By Steve Yablonski
President and CEO, NET & Die
“My dad owned a machine shop, so I’ve always been in manufacturing. I kind of grew up in manufacturing,” said Michelle Shatrau, president and CEO of NET & Die.
She earned her degree in engineering.
“I have always been in manufacturing. I have moved around a lot during my career. I moved all over the country for my career and then I came back to Central New York to take over the family business,” she said.
The company was started in 1966 by Harry Shatrau. In 1981, his children, Richard, Helena and Bob continued the operation. In 2019, Richard’s daughter — Michelle — assumed leadership.
“I’m the owner — so I own and operate NET & Die,” she said. “We are a machine shop in Fulton.”
Manufacturing is still a very male-dominated field.
“I think any woman you talk to will tell their own story of obstacles, discrimination that we have faced in our careers. There are so few women in manufacturing currently,” Shatrau said. “But I think it is very different nowadays compared to when I started — probably been about 30 years since I’ve been out of college. So it is very different than it was back then. I think there are still obstacles. There still aren’t enough women in STEM careers.”
She said she was at a career fair recently trying to recruit more women into machining.
“There are very few women that go into machining or want to do machining. I am pretty much a proponent for getting female students into this career path,” she said.
“The thing that I like about having females in machining is we all tend to have our skills and I think women tend to be very detail-oriented. And, that lends itself very well to being a machinist. Machinists need to be very detail-oriented. They need to be focused on the minutiae of what they are doing,” she added.
When they go to a career fair, if she sees a female, “I am going to actively seek out the females to come and talk to us. We had one at Mohawk Community College recently and we were at a high school a bit before that. I will actively talk to the female students about not only careers in machining and manufacturing but also, you know, just STEM in general,” she said.
“The more I talk about those things — you and I didn’t know these were viable career options until somebody talked to us about them. So I think just talking about them in general allows it to be an option, so the students know that it is a viable option for them,” she said.
Things have been picking up for the company.
“Things have kind of held steady for us during the pandemic. Things never turned down for us. We were deemed an essential business because of the work we do. Things have really started picking up now, though. We just need more people,” she said. “That’s why we are spending a lot of time recruiting now. We spend quite a bit of time doing recruiting; me specifically. So if I’m not doing sales, I am doing recruiting.”
She is the only female currently in the organization.
“We did have one female machinist who had to leave the company for personal reasons. So, we are actively looking to hire more female machinists and machine operators,” she said. “Hope we can get more female workers. I talked to a few [recently]. And, I’ll say we probably had a half dozen stop by who were viable recruits. Two of them were females. So I think that they are out there. You just have to find them.”