pmpa precision machined products cate smithCould you discuss the academic and professional journeys that brought you to your present position?

Both my dad and my maternal grandpap worked in manufacturing, but my family were part of a generation that wanted their kinds to “do better,” which meant going to college. I enrolled at Bowling Green State University and earned a degree in sport management, working summers at a nearby steel mill shoveling oil, cleaning electrical panels, and degreasing machinery. I then went Cleveland State University to obtain my Juris Doctorate. Professionally, I worked my way up from law clerk to associate attorney, and that’s when I made my transition into association management as Executive Director of the Delta Theta Law Fraternity, where I spent 11 years before holding that same position at the Education Law Association for the next 10 years, during which I earned a Master’s in Public Administration. I heard about the PMPA opening through my network in the Ohio Society of Association Executives, and it just looked like the perfect fit for us both. So that began the most thorough interview process of my life – all of my previous positions had basically come about through networking – since the PMPA wanted to feel assured that we were making the right decision. For me, at least, that’s definitely proven to be true; especially when I found a pencil in my desk drawer bearing the logo of the vocation school where my husband works my first day on the job. I took that as a sign this was meant to be.

In what ways has your legal training been useful in your position with the PMPA over the past year and some months?

In terms of my legal training, I think learning to think critically and develop logical thought processes is a definite benefit in this position. The communication skills a lawyer must acquire to be able to ask questions without appearing accusatory is equally important for a leader. In addition, I’ve been able to examine and understand the legal issues we encounter. As for my professional experience, working for small associations has trained me to keep an eagle eye on the budget, so everyone on the PMPA team has already learned that my first question about a project, whether it involves marketing, events, or new member benefits, will always be “what will it cost?” If you keep your bottom line solid by being a good steward of membership dues and staying member-focused, then you’ve got a firm foundation to stand on.

pmpa precision machined products cate smithHow has the PMPA helped its members weather the recession and pandemic, and how will you continue doing so once recovery begins?

As a case in point, we knew our members were essential industries even before the government did, because we started receiving RFQs for large numbers of ventilator parts requiring fast-track delivery times. We knew that our members were busy handling plenty of issues on their own, so we became the clearinghouse for authoritative information – about the virus, about the public health measures, and about the legislative steps being taken to help them keep their performers employed. We’ve tailored our support for members by rethinking what type of information should be appearing online, and in what form. For instance, with the new administration in place we expect to offer guidance for the many anticipated regulatory changes headed our way. We’ve also increased our online resources by establishing platforms like the Tech Tuesday Webinar Series, which can be accessed on our website, and launching a Podcast Series that’s now at more than 52 episodes and 3,400 downloads. In addition, we are currently building a searchable online library to bring a wide variety of technical information to our members’ fingertips. And of course, that is on top of the work we do every day to help them solve operational and technical problems, understand business, quality, and regulatory requirements, and to otherwise do whatever it takes to help them adapt and thrive.

What has impressed you most during your time with the PMPA?

I continue to be amazed by how “member-centric” this association is. Everything we do is focused on the benefit it provides to our membership, and they are involved in our decision-making process to a degree that’s really encouraging to see. As for the industry at large, it’s wonderful to see how manufacturing, and of course precision machining specifically, has evolved into this sophisticated, super-clean environment since my dad and granpap’s time. We’re proud that we delivered, so they could deliver. When the world desperately needed what we had to deliver. With PMPA, all of our member companies, their employees, and those employee’s families, discovered that we are all better together. And that the world really needs what it is our talented people make. Essential manufacturing, yes. We support it every day. Our members’ parts make a difference in everyone’s lives.

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