Director of Promotional Products and Distributor Support
Years of Experience: 16
How she got her start: I held a number of customer service, management and sales roles across a variety of different industries, but Safeguard was my first introduction to the print and promotional industry. I had worked with my now-manager, Kellye Santos, at a different company, and she recruited me to join Safeguard. She knew I had solid customer service experience and would be great in a role they were hoping to fill, the director of distributor services and support, which ultimately swayed my decision to join Safeguard. Over my tenure with Safeguard, my responsibilities have evolved from managing promotional product support to distributor service support, and, at the end of last year, I took over marketing support for promotional products and apparel.
Her proudest career achievements: When I took on the responsibilities of the marketing role, on top of the responsibilities of my existing position, I did so without missing a beat. I’m now managing education days with our distributors at all major industry shows (like ASI and PPAI) and helping to manage those events on-site by organizing the suppliers and hosting panel discussions. Where I once played a supporting role, I’m now responsible for ensuring things run flawlessly. Being able to tackle that has been a huge accomplishment for me.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: At first, it was really hard to be taken seriously. As a woman in the industry, you need to have confidence in yourself and in your knowledge in order to find your voice. It took support from both men and women to overcome the adversity. I had to develop and nurture those relationships to build my network and find preferred vendors. It was definitely a challenge in the beginning, but once I took the time to build a solid support structure, things became much easier.
Her job advice to women: There are so many strong women in this industry who are willing to support newcomers. All you have to do is reach out a hand and talk to them. That goes for both suppliers and fellow distributors. Some of the best contacts I’ve made have been through other distributors. They can be a great resource for information, but you have to be proactive.
Her industry mentors: There are two people that I really respect, look up to for advice and consider to be key leaders in the industry: Susan Rye, director of strategic accounts for SanMar, and my boss Kellye Santos, vice president of customer service, operations and composition for Safeguard. Both of them have earned the respect of their coworkers, superiors and employees by being fair and knowledgeable. I look to them as role models and hope to mirror their success. They give me guidance when I’m facing a challenge and offer advice on how to keep relationships intact. There are people in this industry who burn bridges once they transition into new roles and the key lesson I’ve learned from them is don’t. This industry is small and you need to be able to work well with others to find success.
Her biggest lesson learned: Treat others the way that you want to be treated. You need to be nice to your customers, coworkers and suppliers because you will need to work with them day in and day out. Give them your respect and they will return the favor. I’ve seen too much negativity in this space and have realized that it never gets you anywhere. Also, be respectful. Ask for help when you need it, accept it and build on it.
How she maintains a work/life balance: It’s one of the biggest challenges I face. I block off time on my calendar for my outside-of-work interests; otherwise, I get so engrained in the work that I keep on going. It’s a gift that I’m excited about what I do every day, but maintaining a balance between work and play is what keeps me sane. I always make time for my family, working out and playing golf.