This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Allison’s Video
“Growing up, I thought I would be the President of the United States or a small animal vet or an FBI agent…”
As a child and young adult, Allison Giddens didn’t see a direct path leading her to a career in manufacturing. She didn’t grow up tinkering with tools in the garage. She didn’t take things apart just to see how they worked or have a family full of engineers encouraging her to follow in their footsteps.
While she was good at science and math, she also exceled at other subjects and was interested in pursuing many different jobs. After graduating college with degrees in psychology and criminal justice, she realized that she had to choose just one and found a position in sales and marketing at a large media company in Atlanta.
Allison said, “I took the job because I thought it would be “glamorous” to work for a big corporation, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted a bit more control over my career path, and a job that could play to my many different strengths, interests, and skills.”
“I had two versions of Manufacturing in my head: dark, dirty, and dingy or super high-tech.”
She decided to start looking for a job that would allow her to challenge herself and work on projects that required a varied skill set. At that time, she knew very little about manufacturing, and certainly never considered working in an industry she thought would be “dark, dirty, and dingy” or so high-tech and scientific that she wouldn’t have the skills or knowledge needed to succeed.
However, she took a chance and interviewed for a position at Win-Tech, a machine shop in Kennesaw, Georgia, owned by a family friend, Dennis Winslow. The position appealed to her because she wanted to work for a smaller company where she felt she could make a difference. At the interview, she also learned that her previous impressions of manufacturing were completely inaccurate.
She was hired to work on special projects and was immediately put on a team with two machinists and an engineer — all of whom had many years of experience in manufacturing — to implement lean manufacturing techniques, designed to improve the processes in the milling department.
“I thought this is my chance to show that I’m not expendable – I’m invaluable.”
“I had no idea what I was getting into. Dennis gave me a few books and a video on lean and I began to study,” Giddens said. “When I called my dad that night to tell him about my new job, he chuckled a little.
“I asked him why and he said that “special projects” is usually what they title someone who is expendable. Since my dad was always very supportive of me, I took his words to heart and thought, ‘well, this is my chance to show that I’m not expendable – I’m invaluable.’ ”
Her dad’s comment helped motivate her to listen and learn as much as she could without trying to be the lead, which was how she usually approached team projects. She came into the project expecting to be treated as the ‘new girl.’ Instead, “everyone was incredibly kind and patient with me. It was a great experience that taught me a lot.”
“I love the fact that when you work hard, you can see real, tangible results.”
During this project, the team worked to improve the layout of tools and machinery. They designed a new piece of equipment to hold all of the tools used in the milling department. This made it much easier for the machinists to locate what they needed and improved efficiency. The positive feedback was overwhelming and Giddens was hooked. Not only could she make a difference, but she could immediately see the results of the team’s efforts.
“Working in a small machine shop, where I get to wear many different hats, is a great fit for me.”
After that project was completed, she moved into a role where she worked with accounts payable and purchasing. She learned to read blueprints, understand specifications on the final product, and how to determine the material to order. The variety of skills needed throughout each day and week kept Giddens engaged and happy with her work. She knew she had found the right fit for her “multipotentialite” personality.
She describes a “multipotentialite” personality as someone who doesn’t necessarily gravitate to one skill set or career path, but who is interested in and proficient in many different types of work. She believes that this type of personality can see the “big picture” of an organization and use this to connect people and understand how to best utilize their strengths. This has not only allowed her to work with many different departments simultaneously, but to fill in when needed and respond to the constant change in a machine shop setting.
Beginning to realize the breadth of career opportunities within manufacturing, Giddens was looking for a way to encourage those around her to look at manufacturing as a career.
“I believe we are at a tipping point.”
The opportunity instead found her, when in 2012, she received a post card inviting her to a national conference for Women in Manufacturing, a group dedicated to supporting, promoting, and inspiring women who are currently pursuing or have chosen a career in the manufacturing industry. Believing she could be a role model and help educate other women who hadn’t yet found their calling to discover the exciting industry that had turned out to be such a great fit for her, Giddens attended the conference. At the conference, the women she met and the support system she found, deeply impressed her. Giddens was eager to create a similar support system in Georgia and launched the Georgia chapter of Women in Manufacturing in 2014.
The Georgia chapter focuses on educating women and young students, on the careers available in manufacturing. It organizes plant tours and members speak at career day events about positions that require specialized technical skills, as well as positions available in other parts of manufacturing companies, such as finance, administration, project management, process improvement, and marketing.
The organization’s members also educate and support each other on issues related to equality in the workplace. Giddens believes that workplace culture is at a tipping point and by continuing to push forward, it ensures that the next generation of workers will truly find that biases (both intentional and unintentional) are a thing of the past.
“Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but now that I’m in manufacturing, I know that it’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
Giddens is a multi-faceted individual who, outside of work, enjoys taking courses in stand-up comedy, researching genealogy, and running The Dave Krache Foundation (named after her father), which gives underprivileged kids a chance to play sports. She truly embraces her ability to learn about and do many different things in life and in the workplace and continues to spread the message to others that they have to find what makes them happy and do it, even if they find it somewhere they never expected.
Win-Tech is an AS9100-certified custom precision machine shop located in Kennesaw, Georgia. Founded by Dennis Winslow in 1988, the company has grown to employ 42 of employees with expertise in milling, drilling, turning, surface grinding, EDM wire cutting, water jet machining, five-axis machining, and more. Named a 2016 Top 25 Small Business of the Year by the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, the company is actively involved in the community, including participation in events such as National Manufacturing Day and organizations such as National Tooling & Machining Association, Women in Manufacturing, and Leadership Cobb.