Homework features AHAM members’ insights on careers, success, life outside of work, and AHAM membership. This month, we spoke with Julie Rippy, Director, Product Safety and Regulatory Compliance, Vornado Air, LLC.
What personal and professional goals are you currently pursuing?
In this industry, it seems there is always something for which you need to become the “in-house expert.” New technical advances, new product categories, and new regulations generate plenty of opportunities to add to your expertise. Professionally, I am working on continuing to learn about our industry relationship with our government agencies. That is a nice way of saying I am currently focused on the regulatory side of the house. At the same time, I am fostering a strong product safety and regulatory compliance team that can grow with Vornado long into the future.
Personally, my focus is on creating time to relax and turn off the work. My husband and I have worked in the product safety industry for over 25 years and have very similar roles at two different companies. That can inadvertently lead to late nights and weekends of joint consultation on all sorts of work-related topics. Sometimes, it is tough to turn it off, but we continue to try.
How important is it for leaders to foster a culture of mentorship in their organizations? What makes an effective mentor?
Author Judy Blume once claimed, “Librarians save lives: by handing the right book, at the right time, to a kid in need.” I strongly believe that sentiment is also true for “capital M” Mentors, too. Mentors can save or make a career, by reaching out and lifting up another person at the right time.
Mentorship is the key to the success of any professional, but could be the difference between a series of job hops and an amazing career to someone who lacks confidence or experience. Effective mentors can see the potential in people long before it is obvious, strive to build confidence, create opportunities for growth, and applaud the attempts regardless of the outcomes.
Strong mentors within a company can inspire employees to hang on through rough patches, see their future opportunities, and foster company loyalty. It is difficult to replace experienced employees from the outside and very satisfying to elevate from within.
What are your secrets to having a productive day?
It occurred to me the other day that practically every day is a productive one, with plenty of work being accomplished. It is the prioritization of what gets done over what gets pushed that is the challenge. I still struggle at prioritizing my personal to-do list over responding to the myriad of “quick questions” and “fire drills” that enter my door throughout a day. However, having an effective, well-trained team to share the burden and keep the tires on the firetruck has allowed me to look out the windshield and plan for the next turn sooner. Having a strong network of industry colleagues gives me strength in knowing I do not face those turns alone and get answers I need quickly.
What is the best advice about leadership you have ever received?
I was very lucky to have a “capital M” Mentor early on who changed my career trajectory from technical project engineer to engineering leadership. Julie Heinzinger, a career leader at UL, believed I could be impactful as an engineering team lead in her UL Camas Materials organization, regardless of my lack of technical experience in her categories. She taught me two things that have stayed with me for over 20 years:
Grow teams that are diverse, knowledgeable, and loyal to each other and give them a safe space to vent. No job is easy when you are emotionally engaged. For your team to know you have their back, even when it is a challenging day, is critical to their success.
And… build a personal network of colleagues that can support you when your day is challenging, too.
How has a diverse and inclusive workforce helped your company to meet its objectives?
A commitment to diverse and inclusive workplaces in our industry was an objective long before it was trending. A diverse workplace allows for broader ideas and processes which lead to increased productivity and profitability. Vornado products are created for all people to enjoy cool breezes, warm toes, clean air, and wrinkle-free living. Fostering an environment of diverse ideas and perspectives provides our organization with product lines that are a better fit for all home comfort needs.
What do you gain from your involvement in AHAM?
When I joined Vornado ten years ago, they were a relatively small company with limited bandwidth, so not as engaged in AHAM or industry activities. As Vornado has grown, so has our relationship with AHAM staff, along with our reliance on the critical and timely information that AHAM provides. This has been especially true over the last few years, with COVID protocols, tariff exemptions, energy efficiency, and the bevy of technical standard work.
Personally, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with the dedicated and expert AHAM staff on both technical and regulatory topics that impact our industry. I was honored to chair the Portable Appliance Engineering Council over the last two years and look forward to being engaged wherever I can have an impact. AHAM meets my criteria as a “capital M” Mentor organization and I encourage others to jump on in.
Predict an innovation that will revolutionize the next generation.
I feel like things are being created so quickly these days that as soon as I predict something it will be done. So, I sincerely hope it is a way to eat carbs without repercussions.
Outside of the appliance industry, what would be your dream job?
I have worn lots of hats in my career from engineering, business development, strategic marketing, and certainly product safety. It has been as fulfilling as it has been challenging. As I start planning for retirement in the coming years, my goal is to spend more time in my painting studio and try selling some of my artwork, with maybe a bit of consulting on the side. Dream job yet to come!
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