YKK President’s Award winner Michelle Pearson and Mike Turner, vice president of sales and marketing.

When Oliver Stepe, president of YKK AP America, began the introduction of this year’s President’s Award winner, Michelle Pearson thought she was out of the running.

“ … [He] used the ‘he’ pronoun when describing the winner,” she says. “Then he started to indicate things in my specific territory. When he used the word ‘she’ I felt extreme excitement. It’s always been a goal of mine to win this award.”

Pearson’s career with YKK AP has come a long way since she started there as a receptionist through a temp agency. Today, around 19 years later, she is a sales representative at the company’s Baltimore branch, and the first female recipient of the company’s President’s Award.

“My initial reaction was shock to be honest with you,” she says of the honor.

The award recipient is selected primarily on a series of objective measures related not only to sales performance and annual growth, but also on measures related to long-term development of territories and the importance the company places on customer relationship management, technology and brand development within the architectural community.

“Once we move beyond objective measures we also feel that an award recipient must be an individual who exhibits the qualities of a true professional in their field and is recognized as such by customers, peers and company management,” says Stepe. “Simply stated, when we put forth an individual with the highest annual recognition in our sales force, we want to make sure everybody gets it. This past year Michelle not only exhibited these qualities and more, she was able to overcome significant challenges and continued to grow the business in her region. One of the proudest personal moments I have had since becoming president of YKK AP America three years ago was presenting this prestigious award to Michelle.”

Pearson became a sales representative with the company in 2009. Her territory covers Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

She says one of the biggest challenges she’s faced since joining the sales team is making sure everyone understood that she knew what she was talking about. She says she had to prove she could do the job. Pearson is one of two female sales reps for the company out of a total of 26.

“Women have a larger role now and are more prevalent in the industry. When I first started it was challenging as a female in a male-dominated industry,” she says. “I had to prove myself. The challenge was learning everything that I could possibly learn and portraying that in a way that people could recognize. As a woman you have to work a little bit harder to do that.”

Pearson’s major accomplishments, aside from winning the President’s Award, include growing and experiencing nearly every position within the branch model.