Written by Eugenie Bostrom
“I want to leave a legacy behind for young women in [manufacturing] to realize they can have it all. They can have family, femininity, fame and mechanical prowess all at once. I hope to pave the way to increase the percentage of female involvement in this field.”
— Heidi Hostetter, on her driving force.
Must a maker only foster the new? Is preservation the antithesis of innovation? Or can you both make space for new creations and ways of creating while preserving the long-laid path of the previous makers? Heidi Hostetter’s celebrated career in the once-thought-to-be-dead and now-revived American manufacturing industry, proves that you can balance history and forward momentum with a few key solutions.
Not many people in the manufacturing industry have the kind of track record for innovation Heidi has, and in a sector historically filled throughout every level with masculine energy — except, of course, the era of Rosie the Riveter when women filled American assembly lines during World War II — Heidi has risen to the top of her field as a change-maker; someone to watch and learn from. Working diligently to honor the rich history of manufacturing in this country while also pioneering its shift into the New Collar Workforce; she somehow has set herself apart as both a champion and even a hero — working to save the historic place manufacturing has held as a keystone economic driver in this country while also being a relentless innovator and helping to shepherd manufacturing as it evolves to fit into a new world.
UNUM: AS A VETERAN OF THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY; WHAT DOES “NEW-COLLAR WORKFORCE” MEAN TO YOU? HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
HH: Oh, over the course of 22 years I have watched the industry morph into many different genres. The latest being this digital and disruptive era where we currently reside. So innovative and exciting. This is the first time in the history of this industry when we have been able to realize our thoughts become products almost immediately with the various different technological disruptions out there.
A “disruptive technology” is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up an industry or is a groundbreaking product that creates a completely new industry. Heidi is referring to 3-Dimensional Printing and the kind of precision technology that is driving the “New Collar Workforce.” Her company Faustson Tool, for example, is the sole-source manufacturer of the antenna housing for the F-35 Fighter Jet. The type of high-level skill and small teams required to manufacture such intricate and often-delicate parts is the future of manufacturing and the women-owned and operated Faustson is leading the way.
UNUM: CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE GETTING INTO THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY? WHAT DREW YOU IN? WAS THERE A PROFOUND MOMENT WHEN YOU KNEW THIS WAS YOUR CALLING?
HH: I started in the electronics industry for a company called Dovatron, now known as Flextronics. It was quite by accident. I just needed a job out of college and that was the one I got. I realized I loved it. I started to learn the aspects of program management and wanted to have some real control in the end results and outcomes of products; both ours and the customers’. I did that for many years, then went into electronics distribution sales; later on sheet metal and machining; and eventually found my real love, which was aerospace machining more than 15 years ago. I have since kept pushing to advance our industry with such concepts and ideas as the ADAPT Research Center at the Colorado School of Mines that handles the materials characterization for all data as it relates to metal printing for sintered powders. My next venture is to see how we can fully automate and robotically handle trials and tribulations on our manufacturing floor. That’s up next. Stay tuned.
UNUM: YOU ARE UNQUESTIONABLY A PIONEER IN YOUR FIELD — YOU’VE LITERALLY SHAPED YOUR INDUSTRY WITHIN YOUR STATE AND BEYOND. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH ALL OF THIS? WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING?
HH: I want to leave a legacy behind for young women in this field to realize they can have it all. They can have family, femininity, fame and mechanical prowess all at once. I want to pave the way to increase the percentage of female involvement in this field. That matters a great deal to me. As my consulting tagline for H2 manufacturing solutions says, “Making day-to-day challenges manufacturers face a little more manageable and a lot less frustrating to achieve the best possible outcome.”
UNUM: YOU’VE NOT JUST EXCELLED AND BECOME A LEADER IN YOUR FIELD, YOU’VE CREATED A CONSULTANCY TO HELP SUPPORT MANUFACTURERS AND BROUGHT TOGETHER THE ADAPT PARTNERSHIP TO STANDARDIZE DATA AND ESTABLISH STRONG COMMUNICATION … CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF PARTNERSHIPS AND OF COLLECTIVE COMMUNITY — TO YOU PERSONALLY AND FOR THE WORK?
HH: Collaboration is key to anything and everything we try to achieve in this industry. We need to take as many experts as we can across many different sectors both in public and private and leverage our expertise and knowledge to really have a full scope and a dimensional perspective, because it’s that dimensional and collaborative perspective that gets things done quickly and more importantly: effectively. You will recognize the ideas that have been siloed and lack collaboration. Just as you will recognize the ideas that were born of collaboration.
UNUM: WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SUCCEED IN THIS INDUSTRY?
HH: Here’s my basic formula in this industry, in this life, and it’s the secret sauce to success. I 100 percent believe in what I am about to say: “Integrity + Hard Work = Success” I believe that to be true 100 percent of the time without question. This is really all that’s required in this industry.
UNUM: IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH UNUM READERS WHO MAY BE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY?
HH: I would simply say this: Manufacturing touches lives across all sectors — medical, aerospace, IT, defense, etc. I cannot think of one thing on the consumer market that is not manufactured. Everything we touch has a manufacturing history/legacy. It is important to really understand how your involvement will have direct impact on lives, history and the future. Google’s founder, Larry Page, said it best: “Have a healthy disregard for the impossible!” And this is what manufacturing allows us to do. Everything becomes possible; there are no limitations.
UNUM: ARE THERE WOMEN, OR ANY INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE AND BUILD? CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT?
HH: My current CEO at Faustson, Alicia Svaldi. She has always stood by my side through any of my ideas and supported what I felt the next steps were to be even when she disagreed. ADAPT is a great example of that because she never thought in a million years that it would work, but she allowed me the space I needed to create that concept and it was successful. However, it takes a very strong leader to allow such a thing. She 100 percent of the time, and without fail, has fully embraced me. For this, I am forever grateful. Additionally, my first boss Harriet … she was the epitome of a strong woman. All of 5 feet tall, and strong as a bull, both internally and externally; she was the general manager of a huge electronics distributor in Colorado, based out of Texas. Always working. Always fair and reasonable. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model to start my career with. Simply an amazing woman.