In the second part of our tribute to women working at IMI, we would like to spotlight a woman that has worn many hats over the past few years. Stephanie came to us as a millwright with a little over 10 years’ experience, and is now the Director of our sister company, Safe Workforce Development. Here is what Stephanie had to say about how her journey lead her to being the Safety guru she is today:
What was your background before becoming a Safety Professional? I’ve had a few twists and turns in my career. I started out as an art major in college, which I like to joke is good for the soul but not necessarily the pocketbook. When I graduated, I ended up taking a job as a Millwright helper to pay the bills. My family has always been involved with pluming and mechanical pursuits, so it seemed like a good fit. I worked first as a helper, then a Millwright for around 10 years. After coming to IMI, I started to become more and more interested in the Safety side of things. I wanted to show the Safety Director at the time that I was committed, so on nights and weekends I took an online degree course and ended up getting a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Occupational Safety and Health from the University of Connecticut. After that, I was brought on to work with the IMI Safety Department, which then spun off into Safe Workforce Development and have been here since 2016.
What were your reasons/motivation for becoming a Safety Professional? I don’t think it’s too shocking to hear that I got into safety because I wanted to help people. I’ve seen the aftermath of accidents – both for the person involved and for those around them, and I don’t want anyone to have to experience that kind of pain and suffering if I can help it. I also love teaching and helping people to understand that safety rules and regulations aren’t these mysterious and boring bits of legal jargon that have nothing to do with their day-to-day life. Although I’m probably biased, I really believe that safety can be not only caring, but fun and interesting. That’s what I set out to show people every day.
What have been some obstacles that you have encountered as a woman in the workplace? Early on in my career as a helper and millwright, I experienced a little push-back just because it was so rare to see a woman on these sites. I think some folks didn’t believe that I could actually do the job. IMI has been welcoming since the very first day. I would say that it is one of the most women-friendly companies I’ve personally seen in industrial maintenance/fabrication/and construction. Women are much more common in the Safety Profession, and I’ve always felt welcome in that field.
Where would you like to see your career with SWD, or in the Safety field in general, go from here? I’m committed to making Safe Workforce Development THE premiere Safety training and consulting company in the Southeast…then we’ll see where things go from there! In addition, I want to do everything in my power to make sure the men and women I work with, and train are not only successful in their own careers, but safe while doing it.
Any words of advice for young ladies that might want to take up Millwright work or Safety? Or working in a male-dominated field? The thing I always talk about in training classes is that you don’t have to be a big, burly guy to do industrial or construction work. In fact, it’s better for your muscle and joint health in the long run if you don’t try to manhandle everything! There are tools, there are strategies, there are ways to be successful in just about any field, no matter your gender.