels, medical, telecommunications, and military. Their products are superior quality components that are robust enough to stand up to extreme conditions for the duration of the equipment’s life cycle. The quality of the wiring harnesses and power cables is essential as they are fully assembled and placed into public transportation vehicles like city buses. The cables assembled here in Plattsburgh can control the whole system of a bus from the HVAC to the dashboard to the signal lights. They have factories in Aguascalientes (Mexico), Montreal (Canada) and here in Plattsburgh, NY (shown below). Since 2011, these facilities have been certified as LEED Silver facilities to foster a sustainable and Earth-conscious environment; 90% of Imeco Cables industrial waste is recycled.