Yes, women can! The ladies at Smulders are quite capable, no doubt about that. Ria Van Dooren, employee in the paint hall in Arendonk, is living proof. She has been standing her ground since November 2019. Modest, respectful and committed, that is how she makes her mark.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you end up at Smulders?
“I used to be a self-employed chip shop owner, but I was ready for something new. I ran that business with great passion for 14 years, although it became increasingly difficult to find good staff. I heard through an acquaintance that there was a vacancy for the paint hall and I decided to take my chance. Something completely different, very exciting. I was eager to start.”
What a career move. What do you do on the shop floor?
“On the one hand, I am in charge of warehouse management: keeping track of the paint, calculating the consumption, ordering paint, etc. This involves a lot and, above all, the calculations have to be correct. I am alone in the shop and I keep all the information in a programme. On the other hand, I do the touch-up for the projects, i.e. for all the constructions that leave Iemants in Arendonk. You could say that the steel industry opened up a whole new world for me.”
Touch-up, what is that exactly?
“That is the final work of the paints. I check to see if there are any mistakes and take them out. I am the only one who does touch-up, but I work closely with the other colleagues in the paint shop. In total, there are about 30 team members spread over the spray hall. I absolutely love being one of the guys.”
Does your past work experience as a self-employed person have an impact today?
“Well, there is a proactive side to my DNA. I have the same commitment in my current job. If you live by the motto ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’, you can achieve a lot. Hard work and honest communication are the best. Also in this context, I try to use my knowledge of people, my eye for perfection and my drive for efficiency to the best of my ability. The latter is needed in the warehouse. I tend to encourage my colleagues to clean and reuse materials whenever possible, so we can save money. And if I ask them respectfully not to leave anything lying around, I think the men don’t really mind. That feminine touch, right?”
What is the best the part of the job?
“Definitely being able to switch between the touch-up and the warehouse management. The mix between sitting at my desk and walking around in production. Every day is different. Dealing with other people gives me energy. If I need to, I will always talk to my foreman and others to do my job as well as I can. Communication is very important to me, also when incidents occur.”
What challenges do you see?
“It is a desire and a challenge: to grow in the warehouse and to know more about paints. I am convinced that it is necessary to bring more efficiency into paint management, especially now that the number of projects is increasing. In terms of touch-up, there is not much to grow because of physical aspects. As you get older, it becomes more difficult to sit on your knees. It is a funny sight sometimes: me sitting in a mast, fully equipped with a lamp and glasses. I also like to think together with our foreman and offer ideas on how to improve our work, so we can fulfil customers' wishes.”
What do you do when you are not working in the paint hall?
“Well, I like to be creative... with steel! Together with a colleague, I recently welded a beautiful tree. It is finished and I put it in the garden, so I now have time for the next work of art in steel. I get my inspiration from Pinterest. This hobby is an ideal outlet, in addition to cooking and enjoying life with my husband and 2 children.”
Are you also this passionate at home?
“That’s the least you can say. I am an inquisitive person and I want to try everything. From the chip shop to the steel industry... it is perfectly possible. The right job combined with a cosy home, some relaxation and nice chats with friends make me a happy woman.”
Is there anything you want to try in the future?
“A tandem skydive! The older, the crazier. No, I mean it, a jump like that is bound to give you a feeling of absolute freedom. It is not rash. It is a matter of letting go of less pleasant things you have experienced. I think it's great.”
Finally, what do you think about seeing your own story here in Passion magazine?
“Special, a bit awkward because I don't really like being in the spotlight. Maybe it can inspire other ladies to start working in a similar job. Pretty cool, right, in our work gear? In case you have any doubts, at the weekend I'm all about elegance.”