Calling All Women in Manufacturing! This Plant Manager Has Key Advice for You

Sponsored by GAF

Katrina Baker

Photo courtesy of GAF.

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Fairygodboss
May 29, 2024 at 4:1PM UTC

“For years, I have been laser-focused on the performance of the teams I lead,” says Katrina Baker, Plant Manager for the GAF Tuscaloosa Plant. Due to this impressive focus, Baker explains that she used to turn down opportunities for interviews or articles about her career and being a woman in manufacturing. “I thought it would divert me away from meeting the overall goals of the organization,” notes Baker. However, she soon realized that she could support her team and bring up other women simultaneously.

Now, Baker includes supporting other women and paying it forward as part of her professional and personal goals. “I want to give something back,” she says. “If I can help someone in any way, I want to do that. It is great to connect with other women in GAF.” Baker has been spreading her knowledge and advice in articles, podcasts and more that she says are aimed at “speaking wisdom to women in manufacturing.”

Today, she took the time to talk to Fairygodboss, too! Read on to see what Baker has to say in regards to leadership advice, mental health and why GAF is such a great place to work for women.

Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role, how long have you been in this role and what were you doing previously?

I have proudly been at GAF since April 13, 2020 as the Plant Manager of the GAF Tuscaloosa, AL plant. 

In my 30-year career, I started as a Process Chemical Engineer, had the pleasure to lead teams for 12 years as a Director of Quality and spent around 14 years as a Plant Manager. I have worked in the chemical industry, aviation, textiles (including floor covering and automotive) and now roofing!  

Baker and Ericka. Photo courtesy of GAF.

What about this type of work most excites you?  

Working with the team here! We have the best team members who are dedicated to working safely and meeting the needs of our customers and company. They do so with respect for others, which is very important to me.

Do you participate in any employee networks or leadership/development programs?

I participate in: 

  • WISE — Women Inspiring Sustained Equality, a GAF-created group 

  • FORCE — Frontline Operators Rise to Create Excellence, a GAF-created group which involves training and engaging our hourly team members in partnership with corporate leadership.

  • WIM — Women In Manufacturing, Alabama Chapter

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for others who are looking to advance their career to the next level?

Be your authentic self. Do not work hard to fit in. In doing so, you lessen the strengths and diversity of thinking that you bring to the team.

Also, go for the next level — even if you think you are not ready. There are bright people that can see your potential and help you be successful along with your work and dedication. Don’t talk yourself out of it.

It’s been an especially challenging few years for many people. What are some ways you have been taking care of your mental health both at work and outside of work?

I am very strong in my Christian Faith. I find that serving others allows for less focus on stress and more focus on blessing others as I am blessed. Also, believing in our team at GAF Tuscaloosa keeps me from putting too much pressure on just myself. Our team is phenomenal.  

In addition to Employee Resource Groups, does your company offer any events, programs, or benefits to support employees’ mental health? 

GAF supports and offers many opportunities to give back to the communities in which we live and work. I believe that giving back through serving others is great for mental health. Making a lasting difference in the lives of others is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle.  

 Our EAP and WorkLife Services benefits are also available to help employees and family members (those living in your home and your dependants) at no extra cost, offering 24/7 confidential support from counselors, clinicians and other specialists to help with:

  • Stress, anxiety and depression.

  • Relationship troubles.

  • Parenting and family problems.

  • Dependents and teens/adolescents in crisis.

  • Child and eldercare support.

  • Living with chronic conditions.

Have you participated in any of these programs?

The GAF Tuscaloosa Plant and our corporation partnered with Habitat for Humanity to Blitz Build a home for a family in just five days. It was so great to be a part of this. Our CEO even came down and worked to install the shingles made by our team. The new homeowner worked all week diligently, and she and her granddaughter moved in the week of Thanksgiving.

Our corporation gives everyone in the company 16 hours of paid volunteer time off. There isn’t a reason we can’t give back somehow and someway!

Left to right: Jim Schnepper, GAF CEO; Verna Smith, homeowner; Katrina Baker, Tuscaloosa Plant Manager; Ellen Potts, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa Executive Director

Baker and family. Photo courtesy of GAF.

What is your company culture like?

Our company culture is one of caring and respect. I have witnessed this firsthand in how we have supported team members in the pandemic, during significant loss due to a home fire, storm damage and more, as well as in supporting the communities in which we operate through our GAF Community Matters initiative. 

One example of this culture is when I mentioned to our VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Jeff Terry, that Stillman College has a blue tarp on their historic Winsborough Hall building. His team didn’t waste any time and, after a meeting with the College, GAF will be providing all the material needed to replace the roof and are also exploring other ways to partner with the college and support their efforts to restore Winsborough Hall. 

Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women?

The Senior Leadership has open lines of communication and regularly asks what employees need to be successful. That is phenomenal. There are also several unique groups and programs that GAF has developed, including WISE and FORCE, that are focused on supporting women within our company, particularly those on the frontlines at our plants.   

Baker and team at GAF Tuscaloosa plant. Photo courtesy of GAF.

What’s one thing you think early career job seekers should know about your company? 

GAF celebrates and embraces diversity not just in their words but in a way that is carried out daily; we want to gain the synergy and strength of diversity.

And for job seekers in a more advanced career stage, I can say from personal experience that you can thrive at GAF. Our company helps you to be your best.

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