Carissa Roman is a continuous improvement lead at Legrand and an executive committee member of Legrand’s elle program that focuses on professional development and work place quality for women. If she hadn’t discovered Xena Workwear’s line of fashionable steel-toe shoes, then she would have developed her own. That’s just Carissa’s mindset—if it isn’t out there, she will build it.
“I'm in operations, but when I have to go over to the office, I want nice shoes. For meetings, I tell my coworkers, ‘I have to bring in my pumps.’ My coworkers ask, ‘…why?’ I say, ‘you don't understand. I need my pumps.’ They say, ‘what? Shoes don't mean that much.’ I say, ‘oh, yes. Yes, they do.’”
The OPS World
Carissa got into the continuous improvement world by chance. When she graduated as an English major during the 2008 recession, there were very few job opportunities. She applied everywhere and landed an entry-level admin job at a distribution center. After her boss saw that she was an English major, he invited her into the OPS world to work on technical writing projects.
“He had me writing processes and procedures, but at the same time he was having me improve those processes and procedures. I was enjoying it and I was good at it.”
There, Carissa gained her knowledge, became comfortable with tools of the trade, and got the certifications she needed to succeed. However, as she mastered her role, she realized there was no room for advancement. The environment she was in would limit her potential and she had to switch companies to keep growing. Her boss, who is her mentor to this day, was supportive and helped Carissa find her new job at Legrand where she has worked for the past three years.
Being successful as a continuous improvement lead in manufacturing takes guile. You’re in charge of updating long-standing procedures that workplaces have grown comfortable with. Carissa learned that the best way to challenge the norms is to first realize what fears stand behind the resistance to change. Once you understand what those fears are, it becomes much easier to develop new processes that resonate with the workplace and that will have a higher chance of being adopted.
However, the next challenge is to communicate this effectively. Carissa found that the key is not only to speak up, but to speak up with thoughtful intention. Every process she proposes, she addresses it from an outside perspective in an attempt to keep her internal bias at bay.
“You have to stop and reflect, “if somebody else presented this idea, would it be a good idea?” I've gotten pretty confident, but learned that there are certain rooms or certain people that aren't listening. It doesn't matter if I'm speaking up.”
When Carissa first became involved with the women’s empowerment group Elle at Legrand, they only worked with women in administrative roles. She soon expanded Elle’s reach to the production floor. Carissa recalls one of her favorite moments:
“One woman came up to me and asked, “can you help me write my speech? I want to run for the president of the union.” I was like, “Oh, okay! All right!” Not only did she win, she won by a landslide, and said, “if I wasn't a part of Elle I wouldn't have the confidence to do this. I felt empowered.””
Through empowerment in both salary and hourly sectors, Elle strives to strengthen and solidify the roles of women in the workplace. But the group also works to educate men in leadership roles. By including men in their efforts, Elle allows difficult conversations to happen—conversations that are beginning to affect change. Elle wants to empower men to not only speak for women, but to give women a platform to speak for themselves, much like Carissa has done in her Continuous Improvement Leadership role.
“The biggest hurdle is that it can't be a secret society. It can’t just be us talking—we have to break through and open up that conversation so they can see what is going on, and so they learn how to support women in their own workplaces.”
Growth Through Diversity
Carissa’s involvement at Elle is far from over. As Elle grows its presence to different plants across the country, there is room for continuous improvement.
“You have to change with your customer. You need to be able to look at things from different perspectives. You need diversity.”
Say hello and connect with Carissa on LinkedIn!