Erin Noonan, 30

Erin Noonan
30
Director of Marketing; Shat-R-Shield Inc.

By Joe Nowlan

In 2011 Erin Noonan was working for a manufacturer of door-related hardware, (e.g., hinges and knobs). She had graduated from college with a degree in public relations and marketing and yearned for a position where she could make better use of that degree.

While a modern, technologically savvy professional, she nonetheless learned of an open marketing position at Shat-R-Shield in about the last way you'd expect.

A want ad in her hometown newspaper.

It's an irony that isn't lost on her that such an old school method was her successful source in today's job market.

"My degree from college was in public relations and marketing. So when I saw this job posting it was for a marketing assistant," Erin explained. "It kind of defined what I went to school for. Having graduated in the midst of a recession, I hadn't been able to find anything like that up to that point."

It has also turned into a lucky find for her company (Shat-R-Shield). She has since been promoted to her current position as the company's director of marketing.

Based in Salisbury, N.C., Shat-R-Shield manufactures shatter-resistant lamps and LED fixtures specialized for the food processing industry. It employs 60 people, Erin said, and a fairly small company like that means she gets to do a variety of tasks.

"It forces you to wear a lot of different hats. My title is 'director of marketing' but I do stuff that far exceeds marketing," she explained. "I work with the product development guys and I will work with the sales guys. I have the versatility and freedom to speak up whenever I have something to offer. It makes things interesting and everybody feels equally invested in the company. You know that your role is vital to the success of our business."

Such versatility requires a fairly steep learning curve, a challenge Noonan embraces.

"In this industry, if you don't stay on top of it, you are falling behind. And that could be in a matter of a week's time," Erin said. "It forces you to stay on your toes and be on the lookout for whatever the latest and greatest thing is. You have to stay educated."

Along with that product development knowledge, she is also learning what goes into being an effective manager of her direct reports.

"The way that my job has changed has been part of that learning curve as well," Erin explained. "I think the most challenging thing that I've had to do is to learn to be a manager—being able to balance my own workload and also be able to make sure that they have plenty on their plates. That is a job in itself."

Erin grew up in a very small rural town, Gold Hill, N.C., "with a population of maybe 100 and no stoplights," she laughed.

She and her husband John "have a very healthy work-life balance, something we take great pride in," she said. "John and I travel a ton. We are gone on the weekends more than we are home. We have a yellow lab dog. We go to the beach, back packing and stuff like that."

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. My number one piece of advice would be don't be scared to speak up. Your voice is important. Millennials can especially get a lot of flack these days, when in reality they have a lot to offer. Our industry has changed, so the elders in the company have done a lot of great things for a really long time. But things change fast and we need this young, fresh talent to come in and make sure that they are heard and their ideas are presented. They can really make a big change.

Q. It wasn't that long ago that you were a new kid in the industry. What similarities and what differences do you see in the new kids who are just now joining the industry in your company?

A. I think the biggest, most noticeable difference that I've seen – and it makes me very happy – is that there are a lot more females in the industry now than there used to be. That's within the past two or three years, I would say. When I first started I remember walking into my first tradeshow and just being really outnumbered. So being a young female, it is nice to see a lot more of those coming to those shows.

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Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at jcnowlan@msn.com.