Meet Barb - Director of Operations, Products Group at ATS Automation

For most of her career, Barb has been working in manufacturing. She started her career in manufacturing in a HR capacity, and really learned about how many other opportunities there were within manufacturing that she wasn’t aware of.

Now working at ATS for over eight years, Barb is responsible for the operations team, comprising of production, supply chain & procurement, quality, planning and customer success. When you look at it from a process perspective, she is responsible for all orders from the time her team gets the purchase order to cash, the time the product is shipped to the customer, and all the other components in between.

What led me to the manufacturing sector:

I kind of fell into it and it found me; I didn’t really go looking for it. I wasn’t overly familiar with the terms manufacturing and supply chain operations growing up, I was more familiar with the doctors, nurses, lawyers, and police officers.  I grew up in Northern Ontario and we didn’t have a lot of manufacturing where I grew up. I didn’t even think about how the things that I used on a day-to-day were made. They just appeared in stores, and you buy the products.

When I was working for a manufacturer in a HR role, I saw so many different operational roles in manufacturing. I was getting more and more interested. So finally, I decided to apply to one of those roles and transitioned into a production planning role. I haven’t looked back since.

It was a whole new world of careers that the door opened for me when I landed my first job for a manufacturing company.

What continues to attract me to a career in manufacturing:

Likewise, to technology, manufacturing has continued to evolve. There’s so much excitement and it’s incredible to be a part of something being made. The products that we make at ATS are making the lives better for so many different people.

Manufacturing is also very tangible. You can watch the whole production and assembly process – something coming together from parts coming into the door to a big system going out the door.

Most significant moment in my career:

One of the most pivotal moments for me was being recognized at a previous organization for my leadership capabilities. I got to be part of a promotional video to talk about my leadership style and why I felt I was a successful leader.

It was something that I didn’t really think much about because it’s just who I am. I didn’t realize that my leadership style was actually benefiting others. It was a bit of an ‘aha moment’ for me, and something that I’ve continued to learn more about and pursue.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at ATS’ Annual Leadership Conference about what being a leader means. Having two moments in my career where I’ve been recognized for who I am and how I’m leading, encouraging, and shaping other people has been my proudest achievements.

ATS’ commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion:

About four years ago, we had a new Chief HR Officer join our organization and she was pivotal in turning the light switch on for many people on the topic of diversity and inclusion. With her support, we developed a Professional Women’s Network at ATS. That really help start deliberate conversation about what DEI means. Our Women’s Network has evolved to having an internal mentorship program and where we do external outreach activities. For example, recently women from University of Waterloo’s engineering program came for a tour and attended a panel discussion with female engineers to discuss unconscious biases.

More transparent conversations are being had at the leadership level to put diversity and inclusion at the forefront – making sure that we think about D&I during hiring, people development and succession planning. In general, women are being recognized and spotlighted more and more within our organization. Even when it comes to social media posts, our team is very cognisant of making sure that they’re portraying a diverse and inclusive organization.

Opportunities for women entering a manufacturing career:

They’re limitless. I’m in a role that traditionally required a technical background. I’m a sociologist – I graduated from an arts program in university. You can’t go in with blinders on.  You need to take the opportunity to explore and understand what’s out there.

There are some roles that have a skills requirement, but I think roles are more about matching to your personality, not about matching them to your education. You always have the option to go back to school for a certification or do some type of continuing education to help close that gap.

There is no role out there that females shouldn’t consider themselves for. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

Fun fact about myself:

When I’m not at work and if I need to decompress, cooking is my go-to. I also love watching cooking shows and being energized by them. My goal this year is to make the perfect Neapolitan pizza crust!