20 years Saluting Women in Material Handling- Three leaders with trailblazing careers with the desire to succeed
Lisa Reonegro has heard some cringe-worthy lines while on the job. When she began in the material handling business in the late 1980s, she said the discriminatory treatment of women was more common than it is today. “Back then,” she said, “I met with quite a bit of discrimination. I was at times told on the phone, ‘Give me to a man who knows what they’re talking about.’ “I’ve heard it all,” she said. While such treatment was at first a bit shocking and upsetting to Reonegro, it also helped shape her determination to succeed.
“All it did, honestly, was to make me push myself that much harder. I wasn’t going to allow myself to not know as much as the next guy,” she said. Today, Reonegro is managing director of Camso Distribution Canada Inc.
This month, Material Handling Wholesaler spotlights the careers of women building their careers in the material handling business. In fact, this marks 20 years of spotlighting women who are making a difference in the industry. You can also click here for the Salute to Women in Material Handling podcast with Kevin Lawton with interviews with Rebecca Butao Snowdon and Emily Soloby.
Meet three trailblazing material handling leaders with the desire to succeed in the material handling industry.
Rebecca Butao Snowdon
Rebecca Butao Snowdon is currently national accounts manager for Hannibal Industries Inc.
Her team of five is based in California, working on projects nationwide and on one international project in the Bahamas. Hannibal is a pallet rack and steel tube manufacturer and bills itself as the largest U.S. manufacturer of steel pallet rack west of the Mississippi River.
When she started in material handling, Butao Snowdon came with a varied background of experience. “I’ve been with Hannibal for two years and in material handling for about six years. I worked for a small distributor originally, a family-owned business,” she said, noting that prior to her work in the industry, she worked as a real estate agent and in dance instruction.
Butao Snowdon has a degree in early childhood development and also spent time home with her children when they were young.
But as she sought new career opportunities, Butao Snowdon quickly realized that she had a knack for coordination and realized her skill set would translate well to project management in material handling. She worked diligently to make this career advancement happen.
Her current role allows her to interact with both the team at Hannibal and directly on the front end with clients, often on-site. Butao Snowdon described how she appreciates the variety of people and projects she works on through her job.
“These are quite large-scale projects,” she said. And Butao Snowdon’s role allows her to stay involved throughout the project, something she appreciates as she can utilize her problem-solving skills. She dubs herself “peacemaker and problem solver” and challenges herself to figure out people’s style of communication.
But she also believes there is room for improvement in regards to women’s standing in material handling. “I don’t think women in high school or college may realize what roles we as women can play in a construction-type industry,” she said. “You can be an engineer, can submit permits, design” and more, she said. “This industry is growing by leaps and bounds.”
And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Butao Snowden predicts more businesses will be expanding their material handling operations to meet the needs of e-commerce.
Butao Snowdon also believes there can also be an industry-wide improvement to ensure women are paid equally to their male counterparts. She advises women in the business to know their value on their team and within the operation and encourages asking for opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone.
For her part, Butao Snowdon said she was afraid of air travel when she first started in the business but pushed herself to face her fear. “I love getting on the plane now,” she said, describing the feeling of accomplishment in dealing with the uncertainties of business travel. Now, the professional who was at first afraid of flying finds herself missing traveling during the pandemic.
Part of the key to her own success, she said, has been the support of her coworkers and bosses who have made her part of the team. “The executives at Hannibal are extremely helpful, even when I’ve stumbled or made a mistake,” she said.
Butao Snowdon also said she has learned to check her pride at the door and to embrace the idea that how she views her job drives 70 percent of the outcome. “I choose to see everything as a learning lesson, whether or not the outcome is successful,” she said.
It didn’t take long in the material handling industry before Emily Soloby realized her shoes were not working. “I was showing up at meetings in completely wrong footwear,” she said.
Soloby’s career has included work as a courtroom advocate for abused women and worked as a lawyer. She later returned to graduate school, where she met her husband.
The pair went to work for and later bought his family’s business, AAA School of Trucking, and grew it to a national company and consulting firm. But on her visits to construction sites, Soloby found herself in need of some properly fitted boots. As a longtime shoe aficionado, she also wished for something fashionable.
Soloby had taken shoe-making classes in the past and began thinking about how all of the pieces of her interests and knowledge were coming together into one picture – a company that manufactures strong and fashionable boots for women. “This was an idea I was thinking about for a long time,” she said. “I started talking to women in the trucking industry and everyone was so excited.”
Soloby was surprised to find how far her idea traveled. Women in architecture, winemaking, engineering, and a host of other areas also expressed their enthusiasm for the project. “The excitement was so catching and so inspiring,” she said.
By 2017, research for Juno Jones Shoes was underway. In 2018, the business incorporated and last March a Kickstarter fundraising campaign launched. The idea of stylish steel toe work boots for women was so popular, it was funded within 29 hours.
“We were able to reach three times our goal, and that was even partially when COVID-19 was starting,” she said. Soloby said now manufacturing of the first shipment of boots is in progress.
The company name is designed to reflect strength, bravery, and a sense of adventure, according to Soloby. “I wanted to pick a name easy to say and fun to say and remember,” she said.
As to the long-term growth of Juno Jones, based in Philadelphia, Soloby said: “What we would like to do is grow into a footwear brand that continues to bring women options that are missing on the market that they need for jobs. More styles and reach a broader audience.”
Soloby is also the founder of the group Hazard Girls (Women in Nontraditional Fields) and the host of the weekly podcast “Hazard Girls.”
On the show, she interviews one woman per week in discussions covering women’s work in the industry and working conditions. This does include sometimes discussing the less pleasant aspects of work. One interviewee shared a story of being shushed by her boss at a meeting early in her career.
“Her feeling was, ‘No, you shush. I have something to say,” said Soloby, recalling the interview. She said she does feel there is more awareness among women in the business of their rights, particularly following the recent #MeToo movement.
The podcast is produced in partnership with Jacket Media Company and is available on Spotify and iHeartRadio. Soloby said she feels her company’s effort is part of a wider effort to support women in securing the gear they need to do their work. “There are so many companies now that are starting to focus on these things for women, it really helps women to feel seen and acknowledged,” she said.
Lisa Reonegro began her material handling industry career working in customer service for Green + Ross Tire Company. Eventually, Reonegro’s division (Unitrac) became part of Solideal and later merged with Camoplast to become Camso in 2015.
Camso bills itself as an international company focused on the design, manufacturing, and distribution of off-road tires, wheels, rubber tracks, and undercarriage systems to serve the material handling, construction, agricultural, and power sports industries.
The company supplies its products to OEMs and distributes its products in the replacement market through its global distribution network, according to the company website.
“All through there, I have worked for different company names but essentially the same company,” Reonegro said.
She moved from customer service to office manager and then operations manager.
Now as managing director of Camso Distribution Canada Inc. her team includes 53 employees at five locations between Ontario and Quebec.
Reonegro said her advancement was aided by working for people who allowed her to grow and get involved in different areas of the business. She said she is seeing more women in the material handling industry in recent years, including supply chain, research, and development, management, and sales. “It’s come a long way,” she said, of the growing awareness of the need for inclusion and diversity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented difficult circumstances, although Reonegro said the impact has varied depending on the customer. The business has always been focused on health and safety but she said concerns regarding the coronavirus took these considerations “to a whole other level.”
Solideal’s On-Site Service was deemed essential, so some employees worked from home, those on location have their temperatures taken daily, employees began utilizing iPad’s in the field and wearing masks and face shields while on calls, and walk-in service calls included more safety protocols.
“We’re not having any push back from customers,” Reonegro said. “It is a time where you see a lot of people coming together, that’s for sure.” Reonegro said she feels fortunate for the career opportunities she has had within the company, and the teams of professionals she has worked with. “There’s a lot of support and teamwork,” she said.
As to women getting started on their own careers in the material handling industry, Reonegro advises learning as much as possible. “Women do bring a different skill set to the job. You don’t necessarily have to compete with your male counterparts or workers. There’s room for both,” she said.
About the Author:
Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 13 years. Email [email protected] or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen. If your company would like to be featured, email [email protected]