Mickey Fedorko, Sales Director of PaR Marine, which began as Jered Industries, celebrates 50 years with the company. As she approaches her retirement this month, she shares her story – how her time at Jered began, a female of many firsts in the company, and reflecting on PaR's people and major accomplishments.
Many don't know that PaR Marine, originally Jered Industries, began in the founder's basement and grew into what it is today. The company started out designing the U.S. Army's Tank/vehicle Transmissions and now designing and manufacturing complex machinery for the US Navy. Mickey saw from day one at the company that the founder had great leadership and was always thinking of how to solve problems. It was this, among many other aspects that convinced Mickey to continue to serve the company for the next 50 years.
Mickey was a female of many firsts at PaR Marine. She was the first female manager of the company's Aftermarket Department and was the first female manager of the Spares & Service Facility for the company. Later on, she was the first female Program Manager at PaR Marine and is retiring now as the first female Sales Director for the company.
Mickey says modestly, "Funny thing is, I didn't apply for any of these jobs. I was just at the right place at the right time and seized the opportunities presented to me."
Whether she's an inspiration to other females in male-dominated industries, a reason to join PaR as a new employee, or you find motivation in her longevity with the company, learn more about Mickey's story and in this Q&A interview below with Kristi Olson, Marketing Manager at PaR Systems.
Q: You started with Jered back in 1971 as a telephone operator, is that right? Tell me about that – what made you join the company and what was it like back then? Can you share the journey you took to get where you are today, as a Sales Director for PaR Marine?
A: My husband and I both worked for the U.S. Government in Washington D.C. when my husband was drafted for the Vietnam War. He wanted me to move home to be with my family while he was away with the military, so we moved home to Michigan. I then began looking for jobs. I got some interviews and all of them asked what my husband did. Without giving any thought, I told them he was drafted and I had returned to be with my family. It didn't dawn on me until years later that they probably didn't hire me because of my husband being drafted and figured I wouldn't be there long term. So I contacted the phone company because they supplied back-up telephone operators to companies and asked if they still provided this service to companies.
The telephone company gave me 15 minutes of training and sent me on an interview for an operator at a company in Birmingham, MI. They hired me on the spot and I'm still there today. This company was Jered Industries.
I was there for two years and when my husband came back from the army, I was expecting we'd move back to D.C., but instead he said, "I want to stay in Michigan".
Shortly thereafter the founder of Jered, Ed Davies' son, Rod, joined the company just out of college as the sales manager for new products and aftermarket. I asked if he needed a secretary and asked if I could apply but he hired her right on the spot. "Back in those days you had the clunky typewriters." Mickey reminisces. This team managed the product line of Fin Stabilizers for Luxury yachts and Pump-Out Stations and then Vacuum Flush Toilets for boats/ships. It was from here that I continued to move up in the organization.
A few years later, when Rod left to start his own company, the president of the company at the time, Rich Glen, asked me to take over and manage the aftermarket facility. This is when I became the first female manager at Jered to manage the aftermarket department. This was my stepping stone from secretary to sales manager, all within 2 years of starting as a telephone operator!
As manager of the aftermarket facility, I oversaw everything from part inventory, machining and assembly operations, sales and service teams, storage, packaging and shipping. We supporting the equipment after it was installed.
Then Jered decided to move to Georgia from Michigan because of a major customer contract of the U.S. Navy's Elevated Causeway System (ELCAS) that required a larger fabrication facility that was in close proximity to the water. It was announced at a meeting and Mickey's team would be moving first. The company then went through a couple of other acquisitions before being acquired by PaR in 2005.
Q: How did you move to OEM equipment sales director from the aftermarket team?
A: I loved working the Aftermarket – the orders are quick turn-around and not as stressful. Don't get me wrong, there was stress because in Spares & Service, everything is critical and needed "now", but then Jered got the contract for the next Aircraft Carrier, the USS RONALD REAGAN, and I was asked to be the Program Manager and I loved it.
Q: What excited you the most or was the most fun part of your job during your time at Jered? / What did you enjoy the most?
A: To this day, I have always enjoyed working with our customers and getting their orders delivered on time. I loved visiting the shipyards and interacting with the buyers and engineers. On one occasion I crawled through the bottom of LHD 6 (Aircraft Elevators) with our service engineer. I got a little dirty, but I loved it!
Q: What went through your mind when you were told the company was relocating to Georgia?
A: I, along with the rest of my team went into shock. I remember driving home in the rain with tears running down my face as I shared the news with my husband. He looked at me and said "Hooray let's go! I love Fort Benning!" With my husband's support, I stayed with Jered and we relocated down south.
Q: You started with Jered back in 1971 as a telephone operator, is that right? Tell me about that – what made you join the company and what was it like back then? What do you remember about your first year at Jered?
A: When I was greeted so nicely and people came and introduced themselves, I knew that I would like it there. Everyone was kind and kept me calm in my early days. They helped me understand who did what and we had lunches from time to time. The company was like a family.
Q: I'm sure there are too many to choose from, but if you had to pick one, what would be the most memorable moment from your time at PaR?
A: When I was a Program Manager, the company was invited to attend the Commissioning of the Aircraft Carrier USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) at Newport News, VA. I attended along with Jered's President and two of Jered's owners at the time. Jered supplied the Deck Edge Elevators, Steering Gear, Anchor Windlass and Cargo Weapons Elevators. Jered's Deck Edge Elevator was the platform on which all the dignitaries were seated. Nancy Reagan, one of the dignitaries, delivered her address while standing on the Deck Edge Elevator. I was so proud. We were then invited to tour the ship and had a chance to ride the aircraft elevator from the hangar deck to the flight deck. This was my first contract as Program Manager and I loved it!
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced during your 50 years?
A: I remember working on the Elevated Causeway System (ELCAS) was most challenging. The documentation this required was massive and meetings with the Navy were held monthly requiring mounds of reports.
Q: What was your biggest learning moment while at PaR Marine?
A: You can't make assumptions. Especially when it comes to customer expectations and timelines. And always get it in writing. I've been double-checking and getting it in writing ever since for the last 40 years.
Q: What would you say was your biggest accomplishment during your 50 years?
A: I think the biggest accomplishment for me was getting the position of "Aftermarket Manager" because it gave me a good understanding of the main product line and allowed me to build strong relationships with our key customers. This gave me the background and opportunity to become a Program Manager.
Also just hitting the 50-year mark and saying I made it to 50 years. I never imagined I would stay at a company this long and reach the 50-year mark, although it went by quickly, I just took every opportunity that came to me with enthusiasm and I just kept on going. I've been very fortunate to have the path that's been put in front of me.
Q: What advice would you give to a new employee just joining the team?
A: I would tell them that it is a wonderful company to work for. When you start, don't expect to know everything or everybody right away, but when you see an opportunity, jump on it!
Q: What do you see for the future of PaR Marine?
A: I think it is a solid company and very well respected in the industry and is poised for growth.
Q: What do you think is the next big challenge/opportunity for the shipbuilding industry?
A: I think the next opportunity is expanding sales for COMFIRE as fire barrier product for the Navy, Coast Guard and cruise ships. Automation/robotics for unmanned Navy vessels could also be explored.
Q: Do you have any plans for your retirement?
A: My husband retired 6 years ago and he is so happy that I'm retiring so that we can do more things together. We want to visit our family in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Poland. With COVID in the air – we don't know when travel will be safe. Until then, we are enjoying spending time together at home on St. Simons Island.
Q: What thoughts and emotions are you feeling as you celebrate your 50 years and approach retirement?
A: I'm sad that I'm going to be losing touch with the wonderful people I've worked with and the customers that I have enjoyed working with for so many years. It's been a great ride.
Q: As you reflect on the people you've worked with over the years, what comes to mind?
A: Jered is a family, it has always been a family and we support each other. I can go to anyone and ask a question and have a good discussion. The company has always been good to its people, it is well respected in the industry and it has been great working with the customers. I wouldn't have made it to 50 years if the company and people weren't so wonderful to work with. I've loved working here. I've been very fortunate to have been able to work for the company for so many years.