Thought Leadership

Manufacturing Careers: Know Yourself. Know Your Options

  Larissa Hofman   |     October 04, 2022 |   12 minute read
Know Yourself. Know Your Options. Manufacturing Careers.

The question I get asked most often is, “How did you get to where you are? How did you become the Vice President of Edge Factor?” In this year’s Rock MFG Day Keynote Presentation, I answer that question! I hope it will inspire learners as they explore and prepare for their own career journey.


Know Yourself


Throughout high school I had no idea what classes to take or what I wanted to do for a career. In my senior year I started by taking a Law class and quickly realized that it was not for me. I swapped it out and took a Business class instead, which involved planning a school-wide leadership conference - fundraising, designing the brand, and marketing all came easily to me. I did what every other student in that class was too nervous to do: I approached companies to ask for prizes and donations. I wasn’t intimidated… I enjoyed it.


I took on several jobs while in high school. I cared for a special needs boy before and after school, I worked retail, and even took a job in hospitality at a restaurant… for a very short time. After only ONE DAY, I realized wow, this is so not for me! Knowing myself and recognizing what I liked and disliked taught me that saying ‘no’ to something is just as important as learning to say ‘yes’.


Does it scare you? Do it anyway.


After high school I applied to several colleges, but I didn’t know if the programs I applied for were right for me. I didn’t want to spend my hard earned money on a program without knowing for sure that it would land me a job that I would enjoy. So I took a year off. 


My goal was to make money and find out what I like to do. I got a job at a local TV Network. I took on a few different roles, built relationships with the Executive team. I travelled as much as I could, and even lived in Mozambique for a few months.  When I returned, I started a new role bringing Independent or Indie Films to theatres.


My job was to presell 1000 tickets per theatre. I did that with no experience or training.  How? By putting one foot in front of the other. Researching , making phone calls, building a network of people who could help. 


Then one day I received a phone call from someone with a wrong number, and it changed the course of my career.


Say Yes to the Right Opportunities


Jeremy Bout called my work number, looking for someone else. I forwarded his call but our chance conversation didn’t end there. In a short time, we connected and at one point lamented about how we’d both graduated high school without any idea as to what we wanted to do with our lives. Jeremy shared his career story with me, how he’d gone from high school to work for his uncle as a 5 axis programmer in manufacturing


When Jeremy spoke about his career in manufacturing I pictured robots making cell phones and people overseas making clothes. I really had no idea what manufacturing looked like in today’s modern world. What I learned was that manufacturing offered great career choices, and I wanted to help students make informed decisions on their future. So, about a week later, Jeremy and I started working together in the company he founded: Edge Factor. It was February 2010 and Edge Factor was about a year and a half old.


During the first few Edge Factor years, we focussed on helping job-seekers, students and parents learn about the amazing careers in advanced manufacturing. I had no clue what manufacturing careers were about.  As I was getting to know more I watched the first few Edge Factor films, The Beginnings and Gnarly Metal. 


The more I learned, the more my eyes widened. I went to events, I toured and filmed at machine shops. There were so many companies I was driving past with no idea of what they did. They were making parts that went into race cars, or to NASA space station, they were making everything from guitars to underwater robots, kitchen cabinets, skateboards, you name it, manufacturers use their minds, hands and technology to build things you and I use everyday. 


Manufacturers design products in CAD-CAM, they remove products in subtractive manufacturing and add materials in additive manufacturing to actually make their designs. I got to see mills, and lathes in action, welding, assembly work, automation, robotics, quality control… it was mind blowing. People bringing ideas to life through manufacturing! 


As we dug deeper, we saw almost every type of career come alive in the manufacturing industry. People work in financing, human resources, marketing, sales, customer support, even on staff nurses, and of course there are executives, owners and entrepreneurs.


The Evolution of Edge Factor


As technology continues to advance the career opportunities continue to grow as well. 


During my second week of working at Edge Factor, I was left alone in the studio because Jeremy was on the top of a mountain in Whistler, filming with helicopters and snowboards for the film, Metal & Flesh! From there, we went on to produce film after film.


As Edge Factor evolved, we realized we couldn't just create the media, we had to deliver it into homes, classrooms and at events. By listening and paying attention to the needs of students, parents, schools, companies, and service providers, we uncovered problems and we worked to provide solutions. We realized that when it comes to workforce development, everyone has a role to play.


We built a streaming platform and starting building content for careers in every industry. While manufacturing is awesome and the opportunities are endless, our mission to inspire people to explore, prepare and connect on their career journey meant we had to help students learn about other industries too. 


My career journey, was not a straight line. I tried many things and learned along the way. There are many pathways to success, whether you complete post secondary education or enter the workforce right out of highschool, or complete an apprenticeship program, it’s all about discovering the pathway that is right for you. 


Making decisions about your future is about paying attention to what you are good at, understanding your options, saying yes to the right opportunities and learning as you go. 


Listen. Learn. Do. 

Manufacturers are doing this all the time. They innovate and build products that solve problems and impact our lives.



Know Your Options


Here are 5 lessons I hope students and jobseekers take away from this Keynote Presentation and my story: 


  • Know your options. Make informed decisions with confidence based on your own experience and knowledge. Explore the many opportunities in manufacturing and beyond. Recognize what sparks your interest and learn more about it. 


  • Know Yourself and trust your gut. Explore different things to learn what you like and what you are good at and acknowledge what you don’t enjoy and what you are not good at. 


  • Ask questions. Listen, ask questions and research. Do not take other people’s opinions as fact. That’s what critical thinking does for you. Critical thinking gives you the ability to absorb information but draw your own conclusion and decide what’s right for you. 


  • Embrace Self Discipline. Time is your biggest asset. Don’t spend endless amounts of time looking at screens and ads. Set boundaries for yourself on your devices. Set time limits on social media and other apps so you don’t get lost in the scroll. Spend your time wisely. 


  • Have joy in the journey. Don’t worry too much and don’t let anxiety seep in. Don’t have paralysis by analysis. Life is a journey, there are ups and downs. Learn from failure, learn from the mistakes of others and keep your joy. 


Channel your efforts, be goal oriented and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Plans change, things happen, retune, adjust, focus and look for opportunities to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ while you move forward in your career journey.


The Rock MFG DAY Toolkit equips Manufacturing Day event hosts with engaging e-learning media and real-life stories of manufacturers pushing back the edge of what’s possible. Live and virtual events can use this toolkit to share high-impact media that inspires students to discover opportunities in manufacturing, learn how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math come alive on the job, and explore what a “day in the life” looks like in specific manufacturing careers!


The Rock MFG Day Toolkit is available for FREE until November 30, 2022 thanks to our partners National Electrical Manufacturers’ Association, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, National Tooling and Machining Association, Skills Ontario, ABB Motors & Mechanical Inc., National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, Mastercam, California's Arts, Media & Entertainment, Precision Metalforming Association, Canadia Fire Alarm Association and Uniquely Abled.


Learn more about Edge Factor 

If you are interested in learning more about what an Edge Factor membership can unlock, create your free account or register for an upcoming live webinar


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