When LaCristal Atchison started at GE Appliances’ Decatur plant as a 19-year-old operator on the line, she could not have imagined a long-term career in manufacturing or the women who would inspire her along the way. Today, after nearly 23 years with the company, she is finishing up her degree, blazing a new path, and embracing her role as a mentor.
LaCristal worked as an operator for 15 years while her children were young. “I was the person who filled in for absentee employees, which gave me the opportunity to learn all the jobs on the line. I like the variety in manufacturing. There is always something new to learn.” This sparked her interest in taking the next step in her career and she participated in a workshop on LEAN principles. When a job came up to work on the LEAN team, Paul Harris, Decatur’s LEAN senior manager, encouraged her to apply. LaCristal started in 2013 and still works as a LEAN Kaizen Promotion Officer associate. “Standardized work really improves quality, and I like the problem-solving aspect of the job.
Her hard work did not go unnoticed, and she was recently nominated to participate in Women in Manufacturing’s Empowering Women in Production program through the Renee Story Scholarship Fund.
Since starting the program, LaCristal has grown in ways she hadn’t anticipated. “I was always reserved and in the background. Being a woman in manufacturing, I think we are less likely to speak up when we should, but I’ve been a lot more vocal lately. This program has given me more confidence in my ideas."
Her path at GEA also inspired her 24-year-old son, Christopher, to pursue a career in manufacturing. He currently works with machinery and maintains its upkeep, while her youngest is enrolled in school to earn her bachelor’s degree.
Over the next year, LaCristal plans to complete courses to obtain her Business Administration degree and advance in her career with GEA. She encourages more women in manufacturing to “Go for it, be open, and work hard. There’s nothing we can’t do.”