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. 

Anja Redzepagic is the National Channel Manager for ARCH Cutting Tools. Anja has been with the company for three months, but also has more than eight years of manufacturing experience. Prior to serving as a Channel Manager, she has worked as a Sales Engineer, implementing and testing tools. Earlier in her career, she spent a year as a Product Manager, a role in which she sourced, tested, and helped with the design of industrial razor blades. Anja holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Miami University (Ohio), studying human behavior and how it relates to purchasing behavior. She also earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

On choosing a manufacturing career path.

In a way, this career path chose me. As an undergraduate and a graduate student, I worked in banking. After earning my MBA, I attended a networking event with my father, who is an aerospace engineer. While there, I exchanged information with the owner of a company that manufactured industrial razor blades and machine knives. They called me for an interview, offered me a job, and that that began my career in manufacturing. Once I began in manufacturing, I never looked back – or considered an alternative career path.

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

My father was a major influence in introducing me to the manufacturing industry. We often talked about work on walks or fishing together. When I went into the metal working industry as a sales engineer, many of my colleagues became my mentors. Garry Jankowski, Tony Williams, Mike Monaghan, Norm MacDonald, Dale Reliford, and Cory Carpentar, to name a few.

Were there challenges as a woman in this career?
I encountered some challenges starting out because this is primarily a male-dominated industry, and a woman must be confident about what she brings to the table. However, I have found that if you are knowledgeable and relate to people from a direct and genuine position with respect, I was able to overcome the challenges and build relationships with colleagues and customers that reflect those values. I’m fortunate to have had great support from my family, my fiancé, and the teams I’ve worked with throughout my career that have contributed to my success.

On achieving career/personal life balance.
There’s always a give-and-take when it comes to balancing your work life and your personal life, depending on your own level of commitment to advancing your career. I think this is a challenge for both women and men in today’s society, as both are now playing important roles in the families they want to build. I’m engaged to be married. I met my fiancé while we were both working as sales engineers, and we share a mutual interest in – and a passion for – the metal working industry. I think the key is to find the right personal fit with your family and your employer. Be fully present for your family when you’re with them, and fully present with your employer when you’re working. Success in each area depends heavily on the other, in my experience.

Advice for the ‘young you,’ and other young women?
Don’t be stressed out about picking the “right” career right away. We sometimes find our passions where we least expect them. Be open to an opportunity, even if it’s not something you had imagined yourself doing. Manufacturing is an exciting industry. It’s rewarding to realize that manufacturing makes everything we see and touch – the cars, trains and planes that carry families safely, homes and the appliances that fill them, medical instruments that physicians use to save lives, even the dies that mold the water bottle you reach for after your run or workout.

My advice to young women considering a path like mine is, “dive in!” There are many women and men who’ve traveled the path before you, and many who want to advance the industry by sharing their passion for it and contributing to your success. Create a strong network of people who both teach you and challenge you.

I moved to the United States with my family when I was eight years old, as a war refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The opportunities I’ve had here to pursue an education and build a career are testaments to the possibilities that the American Dream holds – built by all-American manufacturing.

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