Women In The Industry – Lisa Reisman
The steel industry has been a male-dominated industry for years and continues to be one, even today. The business is poised for a change, as more women begin to enter this and other fields of work that were previously closed off. Several women have paved the way, others are continuing to follow suit, including Lisa Reisman. Lisa is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor at Metal Miner in Chicago, IL.
We had the opportunity to meet and talk with Lisa who has some amazing insight and advice for women who are interested in a career in the steel industry.
How did you know you wanted to work in this industry? What lead you to this career?
I never grew up saying “I think I want to be in the steel industry,” like most people, I fell into it. In my case, I spent a good chunk of my career trying to get out of it. I started as a semi-finished aluminum trader (importing/exporting semi-finished materials) buying from Russia, Mexico, Ghana, Venezuela and selling to Aruba, the UK and South Africa. I moved into consulting, specifically Arthur Andersen’s wholesale distribution practice. From there I ended up in the supply chain practice largely focused on B2B marketplaces. Whenever a client came from the metals industry, I was invariably called upon. My tenure at Andersen came to an end thanks to Enron, so I moved with my practice to BearingPoint and eventually to Deloitte where I spent most of my time at Caterpillar. While still a Big 5 consultant, I had attended a New Year’s party at a friend’s house and met an automotive supplier who said I should “stop by” his company and do a sourcing project for them, but on my own. And voila, that’s how I went out on my own doing direct material sourcing engagements on behalf of industrial companies. I partnered with Stuart Burns from my trading days and for several years we did a lot of cost reduction work for middle market manufacturers. In 2007, we created MetalMiner to drum up consulting business but before long, it became one of the industry’s largest metals trade publications. And the rest they say, is history!
What is it like to be a woman in a male dominated industry?
I absolutely love it. I was a bit of a tomboy but liked very girly things. I have also always felt comfortable playing basketball with the boys or Air Hockey or Battleship with all my “boy” neighbors. I’ve always felt as though I was treated fairly and equally. Sure, the steel industry has an Old Boys network reputation but that’s more on the supplier side. We are buyers advocates and I have always felt very welcomed by industrial buying organizations. I have faced resistance from plant managers and procurement managers who have felt threatened that we would somehow make them look bad, but I’m all about building relationships, sharing the tools in our toolkit, teaching, coaching and basically just helping people do their jobs to the best of their abilities. I have found that sometimes a “soft hand” can go a lot further in this industry.
What does your daily routine look like?
I have no standard routine besides intermittent fasting (at least 16 hours), drinking a cup of coffee, reading the headlines, reviewing email and exercising, hopefully all before 10am! But one thing that I do daily is ask myself this question, “What can I do today to move the needle on my business?” By doing that one thing each day, you can look back and see the results. Our company has had its best year ever!
Do you think being a woman in this industry makes the career path more difficult? Less difficult?
There is no doubt that the industry is shall we say, a little backwards. I don’t think of the steel industry as being progressive when it comes to liberating women. People have a path in life simply stated in this phrase, “Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit.” I have always known that if I just kept plugging away, kept doing good work, build my reputation and my company that the connections and path would become clearer. It sounds unbelievably cliché, but plain old hard work can get you there, and of course a little luck along the way.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced being a woman in the steel manufacturing industry?
It has taken us a lot longer to get recognized as a serious trade publication. I know a lot of mills and service centers that advertise with our smaller competitors (by audience, traffic, etc.) I think people would be shocked to know that MetalMiner is a much larger site by traffic compared to some of our competitors. Some of our landing pages for Carbon Steel receive tens of thousands of visits each month. Perhaps we haven’t done a good job of marketing ourselves?
What has been the best thing about being a woman in this industry?
I would say that people open to me quite readily and tell me things I have no business knowing. Knowledge is indeed power.
What is something you are most proud of that others in your position haven’t achieved?
I think the industry would be shocked to know how small MetalMiner is from a headcount perspective. We have grown our site to be one of the biggest in the industry with a tiny fraction of the headcount of all our competitors. Our forecasting service is now in the toolbox of the biggest of the Blue-Chip companies from around the world and we have launched the world’s only form/alloy/grade/size metal price benchmarking application. We know we have taken business from many of our competitors simply because we are laser focused on providing our clients the tools they need to know when and how much to buy.
What advice do you have for younger generations and young women who aspire to have a career whether in sales or other fields in this industry?
This is an easy one! Follow the path least taken. Look for careers where your friends “aren’t going” and look for industries with severe labor shortages. Align your paths to those industries. I would tell any woman to look at manufacturing.