Jeanine Lassaline-Berglund was one of the first women to be enrolled in St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology's skilled trades program and one of the first female mold makers in Windsor-Essex County in Canada.
"My first role was as a junior mold maker and then plastic injection mold designer," she said. "I was fascinated and hooked by the thought of having made something that someone outside of this industry would recognize — whether it be a part of a car or a toy part or anything I got to work on. Instant gratification."
Lassaline-Berglund is now the president of two not-for-profit organizations: Automate Canada and the Canadian Association of Mold Makers. She is responsible for the operations of each and the creation, deployment and management of budget, strategic and operational goals.
Her current challenge is growth, she said.
"The current challenges with the economic status in both Canada and the USA are alarming, but we continue to struggle with the rising cost of available materials and simultaneously the complete lack of other products," she said. "Then, let's add the labor shortage that we have been predicting for at least 15 years, which is now at a crisis level for some."
The two lessons she learned from the pandemic have been "a virtual world does not replace the need for people to be in the company of other people" and "regardless of the industry we are in, we are all in the people business."
"The pandemic really forced me to be thankful for my current reality. Being grateful and considerate has always been a part of my DNA. Understanding what others had to go through and the challenges for many where the lines of a personal life and a career were blurred was difficult at best. The challenges for employers who continued to operate and shift and pivot was nothing short of spectacular," she said. "If the pandemic did anything, it drove me deeper into my thoughts on gratitude."
Q: What is your personal "mold" that you are breaking?
Lassaline-Berglund: Well, if you ask my family, the mold was already broken by [the] sheer nature of my birth. I continue to remind them that having that kind of mom builds character, but I digress. Even when there may have been times that I was "breaking the mold," I was probably not so aware of it. My main focus and drive always came from curiosity or a need to put food on the table. I am pragmatic at best and often don't consider the roadblocks before starting something. Perhaps this was a naive way to develop a career, but it's an honest account.
For today, perhaps the fact that I am an example to all those who may be underrepresented in this industry, I am a role model. I guess I am an advocate for breaking all "molds" that don't serve a purpose or have any need to exist today. We all have choices we can make about who we are and what we want to do. Some paths will be more difficult than others, but that should not be a deterrent for trying. Sometimes you even find out what you don't want, and that's OK, too.
Q: What is your biggest failure and what did it teach you?
Lassaline-Berglund: Learning to lead is hard. You can read and study, but ultimately it is something you can only learn by doing. In that same train of thought, thinking you know more than the people doing the work was my biggest mistake early in my career. As a young leader, you think you have to know more than anyone. At some point, I was not listening and trusting my team and was making decisions that had really bad results. Humility ultimately taught me the greatest lesson and trusting those who do the job to guide your decisions is a lesson you should only have to learn once.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Lassaline-Berglund: I'm not sure I could narrow it down to one piece of advice. Here is a collection I have curated over the years:
• Listen to really hear and comprehend as opposed to listening to respond.
• Be able to laugh at yourself and never take yourself too seriously.
• When dealing with teams, remember we are all human beings just wanting to do a good job.
• People rarely do things to you; they are more inclined to behave and react in order to fill a need they have.
• Sleep and rest are a weapon.
• If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing.
• Silence is a tool.
• Have boundaries but be flexible.
• Know the difference between leadership and management.
• Be the kind of woman that will support another woman and not compete with her.