Annie is a classic example of a woman who holds her own in a male-dominated world: the world of thermoformers. I’ve known her for 25 years. In fact, it’s because of her I became a salesman. Here’s why.
I’m well aware that happiness means different things to different people. But when Annie recruited me back in 1991 as a service engineer, I could only guess where she got her remarkable drive from. For many years she’d happily worked as a thermoformer sales engineer, a job that enabled her to combine her two passions: technology and food.
‘Every advantage has its disadvantage’
One of our first jobs together took us to some remote part of the country. We were a bit early for our appointment so we had time to go for a coffee. Annie told me her story: “I was the only girl on my chemistry course, the only girl in the lab where I gained my first work experience while doing research on meat products, and for years I’ve been the only woman in our business.” Was that an advantage or a disadvantage? Echoing the well-known quote by the Dutch football icon Johan Cruyff, Annie replied: “Every advantage has its disadvantage. As a woman, you have to be twice as good, so I make sure I’m twice as good. When I go to see a client I’m not just the sales engineer from GEA, a company that makes great thermoformers – I’m also a consumer. I love cooking, I comb through all the promotional flyers that come through the letterbox and I go to the supermarket often. And I don’t just go to one supermarket, I go to several and check out what packaging is used for what food products. I look, compare and keep close tabs on the latest trends. This means I can really put myself in the shoes of the person I'm talking to during a client meeting.”
The twinkle in Annie’s eyes made me realise that we do so much more than sell machines – Ludo Tuyaerts, Senior Sales Engineer GEA Belgium
“A pizza manufacturer once asked us to design a machine for a type of packaging that would immediately stand out on the shelves. It’s not just about delivering a top-quality product; you also have to contribute ideas on the marketing front. We thought about it and came up with a thermoformer for an octagonal pizza packaging. Can you imagine how I felt when I saw it in the shops?” The twinkle in her eyes immediately made me realise that we do so much more than sell machines.