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Manufacturing a Career on the Factory Floor: Part 13

Posted by Stephanie Austin on Wed, Feb 28, 2024 @ 12:14 PM

This blog series intends to shatter some "manufacturing myths".  Sometimes there is a perception of manufacturing being dirty, dead-end, unskilled, monotonous and boring. The reality is, it's bright, clean, fulfilling, hi-tech, versatile and rewarding!

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Laura, Program Manager, Zentech Baltimore

I had the privilege of interviewing some Zentech employees; a way of humanizing the manufacturing industry to demonstrate why you may want to consider a manufacturing career.

This time I interviewed Laura, who has been at Zentech for 20 years and has worked in many departments. She explains why she loves manufacturing and why the next generation should get involved.


LauraStephanie: So Laura, you’ve been here for 20 years at Zentech, right?

Laura: Yes.

Stephanie: I know you’ve had a lot of positions here, so walk me through your path to now, 20 years later.

Laura: I started hand soldering on the floor. Back then it was a lot different, the industry has come a long way since then, and it’s much more detailed. It’s been interesting to see how much it’s changed. I eventually moved to lead of the stock room, where I pulled and kitted parts. While I was there, I worked closely with purchasing and eventually they asked me to come work with them. First it was production scheduling, then it was purchasing and quoting. In 2018, I was asked to be a Program Manager, and that’s where I am now.

Stephanie: So, was there a favorite out of all of that?

Laura: Not really. But what I really liked was that I was able to move up in the company and do a lot of different things. As a Program Manager, I need to know what makes up a circuit board. I had the benefit of seeing all aspects of what it takes to actually build it. From start to finish.

Stephanie: If you’re looking at the younger generation today, why do you think they may not either be aware of the career opportunities, or not want to?

Laura: I don’t think the younger generation knows about manufacturing because in my opinion they don’t really teach it in high schools. I always thought that companies should go TO the high schools. Without that knowledge, maybe they think it won’t be a good career.

Stephanie: I don’t think they realize how technical it is. It’s interesting because manufacturing is our entire way of life. We couldn’t function as a society without it.

Laura: Right.

Stephanie: So, how did you end up at Zentech?

Laura: Manufacturing wasn’t really something I went after. Before this job, I worked in fiberoptics. Fiberoptics was big at the time and they thought it was going to be everything. And it wasn’t. I did a lot of test there, box build and wire splicing. When they closed down, I sort of followed other people who had went to Zentech. Until I got here, I didn’t know about circuit boards. But after I started, if I saw a phone, inside a remote control, it meant something different to me then.

Stephanie: Your daughter also works here at Zentech. How did you get her involved?

Laura: She didn’t like her current job and I encouraged her to come here. She started working in mechanical assembly. She takes after me, she’s really good at details. So they asked her to move to quoting. And that’s where she’s been ever since.

Stephanie: So did she have an opinion of what you did, or say “Mom, why would I want to go do that?”.

Laura: I like learning about the things we build. Like why? What does this do? She was also interested in that. She would see that this board went into a plane for our military. It’s really fulfilling for me to know that I am contributing to the safety of our troops and America.


Stephanie: There’s a lot of pride in that and manufacturing in general.

So, if you were talking to a young person, what would you tell them about why this may be a good option for them?

Laura: I would tell them if you show initiative, you can learn a lot. You can move up and even be an engineer.

Stephanie: Some people say manufacturing is monotonous.

Laura: I don’t think it is. It’s versatile, you can learn and work in different departments and earn certifications. This is not just an assembly line.

At Zentech at least, If you show the initiative, and you start in one department, and see something you think is interesting, talk to your supervisor. They are very supportive of that.

Stephanie: I’ve lots of stories like that here. As long as the attitude is there, it’s all teachable.


If you would like to know more about careers at Zentech, visit our Zentech Careers website.

Additional Resources: 
IPC Educational Foundation - Electronics Career Profiles
Creators Wanted
- Find manufacturing jobs, career pathways and training programs

About Zentech:
Zentech Manufacturing, an Electronics Manufacturing Service (EMS) small business, is primarily focused on the defense, aerospace, and medical industries, specializing in producing highly complex electronic and electromechanical circuit card assemblies. The company has locations in Baltimore, MD, Richardson, TX, and Bloomington, IL and maintains several key electronics industry certifications. In January 2023, Zentech received the Stan Plzak Corporate Recognition Award from the IPC.

Zentech Baltimore Video Tour