After a dozen or so years as a tech writer, Meaghan Ziemba has found her voice in the manufacturing industry. And it’s not something you’ll find in any assembly instructions or FAQs.
Ziemba is the unscripted, slang-throwing, undercut-rocking, host of “Mavens of Manufacturing,” a platform she hopes can be the voice of the next generation of women in an industry she loves. It’s a natural fit, and watching one of her videos showcases that. But Ziemba herself needed a little convincing.
It was only a few years ago that Ziemba, a mother of three, was contemplating a career change after the birth of her youngest child. Then the pandemic hit and Ziemba found herself scrolling through LinkedIn, reading post after post about challenges in the manufacturing and engineering industries—realizing that they were all posted and written by men. Nowhere to be found were the competent, awesome women she’d met at tradeshows and industry events over the years. This didn’t sit right.
Ziemba already had an idea percolating: She’d leave the corporate gig, go freelance, and start an LLC. She had the idea, the motivation, and full support from her then-partner. All she needed was a little outside encouragement to tip the scales.
All it took was a little tacos and whiskey. Out for dinner one night, Ziemba told a trusted friend about her idea for Mavens of Manufacturing. He loved it, thought it was brilliant, and told Ziemba to make an announcement and see if she got any attention before moving forward.
Did she ever.
On her platform, Mavens of Manufacturing, Ziemba hosts a live, unedited video podcast series interviewing other women and diverse voices within the manufacturing sector. Besides discussing any hopes for the industry, Mavens of Manufacturing gives people the opportunity to discuss their ideas for the future of the manufacturing industry, personal stories from the field, and the companies they work for, all while connecting with others interested in entering the sector.
Within her first month of starting the podcast, Ziemba received such an incredible response from people within the field that she had guests booked out for over a year. Honored by the podcast’s reception, Ziemba feels she can learn a lot from the guests on her show.
“I didn’t even have plans to be an entrepreneur or be on my own,” Ziemba explained. “But every day is a new adventure, and I’m learning something new every single day that I didn’t know before because of it.”
Manufacturing then and now
Mavens of Manufacturing sits within Ziemba’s own company Z-Ink Solutions, LLC. She does freelance technical writing for several industries, including (of course) manufacturing. Having been a part of the manufacturing sector since 2008, Ziemba feels passionate about all that manufacturing encompasses, especially the people she gets to talk to.
“Some of the people involved in engineering and manufacturing are the most humble people, and they don’t get enough credit,” Ziemba said. “Most people that work on the shop floor that I’ve come to meet have a natural grit about them, and resilience about them, and strength about them that I admire. And if I can obtain those traits, I think that’s the coolest thing ever.”
Manufacturing has been a staple of American prosperity for decades. But what once was a booming industry, brought on by American war efforts during World War II, has since faced some decline as the U.S. began outsourcing jobs. In June 1979, manufacturing employment reached an all-time peak of 19.6 million people but has since decreased to roughly 14.58 million people in 2022. Ziemba hopes Mavens of Manufacturing will highlight an indelible industry she feels doesn’t get the shine it deserves because it’s considered blue-collar.
Ziemba takes inspiration from Rosie the Riveter, an allegorical yet cultural icon in the United States who represents the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II. Mavens of Manufacturing includes Rosie’s iconic iconography, such as her goggles and famous pose, in its logo and merchandise.
“I actually was able to interview a couple of the original Rosies and some of their children just to hear why they stepped up in such a major way,” Ziemba said. “They didn’t know that they were opening doors for other women. They just did what they thought was right—and to see how much it affected all of us today, they’re so humbled by it.”
To bring the spirit of Mavens of Manufacturing outside of her digital platform, Ziemba organizes events for professionals in manufacturing and engineering to speak with students, showing them what they can do within the sector. Ziemba typically asks social media and LinkedIn connections if they or someone they know would be willing to talk to students about their job. Then, she organizes time for them to speak to students and classes during the school day.
“The first presenter I had was Jesse Salazar, who at the time worked for the Department of Defense,” Ziemba said, explaining that Salazar reached out to her once he heard she was looking for speakers to engage with students. “He was talking about the importance of manufacturing and engineering for the U.S. economy and national security, and the kids were blown away that someone of that caliber took time out of his day for a 20-minute conversation.”
Ziemba has also hosted conversations on her podcast and in person with industry experts such as:
· Andrew Crowe, the founder of the New American Manufacturing Renaissance
· Danielle Boyer, youth robotics inventor, educational activist, and SOLIDWORKS champion
· Kati McDermith, the brand ambassador for IndustrySelect & IndustryNet at Manufacturers’ News, Inc
· Jessica Wilber, the owner, and president of TAKT Manufacturing Solutions
· Betty Baker, product engineer at Ashley Furniture and SOLIDWORKS champion
· Nana Younge, founder of Get Girls Going, a non-profit that inspires young, Black teenagers and girls to become entrepreneurs
With this, Ziemba hopes that young viewers and industry professionals will find someone they can relate to and feel inspired by within the manufacturing sector.
Working to change the industry
However, Ziemba believes that to recruit students into the field of manufacturing, the sector will have to change its approach to hiring and retaining talent.
“It’s not only focusing on the next generation but your current employee population,” Ziemba said. “What are you doing within your own company to help inspire not just your women employees but all of your employees to really keep going and progress forward and be brand evangelists for you?”
Incentives for continuing education in the field, tuition reimbursement for certifications and advanced degrees, career growth programs, and childcare options are some things that Ziemba hopes to see manufacturing employees deploy in the future.
“Manufacturers are not considering having these personal conversations,” Ziemba said. “I think they have this misconception that if they go to a recruiting office, all of their problems are going to be solved. If they’re not having these conversations, especially with women, they’re not going to know where they’re missing the mark.”
To help solve this, Ziemba hopes to one day make Mavens of Manufacturing an internationally recognized brand, working to make more people all over the world aware of issues in the manufacturing sector and keeping people in the industry inspired to help the next generation. Ziemba is also working to create a scholarship fund for the next generation of manufacturers and engineers who join the industry—keeping those inspired to pursue their goals and work hard just like the original Rosies did.
“I pull all of my inspiration from Rosie because I just think some of the people involved in engineering and manufacturing are stepping up every day without realizing it,” Ziemba said. “They are some of the brightest minds out there.”
Meaghan Ziemba isn’t the only one impacting the manufacturing industry. Check out some of the other Humans Driving Progress.