Whilst developments in warehouse automation never seem to cease, one aspect of the industry that lags behind is the representation of women, particularly in positions of leadership. Through our Women Revolutionizing series our Warehouse Automation and Intralogistics team look to increase the visibility of women working in these new and emerging technology spaces to encourage more diversity in the sector.

I help business leaders in the warehouse automation and intralogistics markets grow their teams and I recently had the privilege of speaking to Laura Carter on her experience as a woman in automation, as well as her insight into career development and advice for other women in the industry. Laura is a Business Development Manager at Gebhardt ECS, with over 6 years in the industry.


Firstly, could you tell me a little bit about yourself, your current role and the company work for?

Of course! So I’m Laura and I work for Gebhardt European Conveyor Systems and I’ve been here for just over six months. I’m from the integrator world, so I was at another integrator before this and then, before that, I worked for a manufacturer. That’s what kickstarted me into this industry and my main role is business development for the UK and Ireland. I’m out there scoping out new customers, new projects, new sectors that we perhaps haven’t been quite so involved in. My job entails a lot of marketing, and really putting Gebhardt on the map for any new projects. Looking after projects, handling them from a sales lead perspective and working with the technical solutions teams and project managers to see them through. So that’s in a nutshell what I’m doing.


What was it that kickstarted your career in automation?

I started my sales career with George UTZ, a manufacturer based in Derbyshire. I worked there for five and a half years, originally doing account management and then more field sales and business development work. That was my first insight into the logistics world, but obviously, I was on the other end, working with integrators on solutions where they needed a product to fit into their system. I was always really interested in designing systems and understanding the profile of a customer’s products. And I love that one day I could be talking to a pharmaceutical company, and the next I could be talking to somebody that manufactures sports clothing, so it’s so varied.


What inspired you to start out there?

I’ve always enjoyed speaking to new people and I get quite a buzz from the sales process. I came across the job on LinkedIn and I went for the interview. I didn’t have any external sales experience at that point, but I was enthusiastic. I like to learn new things and it was exciting to me that it was a completely new industry that I had no experience in. So that was what inspired me to do it.


Do you think you want to stay in the industry?

100%. I thoroughly love this industry because – even if you’re often talking to ops teams, procurement teams, supply teams – the industries of every client are so different. I also see this industry as being so exciting because there’s so much going on in the world of automation now, so many opportunities and it’s only going to grow.  I think at some point things will start to plateau, but working for a company like Gephardt who are really innovative and always bringing out new products and solutions is really exciting and I want to be part of it.


As a woman in the industry, what do you think are the main challenges and what kind of barriers have you encountered yourself?

I think things have changed quite a lot in the past few years. It still is a very male-orientated industry but there are more and more women now and I’m starting to see more and more women at senior levels in the customers that I speak to. Typically there’s a good amount of women as directors and on the boards, which is amazing.

It’s been a little bit of a challenge when I’m taking clients to a site and I’m the only woman they meet. I wouldn’t say it’s so much of a challenge for me, but you do have to get used to being a bit of a lone wolf in a lot of those meetings. It comes with the territory of the role.


Our data shows that only 9% of the placements made by CrimsonXT Automation last year were for female candidates, up just 2% from the previous year. While the trend is upwards, there’s still a severe lack of women in the industry. Why do you think this is?

I think it’s largely because many of the functions and disciplines that support the automation industry – things like engineering and software – are male-dominated in themselves. It also comes down to a lack of awareness of the industry and the opportunities there. And it’s down to the companies like Gebhardt and all the other integrators and firms in our industry to promote what we do. So that’s why case studies and marketing to explain the process of why we do what we do is so important.


Have you had any female mentors or coaches who have inspired you in your career?

Not directly, because all my managers and seniors have always been men. However, from the start of my career, interacting with women at senior levels in clients and retails has really inspired me to continue on this path. When I go to exhibitions and conferences, I’m always more drawn to go and speak to the women.

Claire Bottle who works for the UK Warehousing Association is a really inspirational woman. She’s always out meeting people, visiting conferences and really making a change in this industry as well. And I think that’s what we need. I really respect her, her opinions and her values.



What accomplishments so far in your career are you really proud of?

I wouldn’t say my accomplishments are around how many orders I’ve won or anything like that. I think for me it’s the fact that starting out I had no experience at all within the industry, but I went in and achieved all my targets. I feel that my enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and understand things have helped me along my journey. I’ve never been afraid to ask a question or to put my point across and I think that’s got me quite far; if you don’t ask, you never know.



What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone else looking to join the industry?

I would say do your research. When a job comes up, research the company, understand who they are, what they’re trying to sell and what their growth plans are. There are so many careers that you can have in this industry – it could be project management, it could be solution design, software – so I would encourage anybody to go for it. The beauty of the industry is that you can start somewhere and move around, and you’ll gain so many skills from different roles.

But just be yourself. Being who you are is really important and, by being honest and yourself with people, you build trust and respect and it sticks with people. Whenever I’m working on a project and the solution that we’ve got doesn’t quite work for the client, I’ll be completely honest with them because I don’t want to waste their time and people respect that. People then often come back later down the line for a different project.



How would you suggest that we encourage more women to consider a career in the warehouse automation and robotics industry?

I think it’s all about creating that market awareness that we talked about before; companies like Gephardt have an important role to play there. So, if somebody is interested in understanding more about roles in this industry, we’re making that information available. We can create more awareness on LinkedIn, through open days and virtual discussions. Polls on LinkedIn are another useful avenue for gauging what people are looking for.



Do you use LinkedIn a lot for your business development?

Yeah, all the time. I think it’s a really powerful tool. I use it for finding leads but also for research. I follow people like Claire and others who have a lot of knowledge, to get a well-rounded view of what’s going on in the market and where we’re seeing change. It helps in terms of business development, because I can go back to Gebhardt and say ‘This is what’s working, this is what’s not working’.



For more inspiring stories, check out our Women Revolutionizing series. Or, learn more about our dedicated Automation and Intralogistics recruitment team and automation jobs.