Mimi Shalash wanted to be an international human rights attorney. Then life got in the way: She got divorced and had to support her daughter, now 9 years old.
This single mom got a job at Toyota Boshoku Corp., an automotive interiors supplier in Erlanger, Ky. She had earned her bachelor's degree just across the Ohio River, at the University of Cincinnati, in political science and international affairs.
At Toyota Boshoku, she worked in purchasing for a team that handled the trim cover and plastic components product line. Shalash enjoyed it, finding that she developed an appreciation for cars, and she liked the detail-oriented job of "supply chain management, analytics, relationship building." She also was the company's representative for diversity for suppliers.
She wanted to move up and do a good job. She worked there from 2010 to early 2012, then moved to Mitsubishi International Food Ingredients Inc., where she developed a value-add project that saved more than $200,000 a year in freight costs and won an award from Mitsubishi.
"This particular project fueled my interest in problem-solving analytics and data importance," she said.
Shalash, 29, now works as a sales account manager at Engineered Profiles LLC, a custom extruder in Columbus, Ohio. She does not have specific geographical territory; most of her accounts are industrial, such as for the heating, ventilating and air conditioning industry and the oil and gas industry.
Shalash, whose parents came from Palestine, has no regrets of how her life changed and says she found herself in the sales business.
"I have found my niche through networking and persistence. I have learned the value of prioritization," she said.
And she still thinks about pursuing a law degree.
"I've thought about going back to school, but where the path that I chose has taught me to focus on my relationship building," she said.
Establishing priorities at Engineered Profiles and "remaining focused towards my continuously evolving goals help me to be more effective and flexible within the many roles I play both professionally and personally," she said.
Shalash is chairwoman of Engineered Profiles' Employee Engagement Committee. She said the company has recognized the need to foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration in the last few years. Before that, Shalash said, the company had some employees who felt disengaged.
The custom extruder employs about 200 on the plant floor and another 50 office staffers. It's a diverse group. The engagement committee plans regular fun events, like the dunk tank in June, which generated $400 for charity, and Shalash said Engineered Profiles matched it and then some — for a total of $1,000 donated to the Reeb Avenue Center in Columbus, located near the company in southern Columbus.
"Since we've started this program, we've had a higher retention rate," she said.
Shalash says Paula Bennett, president and CEO of retailer J. Jill, is a role model. She heard a presentation by Bennett and was impressed by the company's philanthropic contributions and ability to pinpoint sellers with solid metrics.
In that vein, she participates in Columbus Dress for Success, helping women reach economic independence through a network of support, professional attire and other tools. Shalash also helps a food bank in Dublin, Ohio, and Habitat for Humanity.
Click here to find links to other profiles.