Ebony Grover was looking for a career opportunity with the pharmaceutical industry when she ran across a "very vague ad" seeking an account manager.
What she could see about the opening intrigued her. It had what she was seeking: a chance to work with a global company with a wide reach and opportunities to travel. What she found was a branch of the plastics industry she had never even thought about previously: plastic hangers made for the world's biggest retailers.
"I completely stumbled upon it," said Grover, 39, who now is global sales manager for Mainetti Group, the Italy-based leading maker of hangers sold to retailers including Wal-Mart, Kohl's and JCPenney. "It's a commodity. Most people don't even think about hangers. I never considered hangers."
But she's fully aware of the complexity of the business now. Not only do retailers need them to keep their sales items racked and in front of buyers, Mainetti also is working extensively with retailers on the complex job of reusing and recycling hangers.
Grover is based in Tampa, Fla. Mainetti's North American offices are in Keasbey, N.J., and global headquarters are in Vicenza, Italy.
In addition to its current product line, Mainetti has been reaching out to new opportunities in ecommerce, with low density polyethylene mailing bags and labels for shipping.
Being part of a global company gives Grover a chance to work with a diverse team from places including Europe, India, Australia and Hong Kong, although the global reach has also taught her hard lessons in the need for teamwork.
She says her biggest failure came when she was developing a key account with a customer in New Zealand and thought she had to do all of the work herself.
"As a woman, and as a woman of color, you tend to overcompensate sometimes," she said. "It's the attitude that I'm a one-man army and I can do it all. I wanted to bring everything to the table in a neat package. But that taught me an important lesson in teamwork. I have a complete global sales force behind me. I don't have to do it alone. I didn't need to stay up until midnight."
Stepping back and believing in the team as a whole isn't easy, whether it's at work or at home where the mother of four — ages 5 to 19 — has had to learn to delegate.
At work, Grover said she's often on the lookout for other women of color who can serve as mentors to her, while also seeing the chance she could mentor another woman just entering the industry.
It's important for women to be seen and heard in an industry that is still predominantly populated by men.
"There are a lot of opportunities out there, but in certain areas, it has been men who were the key players," she said. "It's that glass ceiling we hear about. It's important to shift the mind frame of some key decision-makers. It is shifting, but it's a slow shift."