With Women in STEM Day coming up on February 11th, we are talking to various women working in Maintenance & Reliability. This week we meet operations manager Amanda Reineck and maintenance engineer Shelby Gagliardi from the USA’s largest roofing manufacturer GAF. They offer solid advice for those entering the field: “Be confident and don’t shy away from leadership opportunities.”
Operations manager Amanda Reineck obviously loves her job. Founded in 1886, the Texas-based GAF is the largest roofing manufacturer in the USA with over 3,700 employees and a strong sense for driving diversity and innovation.
“I manage the production and maintenance departments,” says Amanda. “So, I oversee all the actual operations – all the operators that keep the machine running, and all the mechanics and electricians for when repairs are needed. And we are also always looking for predictive maintenance opportunities – to avoid equipment failing in the first place.”
As a maintenance engineer with a strong background in reliability, Shelby Gagliardi is also always looking for predictive maintenance opportunities. “My day-to-day includes diagnosing whatever issues may come up with the manufacturing machines. This entails being hands-on, interpreting data, and seeking improvement opportunities.”
While Shelby works at the plant producing the base layer for shingles, Amanda’s plant makes the finished shingles. “Shelby’s plant supplies us with our raw material. So, we work together regularly troubleshooting issues and making sure our needs are met,” says Amanda.
Both Amanda and Shelby started their careers in the oil and gas industry. For Shelby, she joined GAF last year when she was looking to move closer to Dallas. “I knew I liked being in manufacturing, so I joined. And I ended up really liking the atmosphere. Everybody’s got a family sort of attitude.”
“For me, I had been working for a really big company and I started to feel a bit like a cog in the wheel,” says Amanda. “So, I started looking at some other companies and industries where I might have more responsibility and leadership opportunities. GAF caught my eye: it was a bit smaller and you could see the whole process from raw material to actually seeing your product on someone’s house. That’s something you really don’t get in oil and gas.”
We came in and fixed it and made a huge difference for production. It was high stakes and showed the impact our department can have.
“Early on GAF sent me to see actual roofing installations and I got to talk to the homeowners,” recalls Amanda. “It was amazing: seeing the impact of what I was doing. I was part of helping make someone’s life better by providing a product that went to maintaining their home. I was hooked.”
“It’s funny,” laughs Shelby. “For the first four or five months I was working here, my whole family was convinced I was installing roofs – even though I told them I was working at a shingles factory.”
“But for me, that moment I realized I loved this job didn’t start as the most enjoyable thing: getting called in on Labor Day weekend,” recalls Shelby. “But we came in and fixed something and made a huge difference for production. It was high stakes and showed the impact our department can have.”
The families of neither Amanda nor Shelby had a manufacturing background. “But I can say my parents were extremely hardworking – both of them, and to this day. So that was a big influence on me. Plus, I always loved math,” says Shelby.
“Both my parents were accountants so they loved math – so yes, numbers and data are probably also in my blood,” laughs Amanda. “And my parents also encouraged me to have a really strong work ethic and to think about job security. And engineering definitely has good job security.”
“It’s amazing to see them join seamlessly to accomplish something that I doubted was even possible.”
Amanda has always been inspired by the female leaders she encountered throughout her career. “I was very impressed how they could lead large groups of people and make difficult decisions. And this was true on the technical side as well. One female senior engineer was probably one of the smartest individuals I’ve ever interacted with. She was always extremely confident of her technical analysis and just very, very capable.”
Now as a manager herself, Amanda gets the most job satisfaction from watching her team working together. “It’s amazing to see them join seamlessly to accomplish something that I doubted was even possible. They’ve actually become my role models,” says Amanda.
“Of course, I love leading them and helping coordinate a response to a particular issue. But when we are all talking about it as a team, with both the maintenance and production groups working together, to find a solution… And then when that solution is implemented and the line goes back to normal… That fills me with a lot of pride.”
“It’s similar for me,” adds Shelby. “We have regular shutdowns to do maintenance work at our plant and it gets pretty hectic. So, at the end of the day, we like to get together and go over what we accomplished, what we learned and what we can maybe do better next time. I love that team feeling as we check all the boxes.”
Meanwhile, Amanda and Shelby rarely notice they work in a male-dominated industry and regard their career choice as very positive.
“Here, I’m treated with the same respect as my male colleagues,” says Amanda. “But I would say when you first start in your career in a male-dominated industry, it’s just naturally intimidating, because you’re working with people that maybe have a different mindset or background. But if you work for the right company that really values diversity and gender inclusion, then your experience at work can be extremely rewarding.”
“I would second that,” says Shelby. “I’ve never been made to feel different. And, actually from my experience, while there are a lot of men, there are still a lot of women. During my first co-op and job experiences, there was always a female I could kind of lean on and bounce stuff off, which made it a lot less scary. You can watch how they handle themselves. So, I think it’s important to seek out these kinds of mentors.”
“The more that you can encourage diversity and women in leadership, the better.”
Companies should still be as proactive as possible in encouraging inclusion, according to Amanda. “The more that you can encourage diversity and women in leadership, the better. The more variety and perspectives, the better – from the top to the bottom. I think it just helps spawn creativity.”
“I think communication is a big aspect for this,” says Shelby. “You need to get the word out: to let women know, especially in colleges, what opportunities are out there. We need more of these conversations.”
“As for advice for other females entering the field,” says Amanda, “I would say be confident in your capabilities, and do not shy away from leadership opportunities because these can be really rewarding.”
Shelby nods: “Not being afraid is a big part of it.”
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