• My Wabash Story - Teresa Glass

    by Aidan Freeman | Dec 20, 2023

    When it comes to raising a family, parents often instinctively prioritize their children’s needs over their own. Teresa Glass, a single parent of two, was no stranger to this reality when she found herself struggling with financial challenges.

    In 1992, she worked full-time at a small factory in West Lafayette, IN, for a window blind manufacturer, dealing with fluctuating hours and inconsistent overtime. Despite dedicating five years to her position, the financial outlook remained unclear. Teresa sought to create a solid foundation for her children, but her aspirations went beyond meeting immediate needs.

    Raised in a family of six, Teresa drew inspiration from both her parents as example figureheads in her life. As she grew, it was evident that Teresa had multiple aspirations but lacked clear direction on how to pursue them—unless she reshaped her current financial situation. Recognizing the need for change, she started hearing about opportunities with Wabash.

    “I knew it was a booming time when I applied,” she recalled. “There was lots of overtime available.”

    In 1997, Teresa embarked on her Wabash journey as an assembler, bringing with her the experience gained from her previous job. When she initially applied to Wabash, she set a personal goal of staying for only five years. She had her heart set on simply making ends meet and advancing in her career. But stepping into a warehouse manufacturing setting raised concerns for her, as she perceived the environment as "intimidating, scary, and disorganized" right after orientation. Despite her naturally introverted nature, Teresa remained undeterred in pursuing her goals.

    “My priority was to be able to take care of my kids, so I wasn’t going to allow [this] to scare me off,” she asserted. “So, I observed and watched how they worked the machines. I asked questions and was able to jump in, moving from machine to machine.”

    Upon joining, however, she quickly realized that the benefits and compensation surpassed her expectations, providing the means to comfortably support her family.

    Teresa's ability to seamlessly integrate into various roles did not go unnoticed. As she navigated from one machine to another and acquired new skills along the way, her eagerness to contribute, learn, and evolve quickly captured the attention of supervisors. About a year into her tenure, she was approached and asked about her interest in taking on an acting coordinator role. This position involved stepping in for the existing coordinator during their absence, requiring extensive knowledge of parts and a mastery of all procedures and operations. Excited yet hesitant, Teresa accepted the role, marking the beginning of her journey towards becoming a full-time coordinator in 1999.

    “I was a bit scared, to be honest,” she recalled. “I didn’t have any kind of computer experience. They were putting me in an area that I had never even seen, but what [my general foreman] said was very encouraging. He told me that he knew I’d succeed over there and that I would be okay.”

    While it initially required some adjustment, Teresa’s experience as a coordinator played a critical role in preparing her for later responsibilities. She emphasized how supportive her general foreman was to her at the time, recalling that he invested time to make sure she had all the necessary resources to ensure her success. Furthermore, he encouraged her to engage in leadership courses to contribute to her development as a leader.

    It was during this time that Teresa began to think, “Maybe I could really go somewhere here,” and continued to persist. She harbored a dream of attending college, motivated by personal ambition. Gradually, she found her stride in her role and expanded her capabilities, working across different lines and coordinating multiple operations.

    “When I first started, I didn’t see a lot of the safety standards,” she recalled. “So when I started implementing those procedures, I think it made things not only more efficient but safer for everyone as well.”

    From mastering shop safety standards to participating in general leadership courses, she absorbed a wealth of knowledge, squeezing in as many classes as she could into her busy schedule. It didn’t take long for Teresa to apply her newfound skills on the floor, implementing lessons from her classes to enhance efficiency, safety, and streamline operations.

    But as time progressed, Teresa began to face a series of setbacks. The area she coordinated was set to shut down, removing her from the 3rd shift and placing her on the 1st, where a coordinator was already present. In this case, she was moved back down to an assembler.

    To her surprise, she viewed the opportunity as a blessing in disguise, remarking that she’s someone who “thrives in those kinds of fast-paced environments.” Shortly after her transition, she received news that a coordinator position had opened up, to which Teresa swiftly jumped at the opportunity. A few years into her role as coordinator, she learned that her line at the time would be shutting down and she would have to be moved to the second shift. Teresa’s heart sank, and she promptly informed her supervisor that she would have to submit her two weeks’ notice. Her children held the utmost priority in her life, and she didn’t want to sacrifice that time with them. She believed that her time with Wabash had come to a close.

    “But before I left, my general foreman came to me and told me he found a position for me on the first shift,” she said. “I was so excited.”

    Thrilled at the option to continue in her journey, she further excelled in a variety of roles, progressing from the nose crew to the roof pit to eventually coordinating multiple lines. Faced with each new opportunity, she persisted and absorbed every lesson she could along the way.

    In 2004, Teresa’s life took a stark turn when she received the heartbreaking news of her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis. Nearing the end of his battle with the illness, he made her promise that she would pursue her dream of returning to school—an aspiration that she vowed to fulfill.

    Despite her evolving list of career responsibilities, Teresa didn’t forget her promise to her father. The commitment constantly lingered in the back of her mind while she waited for an opportune time to take action. In 2009, she started her education journey at Purdue University towards a degree in organizational leadership and supervision. But with this “giant leap” of her own, she was quickly faced with adversity.

    “When the recession hit, the tuition reimbursement went along with it,” she recalled. “I had no idea how to pay for my college... But fortunately, I’m a registered Native American, and my Indian tribe paid for all my schooling. So, I was able to continue forward without any lapse in time.”

    Her educational journey wasn’t entirely without challenges. Balancing work, personal life, and schooling proved to be a difficult task. Fortunately, Teresa found a unique way to bond with her children during this time, providing a source of support and alleviating some of the burdens she faced.

    "With them going to school and me going to school, we spent quality time at the kitchen table,” she said. “We would all work on homework together. We were all right there to help each other and get each other through it.”

    In 2012, Teresa received another new opportunity. She was moved to cycle counting, where her responsibilities included keeping track of inventory. In the initial days of her new role, she quickly developed a love for her work and built a strong rapport with her colleagues. Her innate respect for people allowed her to forge fast friendships on the shop floor. She would inform them of her inventory for that day, and they would assist in tracking them down. As a seasoned Wabash employee, she is a proprietor of the “Always Learn” principle, striving to embody a more extroverted version of herself and expanding her knowledge with each change.

    In 2013, she fulfilled the promise to her father and to herself by graduating from Purdue University. After completing her degree, she contemplated the possibility of exploring opportunities beyond Wabash, ones that would align more closely with her new qualifications. Reflecting on her journey, she shared that she was “in one of her favorite positions ever” with Wabash at the time. Her decision to remain with Wabash shaped her current position today, as she was offered the role of inventory supervisor earlier this year.

    Today, Teresa takes pride in the person she has become. While it wasn’t without strife, she finds fulfillment in being able to provide an environment for employees that she didn’t have herself. More so, she’s glad to be setting an example for her children.

    “When I first came here, I felt like all the odds were against me,” she recalled. “Being able to overcome those odds and do the job is the best feeling. Not only that, but being able to use those steppingstones as an example for my kids? That means the world to me.”

    We asked Teresa if she had any final pieces of advice for those looking to get started in their career:

    “Don’t wait so long. I was so comfortable in the roles that I was in. I see a lot of young people coming here today who have dreams of getting into a bigger role. The only one that’s going to provide for you is yourself, and your determination is going to enable you to accomplish that goal. If you don’t build that drive and that confidence in yourself, then you’re defeating the purpose of everything you’ve worked for. Whether it’s a job, school, or whatever it is, so, if you want something, don’t wait. Go get it.”

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