Christie Wester may be new to the role of chief financial officer at LaPorte, Ind.-based Jaeger-Unitek Sealing Solutions Inc., but she has been with the supplier of engineered rubber and plastic profile extrusions since 2016, when she joined as accounting manager.
Wester graduated from Butler University with a bachelor's degree in accounting. She joined Ernst and Young in Indianapolis as an auditor and worked in the London office.
She passed the certified public accountant exam and became certified in two years, then worked in the nonprofit sector for three years as an accounting manager. Wester returned to Indiana, where she was the CFO for a nonprofit organization and accounting manager before joining Jaeger-Unitek.
"I have always had a personal interest in recycling and manufacturing processes," Wester said in her Women Breaking the Mold survey. "My first job as an auditor took me to many Indiana manufacturing facilities in a number of industries. My position at Jaeger-Unitek has allowed me to get involved in more intricate details of manufacturing processes, starting with the plastic raw materials and ending with high-quality sealing solutions made out of various types of plastics."
Wester said her transition from middle management to executive management — "being able to use the global knowledge I gained while working overseas early on in my career, while juggling being a new mom and a foster/adoptive parent to young children" — has been her biggest accomplishment.
Wester is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
"You don't have to come up the ranks in a manufacturing/production environment to become an executive leader in a manufacturing company. … I had worked in a few other industries," she said, "and gained enough knowledge to make the leap into manufacturing, and it has been a successful journey so far."
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Wester: Hard work, respect and drive to do more will be key to being successful — never give up on what you want.
Q: What is your current challenge at work?
Wester: In the CFO role, I'm managing both the accounting and HR functions — so time management and knowing when to devote what/how much time to each department can be challenging. Ongoing communication always has to improve for us, as we run a lean ship.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Wester: The variety of products that can be produced. It is countless the types of raw materials that can [be] molded, extruded, etc., into forming everyday items you didn't even know you were using. For example, seals on my car door and sunroof — consumers most likely don't even know they are there, yet my company is thriving at making these high-quality plastic seals.
Q: Who is your mentor or someone you look up to?
Wester: My dad is a local business owner, a boss, a great dad, a great leader, and he works hard to keep his business successful. He works really hard, leading by example, as well as always sees the importance of networking and business marketing. I have learned a lot about seeing my goals through, using my dad as my example.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Wester: I think I have it! CFO of a medium-sized company that allows me to have a work-life balance, that sees family playing an important role in my development.