General Manager, Calico Coatings
Last May, Calico Coatings, a developer of technologically advanced coatings for the industry, introduced Jennifer Jenkins as its new general manager. Being an employee of Calico Coatings for more than 14 years, Jennifer has obtained the needed knowledge to truly understand the ins and outs of the manufacturing processes at Calico.
For Jennifer, Calico has always been about the people. The relationships that she has built at work have become so close they are her second family. Jennifer began working at Calico part time as a bearing technician in 2006. There, with the help of Annette Lunsford, her first supervisor, she learned how to work in a high-performance environment as a team member, quality inspector and order processor.
When Jennifer first started working at Calico, being a woman in manufacturing was rare. Only four females worked at Calico at that time, none of which were in leadership roles. However, times have changed and there are currently 11 women employed at Calico, five of whom are in leadership positions, including Jennifer.
In 2011, she started working in shipping and receiving where she learned a broader range of the manufactured parts that Calico was coating, the processes required, the coatings themselves, and the beginnings of the customer service side of the business. By 2012, Jennifer was a customer service and sales support representative where she quickly learned the tendencies of Calico’s customers’ business needs.
Jennifer had the privilege of working from the back end to the front end of the company, gaining valuable insight along the way that would aid in her current role as general manager.
Early on in Jennifer’s inside sales/service role, Calico landed a project for Mahle Engine Components based out of Morristown, TN. This project was something different for Calico and was the first of its kind that involved the entire Calico team. This project involved a significant amount of brainstorming, planning and project management. Jennifer had a very hands-on role in the project, and after 18 months, the Calico team was able to move into production. Getting this project to a finished state gave her a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and the confidence to set her sights on future leadership roles within the company.
Becoming general manager wasn’t Jennifer’s plan. She didn’t initially see the potential that others working around her saw. However, midway through her career she started to recognize her success as she had gradually chosen to take on more responsibility and leadership. General manager then became a personal objective for her.
“The biggest thing I have learned working at Calico, with the help of my colleagues, is my own potential,” Jenkins says. “I am blessed and I am grateful for the opportunity Gary gave me in 2006 to join the Calico team, and for the leadership role Tracy (Calico’s owner) has trusted me with today.”
The greatest challenge Jennifer has faced in the manufacturing environment has been her gender. She learned early on that she needed to be over-prepared for every circumstance. This involved learning from those around her and from previous circumstances as well as doing further research when needed.
“You have to learn early on that it’s a struggle to gain trust and the respect of your customers and colleagues,” Jenkins says. “You gain that respect and trust when you continually fulfill your promises and make it your goal to successfully solve their problems. Spend the time learning from others around you, have mentors, read materials related to your industry, know your environment, know the applications and the process. If you have knowledge, you will succeed. Before you try and change the game, you have to know the game.”
Jennifer plans to continue growing within Calico as a leader and to promote growth opportunities for other personnel. She also plans to work closely with the sales team and customers as Calico continues to transition from a small to a large business, now in its 20th year.