Harmony in Work & Life: Founder, Innovator in Manufacturing, Marketing on Passion For Change
“Having trusted relationships is how I got here today,” says Kara Demirjian Huss, vice president of TCCI Manufacturing and recently appointed to the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, overseeing the Unified State Plan for Illinois workforce development system.
“There is a lot of talk about work/life balance, but it’s not balance, it’s harmony.”
Her path leading to her extensive expertise in manufacturing, technology, marketing and innovation may seem a far stretch for someone who dreamed of a life in the fashion industry, but not so much when you dig deep into her roots.
“Having trusted relationships is how I got here today,” says Kara Demirjian Huss, vice president of T/CCI Manufacturing and recently appointed to the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, overseeing the Unified State Plan for Illinois workforce development system. #womenleaders
Read more in Take The Lead on manufacturing opportunities
Born in Toledo, Ohio, then moving to Syracuse, N.Y., with her four siblings and parents, Demirjian Huss has lived in Decatur, Ill. since the age of 10, as the daughter of a powerhouse in the automotive and engineering industry, Gerald Demirjian. He was a leader at Chrysler Corp., Borg Warner Corp., Tillotson, and T/CCI Manufacturing, now a $150 million global manufacturing company with facilities in the U.S. China, India, Argentina and Germany.
“I went to college to be in the fashion industry,” says Demirjian Huss, who graduated from the University of Illinois in 1992 with a degree in retail marketing and consumer and applied textile sciences, with a minor in business.
After college, going to work for Bachrach, the men’s clothing retailer, Demirjian Huss moved into overseeing visual merchandising in nine stores across the U.S. at first, then overseeing merchandising and distribution in 72 stores.
Read more from Gloria Feldt on fashion businesses
“Then my dad came calling,” says Demirjian Huss, who as VP leads marketing and public affairs for T/CCI that has facilities in 10 countries as a global leader in compressor technology and electric vehicle components. She led the effort for the company to be the first in Illinois to receive the Re-imagine Electric Vehicle Incentive Program and is leading the $46 million effort of the EV Innovation Hub.
“It was difficult to leave my passion in fashion. But my passion also revolves around family and legacy and the thought of being able to learn under his leadership and help develop the next generation,” was incentive enough, says Demirjian Huss, who is also founder and president of DCC Marketing and president of DemirCo Properties & Real Estate Portfolios.
Read more in Take The Lead on entrepreneurial hub
When starting her own firm, DCC, Demirjian Huss says she went to her father for advice.
“He said I should take three to five years to develop it. I did and it took off,” she says, adding that it is now a $10 million company. “My family instilled in all of us a ‘we can do anything’ mentality.”
Apparently it works.
“What I fostered was more than a Rolodex of contacts. It’s putting people first. That is how we connect to what we’re doing; opening up my network to a diverse network so we can achieve more,” says Demirjian Huss, who created the marketing company in 2000.
“The transportation industry has changed so much,” says Demirjian Huss, who serves on the Illinois Manufacturers Association Board of directors, The Will Group advisory board and was named one of the top 50 most influential women by Fighting Illini Athletics in 2023.
Read more in Take The Lead on women in transportation and manufacturing
“One of the reasons I got involved was to really look at how we expand the role of women in manufacturing. We always say great people are always a part of culture, whatever race and gender they are,” she says.
“One of the reasons I got involved was to really look at how we expand the role of #women in #manufacturing. We always say great people are always a part of culture, whatever race and gender they are,” Demirjian Huss says.
Manufacturing is undergoing major shifts.
According to Smart Industry, “A comprehensive new report by the national trade association Women in Manufacturing, in partnership with Xometry, finds that young women immersed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education are more than twice as likely as young men to choose a career in manufacturing. Thirty-eight percent of women intentionally seeking a career in industry graduated from a STEM program, compared with just 18% of men.”.
Education is the key to change. “Pinpointing education as the initial springboard into a rewarding career in manufacturing is critically important, as manufacturing becomes increasingly high-tech.The nation’s 500,000+ manufacturers—the vast majority of which are small- or mid-sized operations—increasingly embrace high-tech tools and modern practices, a movement that presents excellent entrepreneurial and leadership opportunities for women,” Smart Industry reports.
This comes at a critical time.
The National Association of Manufacturers recently reported, “The manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030, according to a new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce development and education partner of the NAM. The cost of those missing jobs could potentially total $1 trillion in 2030 alone.”
The NAM reports, ”About 1.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs were lost during the early days of the pandemic, according to the study, setting back the manufacturing labor force by more than a decade. While the manufacturing industry recouped 63% of jobs lost during the pandemic, the remaining 570,000 had not been added back by the end of 2020, despite a near record number of job openings in the sector.”
Read more in Take the Lead on gender equity in manufacturing
In the automotive industry in particular, there is a gender gap historically, but that is changing.
In the automotive industry in particular, there is a gender gap historically, but that is changing. #manufacturing #gendergap
“More women are entering the automotive industry than ever before. And businesses are beginning to notice that their efforts and commitment to invest in diversity, equity and inclusion are paying off in higher profits and less turnover. But there’s still conscious and unconscious biases in the auto business to address,” according to Auto Remarketing Canada.
Read more in Take The Lead on women in automotive creative industry
“My father and brothers are big supporters of mine. So I want to do my part for other women so they have these same experiences in manufacturing where they can grow and prosper.”
“Promoting women in business is a huge passion of mine,” says Demirjian Huss, who serves on the Economic Development Council of Decatur, and the Community Foundation of Macon County.
“Promoting women in business is a huge passion of mine,” says Demirjian Huss, who serves on the Economic Development Council of Decatur, and the Community Foundation of Macon County. #womeninbusiness #femaleleaders
The gap in leadership as well as in all positions for those identifying as women in the transportation industry globally is huge.
According to Intellgient Transport, “A comprehensive global analysis of gender equity in the transport sector has revealed that women continue to face significant barriers when entering and working in the transportation industry. The research, conducted by the World Bank’s Sustainable Urban Mobility for All initiative, POLIS Network and the FIA Foundation, sheds light on the challenges experienced by women at all levels of the sector.”
The study finds key factors in this global problem. Those include: “Persistent gendered stereotyping and occupational segregation, resulting in women being under-represented in STEM-based roles and driving positions. Discriminatory workplace cultures, including the risk of harassment and violence. Limited access to flexible working arrangements and childcare, hindering women’s ability to remain in the workforce. The presence of a glass ceiling that restricts career progression and leadership opportunities. The need for an intersectional approach to gender, acknowledging the interconnected issues of diversity encompassing racial, sexual and socio-economic equality.”
According to the report, ‘Gender imbalance in the transport sector: A toolkit for change’, only 16.8% of the transport workforce worldwide consists of women.
The gap in leadership as well as in all positions for those identifying as women in the transportation industry globally is huge. #leadershipgap #genderequity
Read more in Take The Lead on equity in transportation sector
Demirjian Huss is aware of the historic inequities in transport, automotive and manufacturing and is working for change in addressing bias and filling roles, but also in spearheading innovation and industry change.
With a $21.3 million grant, Demirjian Huss said T/CCI is establishing an electric vehicle hub partnering with Richland Community College, one of the first in the industry to do so.
“We need to be a leader in the industry and academia space. Together we can do it faster,” she says.
According to Globe Newswire, “The global electric passenger cars market size will reach around $2.1 billion by 2030. “
Demirjian Huss says, “We have made great progress in U.S. manufacturing, but we have work to do on our U.S. supplier base. We are poised for success. We have a 2035 goal, looking to have a net zero emission then and a sustainable future.”
As for advice to offer the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders, Demirjian Huss has a bounty of information and inspiration to offer.
“Balance is a state of mind. Do not compare yourself to others. Find your own inner peace.”
As for #advice to offer the next generation of #innovators, #entrepreneurs and leaders, Demirjian Huss has a bounty of information and inspiration to offer. “Balance is a state of mind. Do not compare yourself to others. Find your own inner peace.”
She adds, “You have to have integrity and trust. Ensure that you are doing good and never give up. Use your families as opportunities to learn. Until you fail, you don’t realize your failures are some of the best things to show you what you can do. You learn, grow and move to the next level.”
Demirjian Huss says, “I’m not a fashion designer, but I love what I do.”
Take The Lead Leadership Takeaway of The Week:
“Until you fail, you don’t realize your failures are some of the best things to show you what you can do. You learn, grow and move to the next level.”
Kara Demirjian Huss, founder and president, DCCMarketing; VP & Global Marketing Director T/CCI Manufacturing; president, DemirCo Properties & Real Estate Portfolios
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