2018 Women in Print and Promo: Ewa Karolina Wlaz, Barker Specialty Company
Ewa Karolina Wlaz
Barker Specialty Company, Cheshire, Conn.
Years of Experience: 16
How she got her start: I love visual and performing arts and was a double major in graphic design and theater at Regis College in the Boston area. Upon graduation, I was looking for a career in the graphic design field and dropped off my résumé at Barker Specialty Company. [Company president] Gerry Barker met with me and asked me to give him three months to try out being an admin for him. He promised I would still be able to use my design skills, but that I would see a very different side of business. I developed a new appreciation and love of the industry, and, very soon after, I moved into sales.
Her proudest career achievements: One of the key career achievements I am proud of is having a Fortune 100 client provide us with an evergreen agreement. This agreement means we are the client’s preferred vendor forever as long as we always fulfill their ethical and safety standards, which we, of course, certainly plan on doing. I am also very proud of finishing my MBA along with my husband while working full time and raising two young children.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: Sales roles have predominantly been male dominant, which makes it tough to prove oneself being a woman. Generally speaking, women often have to work harder to be recognized or rewarded, but this paradigm is evolving. It has taken some time, but I do feel perceptions are shifting and people see me not only as a woman, but as a professional salesperson and, more importantly, an equal colleague among many male counterparts whom I greatly respect.
Her job advice to women: Don’t be afraid! Just go for it, be confident, acquire the necessary skills, learn as much as you can from everyone and develop your own unique style. It is always important to have a mentor or someone you can really learn from. This is a fun, energetic and creative business that many women would be thrilled to be a part of.
Her industry mentors: From the beginning of my career I have always looked up to Gerry Barker. I’ve appreciated his advice and his creative solutions to some of the most challenging tasks. He has been an integral part in making me the salesperson I am today. I also always rely on the advice and support of my husband Krys Wlaz, director of IT of PW Power Systems. Krys has always had great advice and a slightly different perspective coming from a drastically different industry.
Her biggest lesson learned: This is a great question as I feel like there is always something to learn every day and with every situation. However, at the end of the day, I think the most important is to always have a positive and caring attitude—with clients, colleagues and suppliers. [Doing so] only brings out the best in people and, in turn, makes you a success.
How she maintains a work/life balance: Having flexibility in the workplace is crucial in maintaining a healthy work/life balance. I am able to care for and spend time with my family, while being connected and aware of what goes on in the office and with my clients at all times. Having great support, both in the office with wonderful sales staff and at home from family, is key.
Related story: Print+Promo 2018: A Celebration of the Women in Print and Promo
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.