For the past eight years, Carol Werner has been the face of purchasing at DAU, now known as KTK Thermal Technologies, and for the last 3 of those years, she has added human resources to her responsibilities. However, after a total of 46 years in manufacturing, on July 31, 2020, Carol will be saying good-bye to all her beloved co-workers as she starts the next chapter in her life. Retirement! And a well-deserved one at that!
Although Carol has had a long and prosperous career in manufacturing, the things that remained constant and ultimately led to her success are her love of learning and her ability to connect with people. An interesting fact is that she has never had a job interview in the traditional sense, even though she has worked for many different companies. She was always sought out, which speaks volumes about her work ethic and personality and that she is well regarded by many.
Where it all began
Carol started her career as a secretary working for German Tool and Die. Although she only worked for the company for a year and a half, it would have a lasting impact on the next 45 years of her life.
“I was very young, and I worked for an older woman to whom I am very grateful,” said Carol. “She really taught me the value of working hard, staying focused, and learning as much about the company as possible. I took that to heart, and I’ve done that every step of the way.”
One taste of manufacturing was all it took for Carol to realize this was what she was meant to be doing. “Once manufacturing gets into your blood, at least for me, I never left. I was intrigued by it. I wanted to learn as much as I could. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else.”
Learning Pays off
When two of Carol’s co-workers at the tool and die company left to start a sheet metal business, Acro Industries, they asked her to join them to establish and run the office. She was in her early 20s, but she knew a great opportunity when she saw it. Following her early mentor’s advice, she learned everything she could about the company. She started the office from scratch, taking on accounting, payroll, customer service, purchasing, and anything else in the office that needed to be handled. She worked for them for 13 years, learning everything she could as they grew from 6 employees to 125 employees.
Out On Her Own
It was at this time that she decided with two coworkers to start their own manufacturers’ rep business, Industrial Specialties Associates. Their clients were a variety of manufacturers in the Rochester, NY, area. Moving from a support position in someone else’s company to a business owner and sales rep did cause some trepidation for her.
“I was nervous because it wasn’t in my comfort zone, but I knew enough about the business and had experience working with sales reps,” said Carol. “Doing purchasing for so many years gave me a great perspective for being on the other side of the desk. I knew what worked for me as a purchasing manager and what made me say, ‘I want to work with this salesperson or this company.’ That insight helped me with doing outside sales.”
Bad News, Good News
Two years in, the economy took a downturn, and Carol and her co-owners had to make the tough decision to fold the company. When news of the company closing was released to her clients, Eastern Rochester Manufacturing (ERM), which she had worked closely with as their sales rep, was quick to snatch her up to work for them in purchasing as well as to perform other office work. Carol’s affinity for purchasing made the decision easy, and once again, she found herself in a good position. She worked for ERM for 21 years until she decided to take a sabbatical from the paid workforce to care for her infant granddaughter while her daughter and son-in-law worked.
Back in the Saddle
She savored this time and truly enjoyed being with her granddaughter, but this ended after 18 months, and she returned to the workforce. A company called Dau Thermal Solutions had been asking her to work for them, and she agreed to join them.
During the time she was caring for her granddaughter, a global thermal solutions company acquired her former company. They then closed the facility and moved out of state. One of the former owners who sold to the global firm was asked by a company in Austria to start Dau, so he pulled the team together from his former company. One of the people he recruited was Carol. Since so much was like her former company, she was excited to return and reunite with her co-workers.
Six years later, when the Austria company decided they would sell or close Dau, Kevin Kreger, Gary Turkovich, and Michael Kulzer, all employees of the company, decided to buy the company, forming KTK Thermal Technologies.
“When Dau was up for sale, these guys stepped up, bought the company, and saved everyone’s job. And we are all very grateful,” said Carol.
Carol came into Dau, working primarily in purchasing. “Purchasing is the part of manufacturing that I truly enjoyed the most. From my job with the sheet metal company through today, except for when I had my own company, purchasing has been my main focus. Most of the companies were small, so you jump in wherever you were needed, and you wore many hats,” she said.
So it came as no surprise three years ago when the HR manager retired, Carol jumped in to take on the role in addition to her purchasing role. “Like most women, we tend to be very good at multitasking. It was challenging taking on dual roles, but I was able to do it.”
Two of the biggest lessons she has learned during her long career in manufacturing have to do with getting along with co-workers and learning.
“What has helped me to be successful is adapting to the personalities I work with. There are such a variety of personalities, and some can be challenging to work with. You may not love everyone you work with, but you need to be a team player, be professional, and be there for each other. Another thing is absorbing everything you can. Soak it all in because the more you know, the further you are going to go.”
Now that she is retiring, Carol says it is bittersweet. “I will miss the sense of family we have at KTK. Unlike some families, we really do like each other,” she joked. “I really enjoy what I do. In purchasing, I enjoy negotiation to get the best cost to help the company succeed. In human resources, I enjoy helping people – letting people come to me to vent. I had always tried to be there when they needed me. I will miss this.”
During her retirement, Carol plans to spend time with her family and husband of 41 years, relax, golf, and maybe one day become a snowbird spending her winters in the south.