ARCH® Cutting Tools is committed to supporting a gender-diverse culture. Research shows that diverse talent – especially gender diversity – drives innovation. But greater diversity gains, especially in manufacturing, can’t be achieved until more women enter the industry. An important way to grow and retain a talented manufacturing workforce is to focus on gender inclusivity. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women account for 47% of total the overall workforce, but only 30% of the manufacturing workforce.

ARCH Cutting Tools believes that needs to change. With this series highlighting women in manufacturing during International Women’s Month, we want to inspire women to discover all the opportunities in manufacturing that can provide them rewarding careers. 

Allyson Robitaille is a sales representative with Butler Bros. Industrial Supply, a sales partner of ARCH Cutting Tools. Allyson has been with Butler Bros. for nearly a year-and-a half but has more than nine years of experience in the industrial supply business. She keeps current by regularly taking classes relating to the industrial products she represents including PPE, abrasives, and – of course – cutting tools.

On choosing a manufacturing-related career path.

I started in industrial sales in my early 20s, looking for a fresh start at a new career, and I found it. Prior to this, I was working in retail. I initially interviewed for a receptionist position in the industry, but when I was called back to interview for a sales representative position – and I was hired. I began selling safety supplies and PPE, but I had the chance to expand my role and sell everything on the line card – abrasives, chemicals, cutting tools, everything – I became a full-line outside sales representative. I’m happy to be working in this industry, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities it’s given me. I hope to be doing this for a long time.

Did you have a mentor, or someone who influenced you?

When I first started in this industry, I didn’t have just one mentor, but I always observed the veteran account managers and I admired – and aspired to – their success. I saw them as influencers, and I always welcomed their advice; and put it to work. At Butler Bros., I see my sales manager, Greg Garbick, in that role. He’s an excellent mentor and a knowledgeable teacher. He is an effective manager because he always offers advice and helps me find solutions when I’m struggling with a project. This industry is always changing and there is always something new to learn. I learn by listening to, and absorbing knowledge from, my managers and co-workers.

Were there challenges as a woman in this career?
In the beginning, I think I experienced some challenges. Sometimes I felt that I was being tested on my knowledge of the manufacturing industry by my customers. Other times, customers would take a different approach, showing me around and “taking me under their wing,” in a way. I heard dozens of times, from shop employees, that they don’t see women walk through the plant very often. I hope that changes in the near future!

I also ran into early challenges on specific product knowledge, learning the “shop talk,” that is, the language of the manufacturing environment, and just the day-to-day challenges of being in sales. But I learned a lot by getting on the shop floors of my accounts, doing my own research, and talking with some of my customers, who offered insight into their operations that helped me understand the industry overall better.

On achieving career/personal life balance.
Balancing my personal and working lives hasn’t really been a challenge for me. I do take my work home with me, but I make a point to try to “turn things off” during the weekend. In sales, it sometimes feels like you’re constantly thinking about Monday through Friday, without a break. So, I really enjoy my weekends off with my family and friends.

Advice for the ‘young you,’ and other young women?
I’d tell my younger self, “Take chances. Put yourself in a position that will help you move forward.” This applies to a career and your personal life. And say “yes” more often. Taking a chance can be scary, but it also can be rewarding.

For all young women, I definitely would recommend a career like mine. Working in manufacturing sales is full of opportunities to better yourself and grow your career. People I’ve worked with have provided me a wealth of knowledge to help me grow. Look for people who want to help and teach – it’s important to use that to your advantage.

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