At Suttle-Straus, many different departments have women in printing roles. We interviewed some of them about how they got into the industry, what their days look like, and what the best and worst parts of the job are.
- Angelina Castillo is an Ecommerce Solutions Analyst working in the Tech Services department, helping our customers with their web-to-print storefronts.
- Courtney Coffman is a Graphic Designer in the Creative department, crafting projects for internal use and performing design projects for print clients.
- Liz Fleury is a Wide Format Press Operator, creating signage and displays with large flatbed digital presses.
- Sandy Kampen is the Continuous Improvement Manager, working to eliminate waste in our processes, improve the safety of operations and increase efficiency through lean methods.
- Tami Kepler is an Inside Sales Representative, helping bring new ideas to her clients and guiding their print projects from concept through completion.
- Mindy Rappe is the Director of Ecommerce Solutions, where she leads the technical team responsible for web-to-print marketing portals.
Why did you choose a job in the printing industry in the first place?
Courtney, Graphic Designer: I went to school for graphic design and always preferred print projects over digital. When I found a job in the printing industry, I felt like it was a good fit for my design preferences as well as my skill set.
Liz, Wide Format Press Operator: I had an interest in graphic design but there was a waiting list when I wanted to take courses at Madison College. So after talking with people there, I signed up for the printing program. I liked the idea of making the designs come to life by printing them. When I graduated I looked around for jobs and found Suttle-Straus was hiring. Originally I was looking for a job in conventional printing. But when I interviewed at Suttle-Straus they were hiring in the digital department as well. So I took the position in digital and was running the Digi masters. And from there I grew and became part of the wide-format department.
Sandy, Continuous Improvement Manager: I wanted to be a graphic designer, so I enrolled and graduated from Madison College 40 years ago. My first job opportunity was as a paste-up artist at Capital Newspapers. Once I entered the print industry it got in my blood and I never left it.
Tami, Inside Sales Representative: I did a presentation on advertising in my eighth grade English class, and part of my research was to read a book by David Ogilvy, “Ogilvy on Advertising”. That was when I decided to pursue a career in advertising. My first job out of college was working for an advertising agency, working closely with print buyers. That was when I realized that print production was my passion! I worked in the prepress industry, then as a Production Manager/Print Buyer for several large organizations before finding a position working directly in printing.
Mindy, Director of Ecommerce Solutions: I think the print industry chose me starting in high school. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school with a hands-on graphic arts program where I learned to run my first AB Dick press. From there I continued to stay within the industry running a press in college for a small print shop. Then I went to work in the prepress industry where I found my next venture at American Girl managing printers. Today I have made my way back into the print industry at Suttle-Straus.
What is a day in your role like at Suttle-Straus?
Angelina, Ecommerce Solutions Analyst: My days are filled with troubleshooting, and writing/designing CSS/HTML code. In the printing industry and, at Suttle-Straus in particular where our e-commerce platform is directly linked to our plant, people rarely think about what is behind the printers, pressman, and premedia. It starts with code on the screen that becomes colors, shapes, variable data, processes that move code from one system to the next, and XML that feeds files to various departments. My job is to make sure what you see on the screen is able to process through various systems to be printed.
Courtney, Graphic Designer: I brainstorm, create and implement creative design solutions for internal and external clients. I also oversee my projects from concept to completion, collaborating with sales, customer service, press operators, programmers, developers or other technicians.
Sandy, Continuous Improvement Manager: My role brings something different every day. I assist managers and team members to map out the current state of their processes, identify how to improve their future state. The key is to eliminate any waste and unnecessary hand-offs, with a goal to work more efficiently. The safety programs also fall under my responsibility, I am working with a Safety/CI Coordinator to expand and take those programs to the next level.
Tami, Inside Sales Representative: My day is exciting and unpredictable! The majority of it is spent working with clients, helping them find solutions for print projects. The other part is spent working with the internal team. It’s the balance of the two that varies day-to-day to make every day unique.
Mindy, Director of Ecommerce Solutions: Unpredictable is the best way to describe my day in one word. That is both exciting and challenging to plan my days, but it’s also what I love the most. We are here to service the customer and when their needs are not being met we need to shift priorities. Being part of the technology side of Suttle-Straus that supports the print manufacturing adds to the unpredictability of what each day will bring. The challenge of unpredictability and getting to a resolution that enhances the customer experience or solves a challenge is the most rewarding part of my job.
What is the BEST part about working in printing?
Angelina, Ecommerce Solutions Analyst: The best part of working in printing is the creativity we can put into our work. In my experience, I am presented with challenges on how we can make it easier for the user to order on the website and receive the printed piece. This involves getting creative. Not just with the code on the screen, but also in the way our systems speak to each other, what they can transfer over and what they can’t.
Courtney, Graphic Designer: The best part about working in the print industry and at Suttle-Straus is the ability to go walk out onto the floor and talk to the machine operators about a complicated design concept I have. They are constantly working with our team to help make our ambitious design ideas a reality. Their experience and expertise have helped me learn so much about the industry as a whole.
Liz, Wide Format Press Operator: The best part about printing is that there is something new every day. And it is always growing, changing and evolving. It is also very cool to see the things you print come to life after they are installed. We do a lot of environmental graphics – when all of the pieces are put together they look awesome.
Sandy, Continuous Improvement Manager: As a design graduate, watching a customer request transform from a blank piece of paper to a final finished product. Seeing the customer excited about how the product turned out as they watch it print and finish. The opportunity to work with a cross-section of people to find better ways to exceed customer expectations.
Tami, Inside Sales Representative: You send out a proof of the design, you have the stock, and the ink, and you know how it’s supposed to be finished, but there is nothing like receiving the final printed piece and seeing it all come together. It’s amazing every time….it’s the most rewarding feeling. Knowing that I played a part in that finished product makes me very proud.
Mindy, Director of Ecommerce Solutions: The smell! Yes, that is weird but I love the smell of ink and a project hot off the press. I am also a strong believer in the power of ink on “paper.” The science of color has always intrigued me and drove me to learn all I could about color management when I managed print vendors at American Girl.
What is the WORST part of working in printing?
Angelina, Ecommerce Solutions Analyst: The worst part of working in printing is the smell. The smell of the ink is so incredibly strong when you walk through the plant.
Courtney, Graphic Designer: The plant is pretty loud in the production areas and there are occasionally strange smells from the machines and the printing materials, but it is something you pretty quickly get used to.
Liz, Wide Format Press Operator: I don’t know if I would call this the worst part of printing but there are times when it gets stressful. Sometimes the workload is up and down. Slow times and very busy times. There are busy times where rush jobs are needed and everyone has to work extra and overtime to get them done and on time to the customer. But when everyone works together things get done and it isn’t so bad.
Sandy, Continuous Improvement Manager: The deadlines that are beyond your control.
Tami, Inside Sales Representative: You can’t plan ahead for someone else’s urgent project, so you have to be flexible and understanding.
Mindy, Director of Ecommerce Solutions: When people say print is dead and I have to plead all the reasons why it is not.
What advice would you give a girl considering a job working in print?
Angelina, Ecommerce Solutions Analyst: Don’t let the large machines intimidate you. There are many areas you can work in printing. You don’t have to work the presses or produce the pre-prints. You can work in departments you didn’t even think would exist within a printing company.
Courtney, Graphic Designer: It is a great industry that is ever-changing because of new technology and innovation. You will work on projects that are unique and challenging, but that makes seeing the end product even more rewarding.
Liz, Wide Format Press Operator: Girls can do just as good as guys in the printing industry. The first place I applied at did not hire me for a job in production. They had all the men on their production floor and running all of the equipment. When I interviewed at Suttle-Straus it was totally different. They had women and men working equally in production. So if you are looking for a job in production don’t get discouraged right away if you don’t get hired. The right place will come along and things will fall into place.
Sandy, Continuous Improvement Manager: When I started in the print industry it was mostly male-dominated. Females had to learn to hold their own. My advice would be that you can do anything you put your mind to and don’t stop until you get where you want to be.
Tami, Inside Sales Representative: Learn about more than just print. Take classes like photography, design, marketing, and public relations. Take advantage of opportunities to visit an ad agency or a marketing firm. The people you will be working with and printing for will value your opinion and look to you as a partner. See WHO you will be printing for and understand the stresses they feel at the front-end of the process. It will help you to understand the impact you can have as a partner to them in the production of their printed piece.
Mindy, Director of Ecommerce Solutions: Do what you love and learn more about why you could love a career in print. Don’t be intimidated by it being a male-dominated industry. There are many interesting roles in the print industry (more than you might even imagine), so don’t be afraid to learn more.
Learn more about Suttle-Straus and view our current employment opportunities at https://www.suttle-straus.com/about/employment
About the Author:
Maeghan Nicholson is the Marketing Manager at Suttle-Straus. A journalist at heart, she has used her writing skills to develop corporate thought leadership campaigns designed to make business-to-business connections. In her role, she manages all aspects of marketing and advertising, from website updates and content creation to conferences and events.