In her own words: Willow Peterman, Controller/Partner, Starn Tool & Manufacturing and Mecal by Starn

What or who fueled your interest in manufacturing?

I’ve always been a “hands-on” type of person. My dad worked in Tool & Die and I grew up on a farm always working with machinery and equipment. It was natural for me to think mechanically and be interested in the way things worked, how they were built and designed. My freshman year of high school I got to take a tour of Crawford Tech. I loved the drafting and design class so decided to attend my sophomore year. It gave me a whole new level of respect and perspective for the first steps in the manufacturing process. My education from Crawford Tech just continued to fuel my interest in the manufacturing industry.

What is your current role in manufacturing?

My current position at Starn Tool is Controller, and, as of 2022, Partner. My job consists of accounting, payroll, HR, working with our Management Teams, and community outreach. I am responsible for accounts payable, receivable, payroll, benefits enrollment, financials, and other administrative work. I also take every opportunity I can to show the community what we do at Starn Tool and encourage younger generations to learn about the rewarding career paths the manufacturing industry has to offer.

Describe your path to get to where you are today.

I began the journey to my current position my sophomore year of high school. I attended Crawford Tech my sophomore and junior year. During my junior year I was hired part time at Starn Tool. I continued attending Crawford Tech and working part-time at Starn the remainder of my junior year and throughout my senior year. After graduation, I was hired full-time at Starn and began an extensive internal training program. This training allowed me to work for an extended period in every department throughout the shop. I began in the CNC Mill department and over the course of 2 years moved into the Engineering Department. I worked in Engineering setting up jobs, purchasing and doing other administrative work for a year before moving into the office manager position. After a little over a year as the office manager I moved into my current position as controller, and as of 2022 have also become a partner of Starn Tool.

What is your Superpower?

When I first started at Starn, I didn’t necessarily have a “superpower”. I was good at math, but enjoyed designing and learning so I thought that’s what I wanted to do. During my interview, Bill Starn asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, which everyone thinks they know the answer to the question, but it turns out, everyone is still trying to figure it out! As time goes on and skills evolve, “superpowers” grow and change, you learn what you’re good at and learn additional things to excel in. I thought I wanted to design, but ended up learning that I’m good with numbers, accounting, and the financial side of business.

Why is your role important to others – like to customers or end users?

My role is important to our team in ensuring that bills are paid, employees receive paychecks, customers are paying bills, and everyone is informed of the benefits we offer. It’s important that customers pay their bills, as that’s the cashflow of the business. It is also important that bills are paid so we can continue to order the necessary supplies to complete jobs in the shop, and of course ensuring employees receive their paychecks is also extremely important. Employee knowledge is one of the most important aspects of my job, in my opinion. Starn takes great pride in the communication it holds with our employees. We are honest with our employees and keep them informed of every aspect of the business. It’s important to us, as a company to have the trust of our employees, and ensuring they are knowledgeable and that all their questions are answered is a large part of my job.

What do you think the future holds for your career or others you inspire?

I’ve been asked this question many times throughout my life. “What’s the next step? Where will my career go from here?”. Since becoming a partner – it may seem as though that is the limit. However, I don’t believe that. Growth isn’t necessarily about your title but your experiences, knowledge, and willingness to learn. I see my future full of more learning opportunities. I am always looking to expand my education and knowledge in manufacturing, and in today’s world, manufacturing is changing and growing each day, leaving an abundance of learning for anyone who is willing. I believe anyone can have a career in manufacturing, whether that means being a machine operator, engineer, programmer, secretary, manager, marketing or sales support, or a purchasing agent. There is an abundance of career paths available if you work hard and open your mind to the learning opportunities available.

Willow Peterman - Starn Tool & Manufacturing