Growing up, Lorie Symon doesn’t remember being asked if she wanted to be an engineer. The Aerometals president, who has always been systems and math inclined, recalls being asked instead if she wanted to be a nurse or accountant. She chose accounting, but nonetheless found her way to the field of engineering. “I got there just by a totally different path,” she says.
The El Dorado Hills-based Aerometals, Symon says, is an aerospace manufacturer that “makes parts for things that fly.” (Symon says she prefers simple, clear communication as she’s become accustomed to breaking down engineers’ complex language and concepts.) “We have a niche that we do for the Department of Defense in that we make very high-difficulty assembly parts in low quantities for older platforms,” she says. “Maybe they’ve stopped servicing a particular aircraft, but the Department of Defense is still flying that aircraft, so they need those parts. And that’s where we step in.” Aerometals specializes in prolonging the lives of older aircraft for companies like Boeing.
A Texas native, Symon received her bachelor’s in business administration in accountancy and taxation from the University of Houston and relocated to California for her husband’s job in 2001. Symon, who joined Aerometals as controller in 2007 and was also executive director and vice president before becoming president in 2019, drives Aerometals’ strategic vision, company culture and business development.
During her first year as president, she began planning to expand the company’s products to the international market. “I spent a lot of time on the Asian continent in 2019,” Symon says. “Of course, 2020 brought international travel to an end for now, but hopefully we’ll pick back up. Becoming an exporter is a great way to help the California economy.”
“I think women, culturally, have been more driven into service industries, and I would encourage women to step outside that box. Be prepared to experiment and take the risk.”
Symon says she is dedicated to attracting, retaining and managing new talent because machinists are such a rare commodity. “In manufacturing,” she says, “your people are your most important resource and asset.” The company invests up to two years to train and shape journeyman machinists to produce Aerometals parts.
Inspiring and recruiting young women is important to Symon, given the limited direction she had during her youth. She says that just 10 percent of Aerometals’ 160 employees are women, a percentage she hopes to see gradually increase through her work with young women. “Any opportunity I can get to speak to high school girls to encourage them to go into engineering or the sciences or manufacturing I take, because, knowing what I know now at the age of 54, I should have been an engineer,” she says. The first step in the process of hiring more women, she says, is making them aware that STEM-based careers are an option.
Symon considers her greatest accomplishment her commitment to creating a “family like culture” and “work-life balance” for Aerometals employees. Adopting a schedule where employees work Monday through Thursday 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Friday 7 a.m.-noon cuts down on absenteeism and allows employees more room for outside activities.
As a mother of four, Symon values balance herself. “I worked really, really hard at my own career,” she says. “Obviously, here I am. But I also worked really hard at being a parent. And I think having lived that work-life balance myself is why it’s so important to me for the culture of our company.” Beyond efficiency, Symon sees the impact on employees’ day-to-day happiness and satisfaction. “People that walk through our facility will comment on how well our employees get along. (Our culture) creates a nice atmosphere to come to work every day.”
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