President and CEO, AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc.

Kim Thira is the President and CEO of AceTronic Industrial Controls Inc., a company that is primarily invested in the plastics manufacturing industry. Kim purchased AceTronic in 2008, a company founded by her father, Harb Mushiana in 1983. As well as serving manufacturers that are molding and forming plastic parts/components, AceTronic also works as a valued supplier to companies utilizing temperature control in their manufacturing processes. Kim has spent the last 25+ years establishing a name for AceTronic as the best source for plastic processing products, repair and calibration.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

“It’s an opportunity for women to showcase what they’ve accomplished over the years and bring women’s accomplishments and successes to the forefront, especially those that are in male dominated industries.”

What made you choose a career in manufacturing?

“I ended up at AceTronic by way of my dad [AceTronic’s former owner] just asking for some help. I came in to start doing the administrative side of the job for him. It slowly started evolving where I was doing sales for the company. I then started to realize the importance of how we [AceTronic] impacted the bigger world around us. The base that my father created at AceTronic was one of reliability and dependability. We are always there for our customers when they need us.”

“On a personal note, I’m always interested in seeing how I can make something easier or better for someone. By way of AceTronic, we were doing just that for our customers. That really resonated with me as a person – being able to be a resource for our customers that they could rely on. That gave me my passion, and that’s still here with me today. I never want to lose that sense of being dependable for our customers. Companies grow and grow and grow, and sometimes lose sight of what their goals were when they first started. I always tell my daughters, no matter how, or where we go, or how the company grows, I don’t want to ever lose that customer service aspect of the business.”

What are the biggest barriers you have faced and how did you overcome them or are overcoming them?

“It’s predominantly just the perception that men don’t recognize that a woman could know about this industry that we’re in. ‘She’s in our factory, what does she know about our injection molding process?’ As women we have to work that much harder to prove ourselves. I take it on as a challenge and instead of getting deterred, this has given me that much more of a drive to achieve better and to gain the knowledge base to earn the respect of my male counterparts. Over time, I’ve come to realize that they do come to appreciate and respect for you for what you’ve accomplished.”

“Besides the male perception of women in the manufacturing industry, I’ve always been one to push the message of ‘buy local’ and ‘buy Canadian.’ Over the past 26 years, and especially the first 20 years of my career, everyone was all about the bottom line and finding and making things cheaper. My conversation with a lot of my customers was that we all need support local industries – if we don’t, where are we all going to work? If we continue to source offshore, what happens to Canadian companies as a result?”

“Manufacturing is integral to the overall health of a country – it’s a huge economic driver and once you lose it, it’s virtually impossible to bring it back. So that was my biggest hurdle – just trying to toot the horn of buying local and supporting local businesses. Obviously, I wanted the sales, but for me personally, I was thinking of a broader picture. If we don’t collectively support our local businesses, then long term, it’s going to affect us all extremely negatively. Seeing the Ontario Made Program come to be was something that I’ve been waiting for, for a very long time.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“Always remember the passion that you had when you first started working. Times get really tough, and there’s going to be times that you wonder why the hell you’re doing what you’re doing. I think you need to go back and remember why it is you chose to do what you’re doing, and just reignite that passion. You can’t lose sight of that.”

“I would also tell myself to not get comfortable. If you get too comfortable with something, that means you’re not growing. Growth happens when we’re in an uncomfortable state. Don’t get relaxed and just think your business is carrying itself. If the times are good, you’ve got to always be looking and growing. Get uncomfortable.”

Why would you encourage young women to enter careers in manufacturing?

“Where do I even start – because the future is so bright right now and there’s so much on the horizon. There’s so much opportunity whether it’s on the manufacturing side or the technology side, we have so many different resources in Ontario to help grow this industry for us. Manufacturing is definitely the way to go. Manufacturing used to be viewed as dark, dirty, and dangerous, but there is such a multitude of careers that are in the manufacturing industry. There are so many different sectors and sub sectors and as result so many different careers that are manufacturing related. Manufacturing is no longer dark, dirty, and dangerous – it’s come a long way.”