2019 Women in Print and Promo: Tanya Peterson, Meridian
Director of Project Management, Meridian, Loves Park, Ill.
How she got her start: I graduated college with a degree in business administration/accounting, and my first start in the industry was with a prepress house that mainly did artwork correction for the publishing industry. I worked in the accounting department and after a few years, the company branched out into grand-format printing, and I started working in wide-format estimating. After 11 years, I knew that my career was stagnant, and I needed to make a change. I wanted to stay in the print industry, as that was what I felt I knew and I wanted to work in customer service. I answered an ad that Meridian had for a customer service representative (CSR) and was offered a job the same day that I interviewed. I started at Meridian as an assistant to all departments (i.e., accounting, customer service, etc.). I learned everything I could about being a print distributor from visiting plants, training with vendors, etc. About a year later, I was promoted to full-time CSR for our vice president of sales. Although we had a customer service manager at the time, I was the point person if anyone needed help with specifications, vendors, etc. In 2009, I was then promoted to customer service manager. I continued to work with our vice president of sales, started attending various events promoted by our industry, working with vendors and more. Last year, I was then promoted to director of project management, where I have continued to work on streamlining our processes, promoting best policies and best practices, and work with our vendors to increase sales.
What she does: As director of project management, I oversee all aspects of our CSRs/project managers from their workload to training them in policy and procedure, and training on new products and new vendors. I work with other departments on best methods/best practices to make our workflow seamless. I am also a project manager myself, still supporting our vice president of sales and other sales reps in our company with new projects.
What brings her joy professionally and personally: I like a challenge! Every day is something different to learn with new products available to offer our customers. I have two wonderful children who are my pride and joy. My daughter will be graduating in May from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and my son lives in Florida working [as a] business development manager for Gartner in Fort Myers. I have recently taken up golfing with my husband and am an avid reader. I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan and enjoy going to two or three games a year, either in Milwaukee or Chicago. I have two dogs and a cat that keep me company now that I’m an “empty nester” as well.
Her proudest career achievement: Being promoted to director of project management was a huge achievement for me. It gave me the opportunity to make changes in the department that I felt were long overdue and gave me a stronger voice within the company. I was instrumental in creating our estimating department, which allows project managers to concentrate more on “project management” and gets our sales reps more accurate quotes from estimating and sourcing as a distributor to get the best cost structure from vendors.
On working in a traditionally male-dominated industry: A year or so before I left the prepress house I worked at, there were two of us doing the estimating for that department, myself and another gentleman. At the time, I thought that this was a big step for me within the company until I found out that my counterpart was making much more money than I was and, in many aspects, I was doing more work than he was, as I was still working in the accounting department while doing the estimating as well. I confronted management about this and was told that he was making more money because he transferred from another department and they couldn’t decrease his pay. When I asked them to increase my salary, I was denied because they stated the work I did was not equal to what he did for the company. When I asked to be transferred into customer service, I was told I did not have the personality for it. I had been with that company for 11 years, and that forced me to realize I would not go any further than where I was in the company. When I first started at Meridian, the role of CSR or project manager was a female-dominated role. When I became customer service manager, I hired the first “male” CSR/project manager that the company had ever had. We now have a healthy mix of male and female CSRs/project managers that creates a more diverse work environment for all.
Her job advice to women: Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. Knowledge brings you confidence. The more you know, the more valuable of an employee you are. Learn all aspects of the industry, meet new vendors, visit vendor facilities, train with someone who knows the industry and work hard, but have fun doing it!
Who she turns to for career advice: I work with Chris Bielawski, vice president of sales, here at Meridian very closely, and he is usually the one I turn to if I need help or advice regarding my career. Joe Carpenter at Diversified Labeling Solutions is my go-to guy for labels and has taught me a lot in regard to labels and applications.
Her upcoming goals: My big goal for this year is to streamline our processes with new ERP software. This would help the company and the team tremendously. Personally, I hope to get better at golf—I have a long way to go!
How she maintains a work/life balance: It’s not easy. Having hobbies, like reading or golf, help a great deal. It’s important to turn your work brain off when you leave for the day, but it’s not always easy.