Females are making big career strides in the manufacturing industry, demonstrating that modern manufacturing offers rewarding careers with limitless opportunity for growth, regardless of gender. The women at Riverdale Mills in Central Massachusetts have certainly made a huge impact on their company and their industry, from the upper levels of management to the manufacturing floor.

Riverdale Mills opened its doors 40 years ago, originally manufacturing an innovative welded wire mesh fabric called Aquamesh® for the construction of lobster traps. The company has grown significantly since that time. Today, over 80% of lobster traps in North America are made with Aquamesh, and the company is known worldwide for its myriad wire mesh products. Using the same manufacturing process to make Aquamesh, Riverdale created several fencing products for the agriculture, ranching, and security industries. The company’s fence products protect farms, embassies, utilities, airports, transit systems, and marine bases around the world. Women have been at the forefront of the company’s growth and success throughout its history.

Here, several of them discuss their careers in manufacturing at Riverdale:

DEBRA A. KRIKORIAN, Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
An employee since 2014, Krikorian is the officer keeping watch over the finances at Riverdale, and the driving force behind Riverdale Mills’ manufacturing excellence. She performs under exceptional conditions, fosters an environment of growth, and dives deep into details without losing momentum. “There is a complexity to the manufacturing industry that is both challenging and intriguing.” Riverdale Mills buys millions of pounds – miles and miles of steel – year-round, to manufacture over 3,500 configurations of wire mesh. Krikorian successfully navigated 18 months of 25% steel tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. The company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tariffs but instead of passing it along to the customer, she and Riverdale CEO Jim Knott found other ways to balance the bottom line. Krikorian previously worked for Walker Magnetics Group Inc. of Worcester and Ionics Inc. of Watertown. She earned a Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degree, from Bentley University. She says she does not feel her role as CFO at River Mills is out of the ordinary. “That’s because we have women in leadership roles throughout our organization.”

KATHY TATA, Purchasing Manager
Tata’s background is in engineering, not purchasing or supply chain management, which has greatly benefitted Riverdale Mills. For many years she worked as a mechanical engineer, designing sensors in the strain gauge industry. After taking time to raise her two sons, she taught high school math and then accepted a “temporary” job as marketing manager at Riverdale. Tata stands at the junction of engineering, manufacturing, and sales to guarantee the capacity of Riverdale’s machines, which ultimately guarantees customer demands are met. She manages complex projects and leads the interdisciplinary team with the right balance of technical and business skills. 10 years later, Tata stays at Riverdale because of the “the great team of motivated and knowledgeable colleagues.

PRICILLA JACQUES, Lead Shear Operator
Jacques is Riverdale Mills’ own “Rosie the Riveter.” Standing tall at 5 feet, she is often described as the “small and mighty one.” Jacques arrived at Riverdale Mills in 1984 to work part-time as an office assistant but she never took a memo or answered the phone. On her first day, she headed down to the manufacturing floor where she was needed to help build cages for the San Francisco Zoo. “If given the choice between office work and working on the manufacturing floor, I’ll always choose the later.” This is in sync with one of her favorite sayings, “A body in motion stays in motion!” As Lead Shear Operator, and a 36-year veteran of the Riverdale team, Jacques oversees the quality control of the shearing unit and supervises seven male colleagues on the manufacturing floor.

ISHITA PATEL, Data Analytics Lead
Patel joined Riverdale Mills in August 2019. She received a Bachelor of Science from Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (India) and Master of Science from Boston University in Applied Business Analytics. Her primary role is to project the pricing of all products sold by Riverdale. To do so, she needs to fully understand both the manufacturing processes and the analytics to accurately forecast and maintain accurate databases. Patel conducts data cleaning, manipulation, modeling, extraction and visualizations to identify trends and insights. She works with multiple data sources to unearth insights for Riverdale’s production, sales, and management teams. Those insights help Riverdale more accurately project pricing and further automate processes. In her first months at Riverdale, Patel automated the process of data reporting in the company, which reduced the time spent from 1.25 hours to 20 minutes. A 73% reduction in reporting time! “Riverdale gives me exactly the kind of professional challenge I was looking for.”

NICOLE GO, Maintenance Scheduler
Go has worked on and off at Riverdale since 1992. She oversees all of Riverdale’s maintenance resources and assets, including building and machine upgrades and renovations, which need to be orchestrated with precision timing. She started at Riverdale as an administrative clerk. She brings her detail-oriented approach and administrative voice to her partnership with the company’s mechanics, electricians, and engineers. She has been instrumental in overseeing the implementation of ISO 9001, security upgrades and even under-water maintenance of the mill’s hydro-dam and mill pond on the Blackstone River. On any given day, Go is managing a roof repair, working with landscapers and scuba divers for the hydro-dam and Mill Pond, scheduling plumbers, lighting specialists and janitorial companies and much more. “My job is never boring, and that’s why I love it.”

As the New Year begins, these women and the entire 150-member team at Riverdale Mills are poised for continued growth. “There are currently 12.75 million manufacturing workers in the U.S., accounting for 8.6% of the workforce,” says Knott. “These talented women are critical to the growth of the manufacturing industry and Riverdale Mills. That growth is driven by our company’s focus on innovative engineering methods, the delivery of superior products and customer service, and an incredibly dedicated team of employees.”