Finding My Place in the Manufacturing World
When I was nine years old, my dad came home from work one day and said, “I quit my job.” As we absorbed the shock, he went on to tell our family that he was starting his own manufacturing business.
The news came out of left field – and since he was the only working adult in the house with a wife and two small children, his decision felt extremely risky.
But my dad was determined to succeed. He started working out of the back of a friend’s shop, meaning he could only use the machines when they were free, making for a lot of late nights.
As things progressed, my dad was able to work normal business hours. But every night after dinner, he would pull out his briefcase full of blueprints and our dining room table – buried under papers and mechanical pencils – quickly transformed into quoting central.
I can’t help but feel inspired when I think about how many hours quoting at that dining room table my dad could have saved if he’d had a solution like Paperless Parts.
Kimberly at a young age watching her father sort through stacks of quoting paperwork.
How Our Family Business Shaped My Life
When you’re running a family business, there’s a lot on the line. Over the course of Sweeney Metal’s history, there were times when multiple family members were employees, meaning that if there was a downturn, not only was my dad’s income at risk, but also the income of his children and their ability to support his grandchildren. On many occasions, I witnessed my parents forgo their own paychecks for weeks, sometimes months at a time, just to make sure that the rest of the organization was taken care of.
That dynamic creates an immense pressure to succeed. I think as a result, my brother and I were molded into hard workers; no matter who we’re working for or what we’re working towards, we see work as something bigger than ourselves.
Funnily enough, growing up in a manufacturing family did not inspire me to join the industry. In fact, it did the complete opposite. I never saw an opportunity for me anywhere other than the shop floor, which I knew wasn’t the place for me (believe me, I tried it). After graduating high school, I ran as far away from manufacturing as I possibly could.
Kimberly’s father working in the shop, circa 1994.
Forging a New Path
Fast forward a few decades and I can see a clear place for myself here. With more women in manufacturing than there were when I was growing up, I’m seeing more representation in the industry and it’s opened my eyes to so many types of roles outside of just operating and programming.
I was initially drawn to Paperless Parts because my brother spoke very highly of the company. It’s not often that we talk about work over family dinner, so I knew that if he brought it up during that sacred window of time it must be something he was really excited about.
An old photo of Kimberly’s father (left) with her brother (right).
From that point on, I knew what Paperless Parts was at a very high level but I’d never really dug into it and looked under the surface. That was until something popped up on LinkedIn that said, “Hey, Kim, you might be a good fit for this position at Paperless Parts.” That prompted me to do some research and I came across a video from the CEO & Co-founder, Jason Ray, where he shared the company vision, his mission, and his passion for helping small manufacturing companies.
Their mission really resonated with me on a personal level. I also have a military background like Jason, so it seemed like the perfect fit. The role advertised was a marriage of my people skills and manufacturing knowledge, and would allow me to directly support small manufacturing companies who have a very special place in my heart. It felt too good to be true.
Making Manufacturing More Accessible
It’s always been important for me to work for a company that has a clear mission and vision. I want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing (and “making money” isn’t a good enough answer).
At the end of the day, what drives me is being able to solve real problems. When I hear Jason talk about how Paperless Parts makes manufacturing more accessible and gives business owners time back in their days to do what’s most important to them, it resonates with me on a very personal level.
Whether it’s going to their kid’s soccer game or spending more time growing their business, it feels good to know that the work we’re doing here helps people get back to doing what matters to them. I see what that difference would have looked like in my own family had my dad not been required to spend, say, 30 hours of his week quoting at the dining room table.
Kimberly’s father circa 1994.
If Paperless Parts had existed in the eighties, the amount of time saved across the entire industry would’ve been phenomenal. Back then, everything was being done on pen (or pencil) and paper – and I love my dad, but his handwriting looks like a pigeon’s. Decades’ worth of this tribal knowledge lived on paper notes that are frankly illegible, and that’s not good for business continuity.
Coming Full Circle
Paperless Parts doesn’t only bring value to the manufacturing industry through technology, but also through its people.
There’s an extremely high sense of employee ownership here; I’m seeing people who are the same age as my kids work with so much confidence, determination, and passion for manufacturing. It’s the exact opposite of what you might read on social media these days about the younger generations not being as drawn to the trades or manufacturing. To be honest, I’d assumed I’d be seeing a lot of people working here that look like my dad and my brother, but the diversity is inspiring for the future of this industry.
Coming to work for Paperless Parts has taught me that whatever skill set you have, there’s a way to bring value to support manufacturing in the United States. I think my whole family knew that I wouldn’t be running a CNC machine or welding on the shop floor, but what we didn’t see coming was that my passion for education and business could be used to help manufacturing companies increase revenue, profitability, and win big. I haven’t been this excited in a long time.
Want to find your place in the world of manufacturing? Check out the 20+ open roles on our Careers page today.
Kimberly Sweeney joined the Paperless Parts team in 2022 as a Customer Success Manager. She works collaboratively with her team to capture customer feedback and influence platform enhancements, enable post-implementation success, and support the customer evolution with the Paperless Parts platform. She brings years of experience in account management, cybersecurity, and client engagement as well as a BA in Business and a Master’s degree in Education. To learn more about her family’s manufacturing business, visit Sweeney Metal Fabricator’s website here.