Chrissy Hedrick, Wastewater Operator at Cintas Corporation, hasn’t let stereotypes or diversity slow her down when it comes to her career. Since her 2011 hire in sorting operation, Chrissy has quickly moved up the company ladder. She has held roles in storeroom utility, human resources and became the eMaint expert, assisting and leading her company in a successful and consistent execution of the program. Chrissy’s road into reliability and asset management has been a journey, one that she has learned from and experienced fully. However, as she will tell you, it is not over…it is a continuous journey.
How did you get started in this career?
My journey at Cintas Corporation started from a long period of temporary and part-time employment. During the recession, I struggled finding a full-time job. I started at a factory right out of high school. Unfortunately, that factory moved to Mexico in 2004, giving employees only a six month warning. I was a single mother of two young children, so I needed to find employment of any sort that could pay the bills. I worked any job available, including factory work, roofing and siding, and retail, to survive.
Working in roofing and siding for 18 months was the first time I experienced diversity in the workforce. I had to prove myself and overcome fears of not being strong enough and my fear of heights. I overcame my fears and was accepted on this team because of my determination to provide for my children.
I restarted my life in an unsafe, rent-controlled environment that made me want to obtain a better job so I could move up and out of that place. In 2011, I remarried and my husband was without work, which caused me to keep looking for a full-time position. This is how I found Cintas. Cintas Corporation has changed my life in so many ways and the gratitude I have cannot be explained. Through this career, my family and I were able to relocate to a safer place to live and I obtained an associate’s degree in business administration. I am honored at all the wonderful opportunities that have come my way and are yet to come.
Women in Reliability and Asset Management (WIRAM) is committed to increasing diversity in teams to advance reliability and asset management. Why do you feel this is important and how does it add value?
I feel diversity plays a huge role in the advancement of reliability and asset management. The current maintenance team at Cintas 355 has people with very diverse experience levels, age groups and backgrounds. As examples, we have team members with decades of experience in machining, the auto manufacturing industry, facility maintenance, and HVAC and automation. I have a background in general assembly and retail. The diversity allows everyone to have a different perspective and enables troubleshooting to go very smoothly.
What are some examples of how you have successfully promoted diversity?
When I was the admin for the human resources manager, I did a lot of training. One of the biggest challenges the Cintas 355 partners face is the language barrier between English and Spanish. So with management’s approval, I partnered with the project lead and we translated safety trainings from English to Spanish. This made all partners feel as though they are an equally valued part of the Cintas team and gives them a better understanding of the trainings offered. I was also involved in planning celebrations and congratulatory gifts for partners becoming U.S. citizens. I also organized a job shadow program. For two days, participants shadowed the Reliability Audit team and got to experience a day in the life of a maintenance tech. They gained valuable training in the maintenance field and learned about career opportunities in this field.
What are some of the challenges faced in advancing diversity in reliability and asset management?
Some of the challenges I have faced in advancing diversity in reliability is inexperience in such areas as electrical troubleshooting, limited strength and dealing with suppliers who are not as willing to accept females in this industry. My managers and fellow Cintas 355 partners have always encouraged me to do the best I can and have played an integral part in my career advancement. Being a woman in reliability has brought about challenges when working with others who are not accepting of me in this position. I am always willing to learn and listen to those who are more experienced, but I still come across individuals who ask to speak with the boss or the “man” of the department when I am sourcing parts. I keep a professional attitude and I understand they may be from a different generation when this was acceptable, but I know it is not. Cintas Corporation has a very diverse culture that accepts everyone in all areas and does not allow any discrimination to take place.
What suggestions do you have for anyone wanting to support diversity in reliability and asset management?
The first suggestion is to never judge a book by its cover. Looking back 6-½ years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be such an important part of compliance and wastewater management, nor would I have thought about asset management. Being a woman in the wastewater management field takes time and study to understand the function and importance to the company. I have had to learn hands-on troubleshooting with the pumps, motors and chemistry of the wastewater system. When issues arise, we don’t automatically go to the chemistry; I must understand the mechanical aspect prior to diagnosing a chemical issue. As a woman, I take pride in doing this job to the best of my ability and I have learned the different sounds, feelings of water/sludge and actions needed to take when pumps are not running properly. I need to utilize all my senses, which at times, is not pleasant! Another way to support diversity is to have an open mind to all individuals and allow those interested in this field to do a “tryout” to see exactly what happens on a day-to-day basis. Lastly, believing in yourself and getting rid of self-doubt is crucial to success. I have had many successes and some failures, but I choose to use those times as life lessons to learn from, rather than put myself down. Always strive to be the best at what you do and the sky is the limit.
Who has inspired you as a leader? Is there a quote from that individual that has left a positive influence on you?
I have had several individuals who have inspired me as a leader. Eric Pravidica, General Manager at Cintas 355, has always shared his journey on how he is where he is today. Eric has always encouraged me and recognizes the hard work I put into the job. Dwight Weller, Plant Manager at Cintas 355, is also a big part of my journey. He has always been a hands-on manager, willing to do whatever it takes to assist partners, whether it’s loading and unloading trucks, sorting garments, bagging bulk, rolling mats and even assisting in replacing a bearing on a washer. Dwight is one of the hardest working managers I know. He is not afraid of sacrificing his personal time to make sure the partners are taken care of along with the customers. Eric Ayanegui, Director of Operations and Engineering of North Central Group, is the individual who has nominated me to take part in this Q&A. He is a pleasure to work with and is an awesome leader who enjoys visiting the locations and getting to know partners. Jim Gniadek, Corporate Field Engineer North Central Group, inspired me with his willingness to support me on my journey. Keith Carey, Tom McGraw and Joel Huber inspire me with their on-the-job training. These technicians continue to teach me on this journey and they believe in me when I have doubts. Eric Seiler, Maintenance Supervisor at 355, inspired me to get skilled in electrical troubleshooting and organizational skills. He has spent a lot of time with me on schematics and wiring diagrams. I am grateful for all of these leaders; I could not be where I am today without any of them.
What advice can you share with young women who are interested in a career related to reliability and asset management?
My advice is to remember to stay focused and teachable. I overcame my fear of not being strong enough or skilled enough through training and the use of proper tools. Follow your heart and calling in life. Take time to learn from those with the experience in the safe way to do the job. If you work hard at everything you do, it will pay off. I am treated equally in my position and I have earned the respect of my fellow partners because of my willingness to learn and grow in all I do. Women can do anything in this field if they are properly trained and willing to put in the hard work.
Are there any books you would recommend?
I recommend everyone reads,
The Spirit Is the Difference. This book is the beginning of a company known today as Cintas Corporation. The book explains how it was founded, its corporate culture, the character aspect of Cintas and its partners, and how the management team operates. I am so proud of the history that is behind Cintas Corporation and I remind myself daily that a family with a dream worked hard and turned their dream into a multi-billion dollar operation that it is today.