“The Opportunities May Surprise You”

A STEP Ahead honoree interview

As a kid, Amanda Wade Hodges designed intricate items with her dad for her school’s Machine Day and created complicated Halloween costumes. Today, she credits those early childhood experiences with setting her on the path toward a creative manufacturing career.

Hodges is a process engineer at BASF Corporation’s site in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has been selected as one of The Manufacturing Institute’s 2020 STEP Ahead Emerging Leaders. Emerging Leaders represent the future of the industry and have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments at the beginning of their careers.

What she’s doing: At BASF, Hodges uses a Lean Six Sigma program to cut waste and deploy funding effectively, while also serving as a leader in the company’s environmental impact, health and safety initiatives. These skills enabled her to support the company’s COVID-19 response efforts.

  • Since March, Hodges has helped BASF make changes to its operations and facilities, which included the implementation of precautionary measures like health screenings and mandatory mask wearing. To reduce the risk of exposure, BASF employees are asked to practice the same safety precautions at home and in the community as they do at BASF facilities.
  • In early July, BASF launched its internal “Pledge to Protect” campaign to encourage employees to share why they wear face coverings, practice social distancing and clean and disinfect. “Our priority remains the health and safety of our employees, contractors and communities,” says Hodges.

A manufacturing advocate: Hodges is committed to helping kids get the same early exposure to STEM and manufacturing that she did.

  • She participates in local STEM Days in the Chattanooga community, where she encourages kids to pursue careers in industries like manufacturing.
  • She also works with BASF’s Kids’ Lab at a local elementary school during National Chemistry Week.
  • And last, she volunteers at her alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, in order to connect with young people who are interested in the field. “Every day comes with new challenges and opens doors to be innovative,” she says.

A word of advice: “My advice to young women considering manufacturing is to just give it a try,” says Hodges. “Jobs in manufacturing are very diverse in the requirements and skills needed. Manufacturing utilizes a variety of skillsets, from conceiving an idea to completing the product to shipping it to the customer. I would encourage women to investigate the different opportunities, because they may surprise you.”

The 2020 STEP Ahead Awards will be held virtually on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, 6:00–7:00 p.m. EDT. To register to watch, please click here.

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