Recognizing Some of the Many Women of the Glass and Glazing Industry

By Jordan Scott and Ellen Rogers

Women make up a small part but powerful part of the glass and glazing industry’s workforce. They are leaders, visionaries, scientists and researchers. This issue is dedicated to their efforts to grow and advance an industry once thought of as just for men.

The women featured and interviewed throughout this issue are strong and resilient. Take the time to read about them and learn from them. Their words resonate not just for women, but anyone seeking to be successful. The women featured in this next section were nominated by their peers and colleagues. They are listed alphabetically by last name.

Cristina Antunes
Vice President of Operations, GGI

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I arrived in the U.S. from Portugal in 2006, having lived there all my life. I received my engineering and post-graduation degrees there and worked in the automobile industry for several years. I came to the U.S. with a lot of dreams, a resume, my qualifications translated into English and a couple of recommendation letters. I responded to a lot of job postings and went to a lot of interviews, one of which was GGI, which gave me an opportunity, even with no experience in glass.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I really exceeded my career goals when David Balik, the president of GGI, gave me the opportunity to become the vice president of operations. Given the chance, I would like to share my experience with others, especially women. There are no limitations for any woman if you truly believe in your strengths, if you are honest, transparent, passionate, and have a good work ethic.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

My greatest achievement is the team that I developed. If you have a strong team that you trust and that has trust in you everything else falls into place.

Describe a time you think being a woman helped you with your job.

I arrived at GGI as quality manager, fresh from Portugal, so I was very insecure with my communications skills and the lack of knowledge of the industry. I spent most of my time on the production floor working hands-on, side-by-side with operators, trying to understand the business, their jobs, my job, and the best way to communicate with the team. Quickly they understood that I was a “boss” ready to listen to them about anything, answer their questions and humble enough to learn from them. I earned their respect and trust.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

In 2013 after being at GGI for seven years and seeing several production managers come and go, the company was looking to hire another one. I was disappointed that I was not considered, because I knew the process and people well and I had so many ideas that I wanted to implement. I put on my best suit and went to David Balik’s office and asked him to give me an opportunity. I told him I was not afraid to take risks, I’m a hard worker, dedicated and I have the team on my side. I’m forever grateful to him for trusting me and for all the chances he gave me throughout the years.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Never be afraid to take risks and make decisions. Ask for opportunities and give opportunities to others. Trust your instincts.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I have very high expectations for myself and a tremendous fear to not disappoint my family, my team or GGI. Advice you’d give to your younger self? Trust your heart. It is okay to make mistakes but make sure to learn from them.

Nancy Bassett
Process Engineer, Geneva Float Glass
Plant, Guardian Glass

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

My graduate research led me to a process development position where I worked on sputter-coatings, and my next job was optical coatings. Because I had experience in both sputtering and optics, I was recruited to join Guardian Glass 19½ years ago.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

At first, I thought I would go into traditional chemical engineering, which is mostly production of chemicals or working with petroleum products. After I started my research in graduate school, I was intrigued by academia, but the more I got into research, I wasn’t excited about the grant writing and “publish or perish” grind of being a college professor, so I turned to process development and manufacturing.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

My PhD dissertation on plasma chemistry and diagnostics; being co-author on three patents for Guardian Glass; and development and transfer of numerous ClimaGuard low-E glass coatings. Maybe an “unsung achievement” but something very important to me is training our console operators in Geneva. They need to understand the coatings and be able to set them up, keep them stable and understand some of the complexities of the coatings and what’s going on inside the coater. I’ve trained about 30 people over my career and really enjoy helping others learn and grow.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

The most important lesson is the Guardian Glass culture: Safety is always the most important thing. While we’re all very invested in our day-to-day work, the most important thing is making sure everyone safely goes home to their families every day. Something people would be surprised to know about you? When people find out I have a Ph.D., they think I’m very theoretical, but what I see as my true strength, and what I’m actually most proud of is, is that I’m a practical engineer. My strength lies in finding manufacturable solutions. I can work with the more theoretical engineers, and I can troubleshoot and do the data analysis, but my focus is making processes stable and predictable. I’m moderately-to-severely hearing impaired. In a manufacturing environment where there is loud equipment everywhere, it can make communication challenging. My hearing aid technology is amazing. I have different programs that help filter machine noise, and I stream technology from my phone to my hearing aids to communicate effectively in meetings.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

To trust my instincts and not second-guess myself, because I know my strengths better than anyone else.

Jessica Benson-Smith
Manager, Vacuum Coatings Process Group, Vitro Architectural Glass

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I joined PPG’s glass research organization, which is now a part of Vitro Architectural Glass, in February 2016 to work on low-emissivity coatings. Prior to Vitro, I worked on the development of thin film coatings for organic electronics.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

When I joined Vitro in 2016, I was interested in completing process development and process improvement projects for manufacturing, and in contributing to new product development efforts. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to achieve those goals and continue to contribute to the execution and planning of new process and research and development projects. Now, as someone who manages people, my goals have changed to not only focus on the technical outcomes of projects, but to develop employees who will become the next generation to guide future progress in our industry.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

My contributions to projects that result in a creative solution for a new product. Developing concepts, testing them, and turning them into a patentable concept is something that brings a great sense of accomplishment.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Humility and perseverance. There have been and will be times when projects do not go as planned or problems occur that might be out of your control. Those experiences are humbling, but the best course of action is to persevere and to focus on the things that you can control to continue to make progress.

What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I very seriously considered a career in music performance rather than science and engineering. Practicing instruments, rehearsing in choirs, and performing in ensembles was a big part of my childhood and teenage years.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Always ask questions and never be hesitant to challenge the status quo. Just because things are currently done a certain way does not mean that it is always the best way. Sometimes small changes in perspective can lead to a big improvement in productivity.

Jennifer Brereton
Director of Marketing, Binswanger Glass

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I started in the glass industry three years ago. I have worked in the consumer services industry for most of my career. I saw a job posting with Binswanger Glass, headquartered in my hometown of Memphis, and was very interested in the company’s 150-year history in an exciting growth industry that truly impacts the environment and people’s lives.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I grew up wanting to be a CEO, and that aspiration has never changed. I constantly engage in additional challenges and responsibilities to further develop personally and professionally. Women have been making great strides in the construction industry in recent years. There are now more women than ever before who are CEOs of construction companies, and they are leading the way in terms of innovation and creativity.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I’m most proud of the impact I’ve made in marketing at Binswanger. When I started, they hadn’t had anyone in the marketing role in a long time, so I was able to pave the road to where we are today. I’m a strategic thinker and can see the big picture while also being able to execute specific goals.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

Collaboration and communication are essential in a successful team. Many times, I feel like these are traits that women possess over their male counterparts, and it has helped me bring cross-functional teams together to work on complex projects and see them through to execution. I also always remember that I am an example to women. Many people look to you with respect, so we must use this platform wisely to raise other women up and help provide a path for others to follow.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

I’ve worked in primarily male-dominated companies for my entire career. The number one behavior I’ve had to overcome is people thinking I have a junior position, rather than being a member of the leadership team.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Don’t let rejection be a deterrent. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no, so be bold.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

My husband and I love to travel and have been all over the world. We recently moved from the city to the country and are renovating an old home. Once that project is wrapped, we’re ready to see the world again!

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to fail. This holds so many people back. Failure is not a step backward; it’s an excellent stepping stone to success. We never learn to move out of our comfort zone if we don’t overcome our fear of failure.

Jessica Bricking
CEO, Carmel Glass & Mirror

Jessica (Schweitzer) Bricking grew up going on sales calls with her dad and helping around the shop and showroom of the family’s business, Carmel Glass & Mirror in Indianapolis. She worked in the office throughout high school then went on to get a degree in entrepreneurship at Xavier University. This led her to event planning and sales roles before joining the business full time in October of 2005. Working alongside her parents and husband, she continued to grow in leadership. In June of 2020 Carmel Glass & Mirror became a women-owned business when she and her husband bought the business from her parents. Having recently celebrated her 17th year at Carmel Glass & Mirror, she now operates as CEO.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Completing a successful transition to the second generation of ownership; keeping the family business rooted in our community and continuing to grow. We retained the entire workforce and the mutual respect and dedication to each other is what makes our company special. I was fortunate to have grown up working in the glass shop, learning from the employees, and now today providing leadership to the company.

Was there a time in which being a woman may have helped you with your job?

Perhaps bringing another perspective to our projects. As a retail glass and mirror shop we enter people’s homes; their private spaces. We appreciate someone allowing us into their lives to create something for them to love.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Success is a team effort and we accomplish that by focusing on people. Our employees are our family and together we all succeed.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

The glass industry has the opportunity to create spaces for people to live or work that make them feel happy and comfortable. The glass industry is a creative space to design, create and build. There is so much to learn about our products. Start with learning fabrication, and understanding installation, build relationships with clients and continue to learn and understand new product developments in our market.

Erica Couch
Sales and Marketing Manager, Tristar Glass

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

In 2015 I was hired on with PPG.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

Before I left grad school, I was interested in becoming a professor. After leaving grad school, I figured I would end up in more of a technical sales role that still allowed me to do a lot of my own research. I always thought that I would get funneled into the coatings side of PPG instead of glass, but when the glass side was sold, so was I.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Being promoted to my current role at Tristar; expanding the company’s reach as a more nationally-recognized fabricator; developing strong relationships quickly throughout this industry; and selling some large, notable work.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

I pretend everyone remembers me because I have a great personality and can maintain riveting conversations. However, I know that it helps that I don’t look like everyone else for people to better remember who I am. It helps to stand out and be remembered a little bit easier when you are a woman in the industry.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Fortunately, I got onboard with Tristar pretty early in my glass career and have been insulated from most of this. Our company’s culture pretty much ignores anything I think would be considered stereotypical behavior, and our team’s bond and protectiveness has never allowed for anything externally to present itself.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

People enjoy dealing with people. Whether it’s dealing with a customer or deciding on a job, it’s important to find the people that you work best with to be happy.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

That I have two master’s degrees—one in business administration and, the bigger shocker, one in chemistry.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

I’m not sure I would give my younger self any advice because any advice I’d have given myself probably would have steered me in a direction different from where I ended up. Tristar and my current role here would have been very similar to what I would have described as the place I wanted to work and the role I wanted to have. I never would have thought to look in the glass industry, but here we are.

Rhedonda Cox
Vice President of Sales and Marketing,
Texas Glass Armor

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I learned about the Gbond BRS [bullet-resistant systems] for glass in 2012 when I moved to Houston from Chicago. At the time, my kids were in elementary school, so I volunteered as a PTO chair at Barbara Bush Elementary—the first lady, Barbara Bush, would visit the school twice a year. At that time, they were raising money for window film, and the company told us this film would protect the school from the harsh effects of the sun …and also “slow down bad guys.” I had never heard of such a window film and insisted we talk to security professionals before moving forward. That is when I was introduced to the Gbond nanotechnology for the strengthening of glass, now part of Texas Glass Armor. Seven years after working in the security technology sector, I reconnected with Gbond nanotechnology in 2019, and have been in the bullet-resistant glass solution space ever since.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

In school I studied to be a journalist and media anchor. However, I ended up in the fashion industry. My first job out of college was working at a TJ Maxx warehouse in Worchester, Mass. When production in the facility improved by 30%, the president came to find out why. They pointed over to me, and offered me a job at corporate. Over the next 20 years, I had the privilege of being an executive buyer with them, other major retailers, and designer brands. My aspiration or my mission in life now is to educate and implement bullet-resistant solutions for glass to protect people and places everywhere.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Successfully launching Sears’ e-commerce jewelry business, becoming the youngest buyer ever at TJ Maxx, running a sportswear company in New York before the age of 30, and creating a new brand in the footwear industry that became a best seller across the country, were all pretty cool. In the security and glass sectors I helped develop a solar generated mobile camera security unit that SDM magazine featured in several magazine and digital articles, after I had been a year in the security business. Also, taking Gbond (formerly
Cbond) as a start-up in 2019 to being named one of Houston Biz Journals Top Entrepreneurial Companies of 2020 was very cool. Also, being selected as part of the ASIS national committee on Workplace Violence and Active Assailant prevention, and creating a roadmap for all to use in a protection plan; and being involved in this “women in glass” article are significant achievements.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

Having transitioned from the fashion industry, which is very female-dominated, to working in the security industry, where women are a minority, I think being a woman brought new perspectives. My male counterparts appreciated that. I was sought out many times for my corporate expertise, fresh eyes on a business, and in my situation, enthusiasm and comic relief.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Initially, some application engineers did not want me to help work in the field in the glazing sector—not because I couldn’t, but because they didn’t want me to “get hurt.” I appreciated that. However, I would remind them that I had worked in construction, merchandised shelves in retail stores for 12-18 hours at a time, and loaded tractor-trailers at UPS, to name a few. I could undoubtedly spray a window with the nontoxic, green, eco-friendly nano solution and put up a piece of security film. Besides, I told them I would sell more if I understood how to apply the technology. That seemed to work.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Setbacks are set-ups. Not all storms come to disrupt your life, but some come to clear your path. Tough times never last, tough people do, and better is coming. Believe it.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

When I tell people that I lived and worked in New York City (in the Empire State Building) on 9/11. That is a day we all can related to and discuss where we were.

Advice you’d give to your younger self.

Get it in writing. Stop worrying and stop listening to naysayers. Worry never helped anything or added a day to your life. Get mentors, cheerleaders, and advisors, and update them as needed. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Be confident, work tirelessly on yourself and your skills, and the universe will show the path. God’s got this.

Renea Frederick
Owner, Fremarq Innovations

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

When you’re raised in north central Wisconsin, where at one time 80% of all the residential windows in the U.S. were manufactured, and your relatives work in the industry the talk around the table is about windows. I also fabricated window screens in my early 20s. Then, of course, I married a curtainwall guy.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I had also wanted to run my own business. I was raised around entrepreneurs. I had always hoped to make some kind of positive difference in the world, or at least in my community.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I didn’t have any mentors. When we started the business it was just the three of us, so I learned as we grew, and we were successful and still are successful.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

I believe women always look for a win-win situation. Our ego doesn’t get in the way of solving problems.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

There was a meeting where I was the only woman at the table, which wasn’t that unusual 20 years ago. One of the men at the table said to me “hey honey, would get me some coffee?” I just said “sure as long as you get me a soda when I need one.” Then the introductions were done, and a few apologies were made. You always need a sense a humor or you’ll waste all your time being mad.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t take things personally. If you do your best, there are no regrets.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I returned to college when I was 40 and received my degree in business and economics. The main reason I did that was because I promised my mom I would. She was right, college was good for me.

Advice you’d give to your younger self.

Have faith in the journey.

Mirjana Komadina
Vice President, Product Design & Development, CR Laurence

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I started my glazing industry career 26 years ago with CRL.

Original or other career goalsaspirations?

I am a civil engineer and worked in water supply and treatment, concrete structures surveying and testing and other interesting civil engineering jobs. I did not hesitate to try mechanical engineering when the opportunity arose.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I will always remember being a recognized and respected construction site inspector—truly women in a man’s world.

Describe a time when you think being a woman helped you with your job.

I have always said that I am an engineer who happens to be a woman. You are either a great engineer or just an engineer, man or woman.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

There was a construction site where I had to do three concrete tests that involved handling 50-pound buckets of concrete, and a line of construction workers waiting for me to fail. That did not happen and after that test life was great. It was the same when I led a group of men on a highway bridges condition survey, and had to close partial lanes of highway and work 12-plus hours.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Whatever you put your mind and heart in you can succeed.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I rejected an offer [for a] post university career in Italy because of my family life. I have never regretted it.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Do it all over again and enjoy. Your career is more than 30% of your life, so we better make it worth.

Rachel Korfhage
Project Management, Alexander Metal

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I ended up in the glass business when I relocated to Nashville, Tenn., in 2012. My employer at the time, a general contractor, had a contact at Alexander Inc. who was hiring.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I was originally educated as an architect and hoped to spend my career designing functional, beautiful and environmentally friendly projects. After spending several years on the contractor side, I can see now that dream is so much bigger. As glaziers, we are tasked with making those projects reality on so many levels and get to build great relationships in the process.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Working my way up through our business and earning the respect of my colleagues.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

Being a woman in the glass industry helps bring a different level of detail and service to our customers. We are able to draw out the “can-do” side of people which often leads to collaborative and unique solutions to problems.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Overcoming traditional stereotypes is a constant in this field. The best way to overcome it is to gain knowledge and share that with others. Once you are able to do that, you can respect and the stereotype disappears.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Having a good attitude and respecting others goes a long way in resolving difficult situations.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I love to do anything that involves water.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

You have what it takes to get where you want to go, stick with it!

Nancy Mammaro
CEO, Mappi

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I joined Mappi in 2000 without knowing anything about the glass industry, after having worked in very different sectors. It was a wonderful discovery!

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Joining Mappi coincided with the sale of [our] first tempering furnace in the United States. Today the United States is our main market. We have an office/branch in Florida, a widespread service network and a solid reputation made up of satisfied customers and continuous innovations.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

For many years, my work has been an essential part of my life, with no boundary between me as a woman and me as an entrepreneur. It is natural for me to use sensitivity and practical sense, typical qualities of every woman.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Day after day, year after year, there is less and less behavior based on stereotypes. I am convinced that this is also due to the increasing presence of women in the glass industry.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

The most important lessons I’ve learned have come from glass itself. Glass has taught me transparency—the ability to judge things and people for who and what they are, without prejudice or stereotypes; to recognize and reward passion and competence.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Get more technical training. I have built mine up over the years, but if I had it in 2000 my path would probably have been easier.

Kayla Natividad
Technical Services Engineer, NSG Pilkington

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I was first introduced to glass through research at Texas Tech University (TTU) under Dr. Scott Norville. That resulted in me attending Glass Performance Days Finland in 2013 where I was introduced to the glass industry at large. He also took me along to set up for some blast tests, and when I realized how fun it could be to break glass for a living, I was pretty hooked. I continued my research through TTU’s graduate program and then started my role as technical services engineer with NSG Pilkington in 2016.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

As a civil engineering student with a focus on structures I originally thought I’d be designing bridges and buildings and stamping off on projects. Now while I may not be determining strength of structural members, I really enjoy influencing the design process via glazing and fenestration. In the future I would like to return to academia as an adjunct faculty member and help develop courses on fenestration and glazing since it is often left out of programs and learned only when you’ve entered the industry.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Earning the GANA Energy Division Award in 2018 and most recently receiving the USGlass magazine 2022 Individual Green Award. I’m still relatively early in my career and am glad to be making an impact.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job. What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Being a woman in a male-dominated field, it can be challenging at times to be overlooked or seen as less technical. Because of this I’ve always made a conscious effort to have an in-depth understanding of whatever subject matter is placed in front of me. I’d say this is a moment being a woman has helped me because it’s made me a better/more technical engineer than maybe I would have been otherwise. I don’t know though, because I’ve never experienced not being a woman. In the same way this is a strength, it’s also easy to question myself and get a case of “imposter syndrome.” Luckily when this happens I have a great support system within NSG Pilkington and the glass industry at large that I can lean on for support, encouragement and guidance.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Confidence is key.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

It’s okay to say “I don’t know” and ask for help. Learning is a lifelong experience and you don’t have to know how to do everything all at once.

Lindsey Rowe Parker
Marketing Director, Rowe Fenestration

With 15 years of experience in marketing communications, Lindsey Rowe Parker brings a unique set of skills to the glass industry. As the marketing director for Rowe Fenestration, she manages all marketing and communications initiatives.

“Rowe Fenestration is a family business. My father Scott Rowe has been a self-proclaimed glass geek in the architectural space my entire life. After 10 years of honing my marketing communication skills, learning from incredible mentors, and working for some of the biggest brands in the world, I was able to bring that knowledge to Rowe Fenestration.”

As a consultant, she also works with small businesses and nonprofits. One of those nonprofits is the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).

“I feel so fortunate to be part of the team at NAWIC Sacramento bringing more opportunities to women in construction,” she says. “Whether you are new on the job, or an industry veteran—most of us have had a look around and noticed women make up a small percentage of the workforce in the construction industry. The numbers don’t lie—and to be a small part of furthering the goals of both our Sacramento chapter and the [national chapter], makes me incredibly proud.”

Parker says finding a mentor is one of the most important things a woman in this industry can do.

“Something that I have noticed over and over in my professional experience is that the old, outdated narrative that women do not help other women is not true. My most meaningful and impactful professional relationships have been with women. I hope that anyone experiencing otherwise gets connected to a group of supportive women who lift each other up both personally and professionally.”

As more women get involved in the glazing industry, Parker says it’s important that the industry also continues to adapt and evolve.

“Creating working environments free of barriers and biases that limit opportunities and undermine advancement [is important],” she says, also looking toward an industry “where our diverse experiences are valued and recognized for our contributions; where pay gaps are nonexistent and we are not funneled into a narrow selection of jobs with lower wages and no upward mobility.”

She also continues to look ahead at the evolution of her own career goals.

“I love my current path, my clients, my team. But I never want to be stagnant, there is so much to explore and I want to be open to those opportunities when they present themselves. As they say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Lindsay Price
Co-Founder, Texas Glazing Solutions Inc.

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I got involved in the glass industry in 2012 while my dad was recovering from West Nile Encephalitis. He hired me on to help him with bookkeeping and other various behind the scenes things. In 2015, my dad, husband, and I formed Texas Glazing Solutions Inc. and that is when I started getting out on the road with them and getting involved with the customers.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I always knew I wanted to own my own business but it was going to be something hip and cool like a surf/skate shop even though I know little about surfing and skating.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Working alongside my husband and watching our hard work and dedication pay off as our business grows.

Describe a time when you think being a woman helped you with your job.

There aren’t a whole lot of women in our industry and I think people enjoy the change of scenery.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

If someone dishes something out, I can usually dish it right back so it doesn’t really bother me.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Getting in front of the customers is very important. In this day and age it is so easy to stay behind the computer, but face-to-face meetings are extremely valuable and we need to not forget that.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I am a huge Hello Kitty fan and have to keep my collection away from my kids.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Slow down, be present, and enjoy every moment. Also, take up golf.

Kristie Rehberger
General Manager, A Glasco Inc.

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

My father and my mother, started A Glasco in 1992. I started working with my dad when I was 16. I swept the floors, cleaned the glass, answered phones, handled customers, etc. After a little bit my father had me start commercial estimating. He showed me what to look for on plans and taught me how to do take-offs by hand. My first major project was the Balboa Theatre in downtown San Diego—a historical project none-the-less! It had its challenging moments, but I fell in love with the industry. At about 18 years old, I told my parents I was interested in running the company. I’ve been working at A Glasco for 21 years now, though it was only recently that I’d say I’ve been truly running the company, though I have implemented many changes over the years. I’ve also been re-establishing the California Glass Association with two others.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

Through all the years, my passion for the industry has only deepened. We have serious issues especially with labor, education and training. My goal is to change that and unite the glass industry in California. I would like to create a school or some place for people to teach and learn the glazing trade. To become certified. To be proud in their work. To be involved. I realize I have a lot to overcome and still so much to learn and while it can feel daunting, I’m excited.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I feel my greatest professional achievements are happening right now. I want to honor my father’s legacy of integrity and make it better; better the company, our team members, and the industry as a whole. I feel I’m only just beginning despite working at A Glasco for 20+ years.

Was there a time in which being a woman may have helped you with your job?

I’m sure it has, but I don’t have a specific instance.

Was there a time when you were faced with prejudice because of your gender in the industry?

I started working with my dad when I was 16. I feel being young and female made it difficult for people to take me seriously. My confidence waivered, but it only made me want to learn more about the glazing industry.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Knowledge and training are vital to this industry, and keep fighting because it’s worth it.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Find your voice and speak up.

Julia Schimmelpenningh
Industry Technical Manager,
Eastman Chemical Co.

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I got involved in the industry in 1988 through Monsanto (then owners of Saflex PVB interlayers). I was pulled in as a temporary employee to help study head injury criteria of a new product they were launching for the automotive industry and have stayed since.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

When I first got on the job, it was just that—I was working a job and didn’t really have career aspirations in the glass industry. My goals were simply to learn and do my best. I’ve stayed for 30+ years, because the glass industry and the people in it turned a simple job into a career and more importantly a passion.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I am most proud of being involved with the design of protective glazing, be that for K-university schools, antiquities such as the U.S. Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation and the Waldseemuller map to wildlife protection.

Describe a time you think being a woman helped you with your job.

When I first started out there were maybe four women in the entire industry, and the expectations of a “young girl” knowing something pertinent or new for the industry were limited. So having actual information and knowledge to bring made me more memorable and my networking path a bit easier to pave.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

I have never felt any prejudice specific to gender, only a prejudice about being “new.” On a cultural path, it makes you appreciate the U.S. and how accepting our industry is after gaining some initial respect.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Always work for the improvement of the industry overall. The products we represent are important. They are what puts meals on our tables and keeps roofs overhead, but without a healthy and ethical industry it’s all for not.

Something about you people would be surprised to know?

I have the most amazing family—a husband who puts up with all my travel and glass obsessiveness (as well as our newfie), two ferociously independent and strong daughters and (pardon the boasting) the “perfect” grandson. Other than that, I LOVE cowboy boots!

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

It is easy to jump industries and I know people are instructed to do that today, but becoming part of the glass industry family is truly that. You become family, and nothing out there can compare to the people you work with in this industry. Just ask those who have left (and come boomeranging back).

Syndi Sim
Vice President, Marketing and Business Development,
Diamon-Fusion International

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

After working in the financial, public safety, and civil engineering industries, I wanted to round out my experience. Then, almost ten years ago, I came across an intriguing position in the glass industry. This has allowed me to expand my professional lens while engaging in a new and fascinating sector.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

Growing up, I had always wanted to be a teacher. Yet after getting my master’s degree and working within the California court system for five years, I knew it would not be my life’s passion or career goal. Once I entered the glass industry, I knew I had hit my stride and never felt more at ease and satisfied in my career.

Describe a time when you think being a woman helped you with your job.

Although I do not consciously differentiate, I have to wonder if my ability to gauge the emotional temperature of prospects, customers and colleagues has been an advantage.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

I’ve been fortunate in our industry, where men and women have been open to teaching/collaboration and showcased tremendous encouragement for success.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

It’s all about integrity. Do the right thing, be kind and the rest will fall into place.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I have an autistic son and am very involved in the autism community supporting moms. I strive to help other special needs parents through this autism journey—the good, bad and excellent!

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Be authentic. As I have matured and gained life and work experience, I realize it will all work out by being true to yourself. Let you be you, and then you will shine.

Melissa Szotkowski
Department Manager, Structural Glass
Systems, Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I was working as an engineer at a Big A/Little E company in 2001 when a recruiter found me. I interviewed for and took a position that involved glass engineering. In this position, I came to see glass as a structural element as well as a medium for artistic expression.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

Since I can remember, I wanted to be an engineer and to see designs come to life.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I have a few completed projects that I love to visit and ogle when I roll through different cities. However, I think that seeing the “aha moment” when training or teaching other people provides the greatest sense of accomplishment on a more day to day basis.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

At first, I thought this question invited dwelling on some stereotypes that we try to avoid, ignore or overcome. But the more I thought about the question, the more I focused in on the strong network of women in this industry and how I have grown in general as part of this network. The women in this industry really do support each other, teach each other, and learn from each other.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

I can say that when I first started in the engineering world in the late 90s I noticed more stereotypical behavior than I see now. The funny thing is that one simple thing instantly changed perception of me and behavior toward me–glasses! The day I got glasses was the day I was immediately transformed from “just a girl” to the nerdy engineer I truly had always been.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

I have learned that I am never done learning.

What’s something about you people would be surprised to know?

Those who know me well know I am always on the hunt for the next best Mexican restaurant with a spicy margarita.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you think there is a better way to build or approach something or a more effective or efficient solution to a problem, say something. Have the courage to ask questions if you don’t understand something.

Kristin Thomas
Vice President of Operations,
Tad Glass & Window Corp.

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

In 2005 my father purchased an established glass company in Florida. Just over a year later I knew I wanted to join the team.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

I have always loved helping people gather so before entering the glazing industry I was pursuing a career in theater management working at a performing arts center in South Florida.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Nothing in this life is solely of my own achievements. When I see my team succeed, or someone I’ve been talking with changes their approach, I’m encouraged professionally that I’m making a difference.

Describe a time in which you think being a woman helped you with your job.

As we say in German, “Jeden tag,” which means every day. Sometimes people think they have to be the most outspoken or share the best stories to show strength. I’ve settled into my experience and femininity in the workplace and now I’m able to sit in meetings and attend events calmly, just talking with new people, listening, and soaking in much more of what’s happening around me. I believe that as females in construction, once we accept we are not the majority and find peace in our best characteristics, we are very powerful in the chaos and in the calm.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Each time the office phones get kicked my way … “Hi Young Lady, is there a manager I can speak with?” It used to take all my might not to get defensive as I climbed the ladder. Now, a quick chuckle to myself then a polite response is always better than a sharp retort.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

All parts of my personality play a role in who I can be at work and what experience our employees and clients can have; nothing needs to be muted.

What’s something about you people would be surprised to know?

About halfway through college I almost turned away from business management to study volcanology full time. I am fascinated with volcanoes and the force they present.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Be exactly who you are in your role. Don’t try to adjust your personality to fit it. If you are in the right role at the right company, your best traits will be highlighted and praised.

Kelly VanBoldrik
Project Manager, Ventana

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I entered the glass industry January 2017. At the time, I was at a crossroads of a career change, but wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. With some inside help, I was given the opportunity to come aboard Ventana because of my known work ethic.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

Since this was a career change for me, I was very green to the glass/construction industry. My goal was to absorb as much knowledge and experience as I could to keep up with my peers. As my career progressed, I was working toward being promoted from assistant project manager to project manager, which I did in March 2022.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

Since joining Ventana, I have been a part of some very notable projects across the industry. The first project was the McDonalds headquarters that moved from Oak Brook, Ill., to the West Loop of Chicago. The second project is 100 Above the Park in St. Louis. This beautiful 36-story building overlooks Forest Park on the West side and then has views of the city’s Arch on the East side.

Was there a time in which being a woman may have helped you with your job?

When I started a new project, in a different state, I hadn’t met the general contractor team in person yet. When it was time to, I walked right into the conference room and sat at the table, front and center. Of course, I was the only woman in the room, and this did turn heads, but I felt I set the precedent of who I was and that I was one of the leaders of the biggest subcontractors on the project.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

I’ve been in situations where men are praised for displaying assertiveness and tenacity. But, for me I’ve been told I’m being emotional and taking it too personal. Those were tough words to swallow but I bounced back. Nothing gets done in construction if you’re not loud enough for those sitting up in the rafters.

Most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Persistence is key and never pass up an opportunity to learn something new.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I love the jam band Phish and I aspire to learn an instrument. To be more exact, I want to learn to play the bagpipes, so I bought chanter to start practicing.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Always take on new challenges even if you don’t think you can handle them. You’ll never know if you don’t try!

Elizabeth Walker
Interiors Segment Marketing Management,
Guardian Glass North America

How and when did you get involved in the glass industry?

I began my career in automotive and industrial purchasing and over six years worked my way up to S&OP and materials manager for a manufacturing facility. Three years ago, I was approached for an opportunity with Guardian Glass to manage supply for the United States which allowed me to expand and diversify while building upon skills I’d touched on in my prior career.

Original or other career goals/aspirations?

In college, I wanted to do commodities trading and spent some time working for a food manufacturer where I focused on trading oils. I was presented with a great opportunity to work in automotive, so this sent me on a different path.

What have been some of your greatest professional achievements?

I was promoted to materials manager with Stanley which involved relocating to the East Coast and managing a team of buyers and schedulers. Also, being recruited within Guardian Glass and transitioning from supply chain/S&OP to marketing.

What about a time when you had to work to overcome stereotypical behavior?

Early in my career, I had a leadership role in a manufacturing facility. Automotive manufacturing particularly is such a male-dominated world; women rarely exist in plants and are even rarer in plant leadership positions. Being tasked with leading a team of people who were far more experienced than I was gave me a chance to prove myself and demonstrate to my team that I was capable of being a good leader and getting things done.

Most important lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t hide your personality or act a certain way because you think that is what is expected.

Something people would be surprised to know about you?

I can karaoke all six minutes of Bohemian Rhapsody without the lyrics.

Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Your career is about finding the right fit for you; you don’t have to change your personality to make people respect you.

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