From a young age, Victoria Rooke was a hands-on person.
She went from tinkering on cars, large equipment and semi-trucks with her dad, to attending a technical high school in her area. She knew then she wanted to be involved with work that required her to use her hands.
After job shadowing at the first manufacturing shop she had ever visited, she realized that kind of work wasn't dark and dingy like the factories back in the day. Instead, the work was based on innovation, technology and precision in a clean and technical environment. All of these factors are what drew Rooke to work in manufacturing.
"I also realized how important manufacturing is, everything we touch or see is manufactured in some way," Rooke said. "I got my start by going to a technical high school and picking a trade which, at the time, was automotive technology."
During her sophomore year of high school, she had the opportunity to job shadow at Westminster Tool. That experience changed her perspective and her career trajectory.
"As soon as I walked into the place, I was blown away by the machinery and the parts they were manufacturing. And, even better, I got to shadow a woman who ran an EDM (Electric Discharge Machining) CNC machine. At that point, I knew this was my career."
Immediately after graduation, she applied for a job with Westminster Tool, and she was hired on the spot. Her lack of manufacturing wasn't a problem, because her willingness to learn stood out.
A few of Rooke's daily tasks include CNC Machining, inspection, team improvements and meetings, job processing and project management support.
As shop floor team leader, she is responsible for not just leading by example but motivating and inspiring the team on a daily basis.
And that willingness to learn? It's serving her well.
She continues to cross-train in as many areas of the business as possible, always learning something new and finding ways to duplicate that knowledge in her teammates.
She also plans to continue developing her leadership skills and get more exposure to the operational side of the business so that she can contribute more strategically to the direction of the company.
Among Rooke's greatest professional accomplishments is completing the QVCC Advanced Manufacturing Technology course, a nine-month certificate course. To achieve the certification, she worked during the day and went to school at night, five days a week.
"It was challenging but the most fulfilling thing I have done," Rooke said. "Another achievement, so far, was I spoke and presented at the Northeast Lean Conference. It was my first time presenting in front of a very large crowd, after that I felt like I conquered a huge fear."
Conquering that fear has opened new doors of opportunity. Today she works with sales, marketing and recruitment events, which allow her to represent the company. As a result, she regularly serves as a speaker at both technical and work force events for the company across the country.
"I am involved in advocacy for women in manufacturing in the state of Connecticut," Rooke said. "I have sat on many panels to speak about my experience and journey in this industry to hopefully inspire young women emerging into the work force or women of all ages looking for a different career path."
As with any career, learning sometimes comes from experience—and being willing to embrace those lessons life has taught along the way. Rooke has applied several lessons to her career, including realizing that things do not happen overnight.
Patience was something she had to foster, but her persistence and belief in herself has allowed her to thrive and achieve some big goals.
"Putting a harsh time limit on yourself for certain accomplishments can, in return, really hurt you when they don't happen," Rooke said. "Sometimes, taking the time will allow you to learn and grow before bigger responsibilities come your way. I often want to climb my career ladder fast but must realize taking the time to learn and grow myself is very important.
"I have a really hard time settling and have the need to constantly grow and strive for better. The thing that motivates me is when I get an opportunity, I experience it and then reflect on it. Then I do what I can to make other opportunities continue."
Years with company: 7
Years in the industry: 7