Growing up in the Midwest in an area dominated by U.S. heavy manufacturing and steel industries, Gina reflected back saying, “Perhaps manufacturing is just in my blood.”
Gina Vassallo is the Engineered Value Chain Program Manager for the Caterpillar Enterprise System Group. Her work today is centered on process improvement, end-to-end value stream design and manufacturing excellence as part of Caterpillar’s Lean Transformation.
With a degree in industrial management Gina’s career spans many facets of manufacturing, but that is not where she started. Her first job was in retail and her career began in IT, developing information systems and software solutions in support of warehouse operations. This experience gave her a deep understanding of processes – from financials to supply chain to logistics.
“Throughout my career my roles always supported manufacturing, but my first ‘real’ operations job came in 2005 as a section manager at the Decatur, Illinois. facility,” said Gina.
It was in Decatur that Gina realized not only her passion for manufacturing, but her passion for the people of manufacturing.
“It was Super Bowl Sunday, and I was working third shift. As I walked through the darkened facility preparing for the day with the hum of the machines in the background and inventory set for assembly, I realized how important people are to manufacturing,” said Gina. “You can have the best manufacturing processes, facility layout and tools, but people are what bring manufacturing to life.”
According to Gina, one of the best things about manufacturing is that it brings products to life, and not just products, but people and communities. Gina has never considered herself unique for being a woman in manufacturing. Looking back, Gina acknowledges that manufacturing was always a part of her life, but for many – especially young women – it isn’t considered as a career path. And, that is why she is passionate about giving back.
“I was working with a local junior high and high school in developing a program called Pathways. Pathways is a curriculum that explores vocational career paths with students,” Gina said. “While participating with this program I remember one particular seventh grade girl – her favorite class was the manufacturing lab. I’ll never forget how proud she was running the machines in the lab. Not only had she discovered her future, but she had bonded with her dad while developing skills.”
Gina clearly demonstrates the purpose of the STEP Ahead initiative, which calls upon women to advocate for the manufacturing industry, mentor young women/girls with the National Girls Collaborative Project, engage an affinity group to generate ideas and share best practices, promote personal development and lead as an ambassador for manufacturing education.
“Women bring different experiences, perspectives and practices to the field of manufacturing that challenge us and push us to be more creative, innovative and successful in business,” says Gina.
Congratulations to Gina and all her fellow 2016 STEP Ahead Honorees.