Shattering Glass Ceiling
Kara Hamilton's career has taken her around the world and straight through the “glass ceiling” of the manufacturing industry. This notorious metaphorical roadblock has time and time again stifled career growth for women, especially in non-traditional industries, and especially for women of color. Kara has proven that determination and education can overcome any roadblock.
Kara has been at Alfa Laval for 15 years. Alfa Laval is a leading global supplier of products and solutions for heat transfer, separation and fluid handling through key products – heat exchangers, separators, pumps and valves. She started-out her career as a Buyer and worked her way up the ladder to become the Warehouse Unit Manager - supervising large, complex operations in Indianapolis and across the globe.
She visited countless facilities in the U.S., Sweden, Denmark, and France to share her expertise in problem solving and team leadership. At one point, Kara found herself traveling as often as two weeks per month while taking calls and attending virtual workshops at all hours to communicate with teams across time-zones.
The extensive traveling eventually took a toll and Kara made a decision to stay home in Indianapolis to focus on being there for her two teenage daughters. Yet she kept moving and focused her energy on personal growth. Kara received an M.B.A. in Project Management from DeVry University and a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, an esteemed industry credential designating a mastery of lean enterprise concepts.
In 2019, Kara got to apply her knowledge during a year-long facility move. She had to transition her team from two separate shifts that utilized a manual system to a 24-hour operation under an automated system. To complicate matters further, the move happened when her team faced an unusually high amount of customer claims.
“We had to keep everyone encouraged. As a manager you don’t realize how much time you spend being a coach. But I want my team to be the best, I want them to be better than me. A year after the move, we ended up reducing our customer claims by 50% - a huge reduction.”
Her expertise and commitment to self-improvement helped Kara to break into management roles, frequently finding herself as the only woman in meetings full of white male executives. Nationally, there is a glaring void of women of color in manufacturing leadership positions. According to Business Wire, women only fill 26% of manufacturing industry leadership positions, and women of color make a disproportionately smaller number of that percentage. Because of this unfortunate reality, Kara’s success is truly badass.
Being the only person who looks like you while trying to tell a majority group how to solve their problems can be intimidating, so Kara knows her value and the knowledge that she brings to the table. She mixes her expertise with confidence to prove that she is qualified to call the shots.
“People try to challenge me all the time, but I am determined to bust the glass ceiling. I make sure that I really know what I am talking about, so that when I say ‘this is how it’s going to be’ they realize that I know my stuff.”
Kara aspires to continue to climb to reach the executive level in her industry and hopes to open a mentorship program that will support women coming into manufacturing leadership. Balancing family, higher education, and a demanding career is not an easy undertaking for women. She is passionate about sharing her advice to help guide others.
“Coming into a male dominate industry as a mother is difficult. I really stress 'it's family first' with my team. I put in a lot of hours at work, but make sure I go home spend time with my family, and I don’t miss important games or activities. As women, we have to be dedicated mothers and coworkers. You have to have an open mind, and you’ve got be tough, but it is definitely rewarding. Just take chances, go out and show them.”