Buffalo Boss Babe: Liz Callahan
Today’s Buffalo Boss Babe is Liz Callahan, the Senior Program Director at Buffalo Manufacturing Works. Her current work is helping to shape this exciting Buffalo renaissance that we are in. Liz shared the path that led her to this STEM career and how she supports others on their path. Keep reading to see her dreams, goals, and passions.
What made you start or brought you to where you are today? Tell us your story and what makes you a Buffalo Boss Babe.
I grew up in Buffalo and moved back after college. Since then I’ve had a very winding career path, starting in retail management, then travel nurse recruiting, and eventually landing at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as their Workforce Development Manager. In my role, I represented the private sector when it came to issues of hiring, training, and education. Much of my work was in coalition building and employer outreach. I spent a lot of time with manufacturers throughout the region, as they are facing significant workforce issues including retirement, training to new technologies, and educating the next generation of workers. During my time there, I became increasingly passionate about manufacturing as an economic driver. Smaller manufacturers employ large numbers of blue-collar workers and are responsible for a significant number of jobs. Manufacturing jobs pay 9% more than jobs in the overall economy and here in Western New York advanced manufacturing jobs pay 38% higher than the average annual wage.
Just over a year ago I was able to take my passion for manufacturing and run with it. I took a role at Buffalo Manufacturing Works as their Senior Program Director for a new program aimed at supporting small and medium-sized manufacturers. In December 2017 we launched Shift- a Buffalo Billion program that helps small manufacturers in Western New York learn about, identify and prepare for new and innovative technologies.
The face of manufacturing is rapidly changing and challenging the competitiveness of existing manufacturers, especially in Western New York. Innovation is nothing new in manufacturing, but today these changes are occurring at a pace not seen since the 1960s. Small and medium-sized manufacturers require innovation to stay competitive on a global scale, but often don’t have the resources to navigate the number of changing technologies they are faced with. Shift was developed to help eliminate the barriers that can keep small manufacturers from investing in and implementing new and cutting-edge technology. We provide participants with an “Innovation Scorecard” which assesses key business risks and a company’s capacity to innovate. Companies then participate in a series of workshops to learn about the latest technological innovations and tools to position their businesses for growth. The final phase is an on-site “Innovation Audit” where our team of engineers visits to provide feedback and identify potential growth areas.
Over the last few years, I have worked with and volunteered with many local non-profits as I tried to find my niche. Being able to learn from organizations like B Team Buffalo, WNY STEM Hub and CharitySTRONG helped me learn about the impacts non-profits and volunteering have on the community and learn more about myself. Currently, I sit on the board for Journey’s End Refugee Services and volunteer as a teacher for Junior Achievement. Both organizations are very important to me because of the impact they have on the lives that they touch and the long-term impact they have both on individual lives and the region as a whole.
Have you experienced any challenges from being in a STEM career? If so, what did you learn from them?
I think any time you are a woman working in a male-dominated industry, there will be challenges. I am a woman in manufacturing, and I do not have a STEM background, educational or otherwise. I have a great team at Buffalo Manufacturing Works who support me and have helped me learn about and understand all the amazing technologies we have in our facility. I also have mentors like Nadine Hartrich and Michael Ulbrich who have invested in me and taken the risk on someone with a more non-traditional background and seeing how my skills can transfer from industry to industry. The last few years have forced me to become comfortable with the fact that I’m often one of the few women in the room. This required I build up my confidence in my own abilities as they grew themselves. I’ve also learned how important it is to have a strong support system both in the office and in your personal life. It’s like they say, “Behind every successful woman is a group text hyping her up”.
What does being a Buffalo Boss Babe mean to you?
It means pursuing my goals and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, all while supporting and encouraging other women. It means knowing not only my strengths but also my opportunities and blind spots as well. To me, it also means creating a welcoming and inclusive community that allows all people to thrive.
Who are your favorite people to follow?
I’m a big fan of @buffalovebirds and my CrossFit gym @Quarter_deck_athletics and @Typeandresolution on Instagram. On Twitter I love Roxane Gay and Kara Brown.
What are your favorite things to do in the area (Buffalo and greater WNY)?
I love exploring all the new restaurants and stores opening in the area! To balance that out I take 5-6 CrossFit classes a week and have been training for a half marathon, which has let me explore different parts of the city as I try to get miles in! My boyfriend is from Chautauqua and this summer between working with manufacturers in the Southern Tier and visiting his family, I’ve fallen in love with the area- I even befriended a toad and heard a rooster crowing at dawn, which I was pretty sure only happened in cartoons. Obviously, I will always be a city girl at heart.
Tell me about your favorite collaborations or a dream collaboration?
My favorite collaboration is the Say Yes Buffalo Internship program I was involved in launching. When we started it 2 years ago it was a small idea myself and Emily Wyckoff dedicated 5% of our time to, placing 15-20 Say Yes scholars in summer internships. Over time it has grown to two full-time staff and placing students in internships throughout the year. As a Buffalo Public Schools graduate, I am very passionate about the work Say Yes is doing and opening doors for these students to find careers in the region. My dream collaboration? There are several large foundations that are thinking differently about economic development that I would love to someday work with. I would also like to see Shift grow to a level where we are working with small manufacturers in regions across the country.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world who would it be?
Cardi B. I’ve been a fan since she was on Love and Hip Hop and she had a goal and vision for her life and she achieved it on her own terms without sacrificing her personality. Also, I always listen to Get Up 10 on bad days!
What are your hopes, dreams, goals? Big or Small.
My personal goals including finishing a half marathon (Mighty Niagara September 15th!), the Shift program having a substantial impact on the manufacturing community and learn to weld! I’d also like to keep a plant alive more than a few months? My big goals? To be even a small part of the current revitalization in the region while working to ensure this renaissance reaches all communities. It’s an amazing time to be living in Buffalo, but if this growth doesn’t reach every part of the region then we will not be successful.
Tell us about your family?
I am lucky to have the most supportive family. My dad is the first person to share my events and programs on social media, and my mom and stepmom are always there to push me and listen to me. I also have a younger sister who is a pHd in epidemiology and might be the funniest person I know.
Feel Good Five :)
Color: Is glitter a color?
Food: Cheeseburgers or sweet potatoes
Super Power: Seeing potential in people and giving them chance to learn and grow. Also, I'm shockingly good at the water gun carnival game.
Season of the year: Is it too basic to say fall?
Favorite thing about Buffalo: The opportunities! Buffalo is a place you can pursue your dreams and have a big impact. It is a critical and exciting time for the region and we are lucky to be a part of it.
Thank you, Liz, for your devotion to the economic growth of Buffalo and to the Say Yes Buffalo Internship Program. And, we vote yes, glitter is a color.
You can check out Liz online @Bflo_Girl and Shift at ShiftMFG.com
Until next time babes!
Buffalo Boss Babes is a woman run blog series featuring women in and around the city of Buffalo N.Y.
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Here's to strong women! May we know them. May we be them