In the People Business
Summer Cline 01.17.2024
(Shown above, left to right): Elaine Roop, Senior Human Resources Manager, and Summer Cline, Vice President of Finance, Okuma America Corporation.
Okuma Women in Manufacturing: Q & A with Elaine Roop
Women are increasingly joining manufacturing organizations around the world and making a big difference with their contributions and impact. The same is true here at Okuma America Corporation and these women have interesting stories to share. I’d like to spread the word about what a great industry we’re in and how women can build fulfilling careers in manufacturing.
With this article, I’m kicking off my new series “Okuma Women in Manufacturing,” which will consist of Q&As with various ladies from our company. Here is the story shared with me by Elaine Roop, our Senior Human Resources Manager.
Elaine, please tell us about your role here at Okuma America.
I partner with Okuma business managers to provide strategic direction for our Human Resources initiatives, and this gives me the opportunity to work in a variety of capacities including recruiting, training, compensation, benefits, safety, and employee relations. I identify and implement HR programs that work in tandem with the company’s mission and values.
I like to say I’m a people person, and I’m in the people business. I feel it’s important to build employee relationships and focus on the employee point of view. I think this creates a company culture where employees like to come to work, enjoy their coworkers, and are willing to go above and beyond.
What was your professional background before coming to Okuma?
I worked in a predominantly male industry for 16 years and I was an executive assistant for a long time. This gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about business as a whole and all the different departments and the various aspects of how a company functions.
Then I worked as a manager of business development, and again, this gave me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge into many different facets of business. This became a springboard to ultimately finding my true calling in Human Resources. Or perhaps I should say, HR found me!
Interesting! How did HR “find you?”
It started when I was part of the team putting together ISO certification for a company I worked for at the time. We were looking at the handbooks, the policies, the procedures and thinking about how they affected the company and its employees and working to improve our processes. The more I did this, the more I became intrigued.
After a couple of years on this project, my predecessor retired, and this provided the opportunity to apply for the lead HR position. This was the beginning of my professional HR journey.
What’s your experience been like being a woman in manufacturing?
Manufacturing today is still a male-dominated industry, but more and more women are finding careers in this sector and that’s piquing the interest of other women. There are so many opportunities in various areas of manufacturing, so it’s more about finding your niche.
From time to time, you may find yourself being the only female in a room of executives and this is where it’s important to be confident in yourself. For me, this involves knowing and feeling comfortable with what I’m going to discuss. So, I always come well prepared.
It’s also important to build and maintain relationships with your colleagues. This helps establish a mutual foundation of trust and ultimately builds confidence. I think regardless of gender, the key is having confidence in what you know, and believing in yourself.
What are your thoughts on the manufacturing industry - is it what you expected?
It’s a lot more than what I expected – it’s better! I enjoy learning and I like to be challenged. If I’m not, then I don’t have the self-fulfillment that keeps me going.
In manufacturing, there’s so much to learn. You’re surrounded by people who have extensive knowledge, years of service, and are truly subject matter experts in their respective areas. It’s great just to listen to the way they collaborate with each other, and it’s always a learning experience. I can honestly say just about every day I’m learning something new and this is invigorating.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The people. I was fortunate to find a company that really cares about its employees, and this gives me the freedom to get to know the employees and assist them where I can. At the end of the day, that to me is fulfilling, and it means I’ve done my job.
Would you encourage other women to pursue a career in manufacturing?
Yes, I would definitely encourage it because I think it’s an exciting area and it’s enlightening to discover the processes that go into making a product. This industry touches every area of modern life and therefore provides a learning opportunity that’s quite different and meaningful.
One key thing that attracted me to this job was Okuma America’s mission statement “We passionately pursue a customer for life.” When I first read that I thought, “If they care that much about their customers, imagine how they’re going to treat their employees.” That was my first thought, believing that it’s always about great customer service. Now that I’m here, I feel like I’m contributing to that, which is very fulfilling. I’m happy to say I found a company where we have shared core values, a focused mission, and it's all about the people.