Allison Giddens is the president of Win-Tech, an Atlanta-based aerospace company, and STEM’s female champion by showing the way to success in manufacturing and technology.
It is commendable for her tenacity and focus on creating a company that will help move the industry forward. We recently caught up with her at our headquarters in Marietta, Georgia.
Innovation and Technology Today: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to becoming President of Win-Tech.
Allison Giddens: Immediately after graduating from college, I started working for a large Atlanta company. I learned a lot, but soon realized I needed to find a place where I could make a bigger impact.
When I was in elementary school, I took my pet to a neighbor who runs a small business, contacted me for a job, had me come to an interview, and hired me for special projects and administrative support. He immediately threw me at the wolf.
One of the first projects he gave me was to study the manual mill department. A 23 year old woman came in and oversaw a department project with an employee who was a male Journeyman mechanic. To do, I had to learn everything, it wasn’t lost to me. It may have really changed my first impression of the manufacturing industry and its community.
The machinist kept me tough and high standards, but he was also patient and kind to my 23 year old kid. They taught me so much that they motivated me to keep learning. The project was successful and the collet was successful. The tree we developed is still in use today.
Over the next 12 years, you’ve learned everything about running a business other than running parts. When Dennis Winslow, the founder and president of Win-Tech, decided it was time to retire, I was ready to grab the bridle.
My business partner John Hudson and I make a great team. He is a manufacturing expert and can run any machine on the shop floor. He manages shop flow, capacity and monitors capacity. We complement each other’s weaknesses and trust each other’s strengths.
I know it’s a great journey in manufacturing and the next chapter is just beginning.
I & TT: What made you decide to participate in STEM?
Giddens: At the time, it wasn’t about STEM, it was about small businesses. In elementary school, I was attracted to something like the Science Olympics, asking my parents for a telescope on my birthday and exploring plants with the microscope I got for Christmas. I’m a lifelong learner, and for me it’s about seeing the pieces come together and learning what’s driving it.
Problem solving and constant challenges keep me here. It works when you get bored, but there’s nothing boring in the industry.
I & TT: What can parents do to get their children to see STEM’s career? When do you think it will be time to introduce the concept to children?
Giddens: Applauds many toy companies marketing to both boys and girls, including Lego, engineering building sets, coding projects, and proprietary robots. I think the trend is here for a while, but I would like to introduce the concept of STEM to preschool boys and girls.
When I was little, boys got a race car set that needed creativity to make a truck. The girl got an EZ-Bake oven. If a young girl really wants an EZ-Bake oven, don’t hold her back. But understand how yeast heaps bread, or how to combine it with a conversation about why vinegar can be used instead of lemon juice in certain recipes. Encourage sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews to confuse, explore, and ask questions.
I’m tired of hearing about introducing STEM to young high school students.
When you enter high school, you may not know what you want to do for your career, but they know what they are good at (or at least where they are confident) and what they want to do. Interests much earlier in life and helps identify what those interests mean to the workforce.
I & TT: You are a member of the Women in Manufacturing Board of Directors. How can we make women more vocal and celebrate their position in the industry?
Giddens: It’s a perfect storm. Our people in the manufacturing industry are busier than ever. We have to prioritize, and logically, if the effort doesn’t pay off, are they worth it?
On the other hand, there is a labor shortage in the manufacturing industry. Unless women (and men!) Step up to the plate to actively engage with the next generation, our industry will be passed on to some of the brightest minds of the next generation.
You can’t be something you can’t see. Offer to speak on your child’s school career day (even virtually!). Do you have children? Please contact your local school district. I’ve seen county school districts and school districts working together to create a virtual career day library. By spending 15-30 minutes a day, you can record a story and share it for viewing by hundreds of students. I’ll put it out later.
Join the local chamber of commerce. Please represent the manufacturing industry in your area. You can play a role in business development and become a reliable manufacturer among your peers. Build relationships with these colleagues and tell your family what they are doing when they go home.
Offer to teach high school students. Invite one or two junior high school students to tour the facility and ask elementary school students to make a machine with macaroni noodles and adhesive.
Engaging with the next generation is very easy and opportunities will learn from them as much as they learn from you.
Women are rapidly becoming a turning point in manufacturing and technology success. Simply put, I think it takes a lot of acceleration to advance technology in all STEM-related industries. I need more talent. The solution is simple. We need more women, and women like Allison Giddens need to be role models for the next wave. Let’s go to ladies!
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