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Where Horsepower Has No Gender: Meet The Women Of Mercury Racing

The focus is on growing talent. Who has the best experience? Who has the right skills?—Becky Pausha, Mercury Racing production manager.

In late July, Brunswick Corporation made Forbes magazine’s 300-company list of “America’s Best Employers for Women.” Brunswick ranked No. 108 on the list, which according to a press release from the publicly traded company in Mettawa, Ill, was “based on an independent survey from a sample of 75,000 U.S. employees working for companies employing at least 1,000 people in their U.S. operations.”

(From left) Mercury Racing production team members Becky Pausha, Melissa Wachholz, Annah Kallman and Hannah Batterman. All photos courtesy/copyright Mercury Racing.  

Nice accomplishment, I thought as I moved the release to my trash folder. The owner of Mercury Marine, Mercury Racing and a host of powerboat companies, Brunswick is a massive and powerful company. Forbes is a solid and respected business publication. The achievement is worth touting.

But what does it mean in the real world? And more specifically, what does it mean in the high-performance marine industry world? Going even more granular, what does it mean at Mercury Racing, which dominates the high-performance marine engine world?

To dig out some real-world answers, I turned to Andrea Jansen, the brand manager for the Fond du Lac, Wis., company, which currently has 11 women working under its roof. Jansen, who has been in her role for the past two years and worked at Mercury Marine for seven years before joining the Mercury Racing team, liked the idea and asked me to submit questions for them.

From veteran sales manager Lisa Scola, who has worked at Mercury Racing for 15 years, to Becky Allen, a bill of material/document control specialist, who has been with the company’s engineering department for six months, the group tackles diverse responsibilities. In addition to Jansen, Scola and Allen, there is marketing project manager Yvonne Nicklaus, production manager Becky Pausha, Mercury 450R production line technicians Melissa Wachholz and Annah Kallman, and warehouse specialist Hannah Batterman.

Together, they have 31 years of combined experience at Mercury Racing and 70-plus years working under the Mercury Marine umbrella. Here’s what they had to say.

Describe the most important aspect of your role at Mercury Racing,

Andrea Jansen – The most important part of my role is to be a team player and lift up others so that we can be successful collectively. I am here to learn, be supportive and contribute to a strong sense of team. Equally as important, however, is to offer a different perspective and challenge this organization to grow in ways that perhaps it did not think that it could. I love working with such a diverse group of people who are so open to new ideas and challenges.

Yvonne Nicklaus – Engagement and brand awareness. Making sure people know who we are, what we sell and what it means to be a part of the Racing family. Another important aspect of my job is engagement. How to keep our customers engaged from the moment they visit our website to after they become an owner. 

Lisa Scola – Most important is working with dealers and OEM and making sure they get the correct product. If something doesn’t seem right, I call to make sure they order the correct part. Putting the customer first. Always. 

Becky Allen – Keeping the bill of materials straight and keeping the engineers in line with their documentation. They must follow specific processes, so it’s my job to make sure it’s all correct and we pass ISO certification.

Do does being female bring any different/unique challenges to your role?

Jansen – Being female puts you at a disadvantage only if you allow it to do so. In this industry you need to have a good dose of inner strength and outward tenacity. I believe if you wake up each day and do your absolute best job—really give it your all, and act with integrity, you can feel confident that you have contributed to the success of the business.

Nicklaus – I believe there are always challenges with being a woman, especially in a mostly male-dominated field. I have learned to always speak up and voice my opinion no matter what because we (women) do have valuable feedback and can give a different perspective. 

Scola – There are always challenges being a female. It’s funny to hear. I used to get frustrated but now I’ve learned to brush it off.

Lisa Scola (center) and Andrea Jansen joined fellow members of the Mercury Racing team for a retirement party celebrating 30-year employee Rick Mackie (front, second from left)

Becky Pausha – I have grown over the years, working with different personalities it may take time to get them used to working with me as a leader. I have had to prove that I do have the knowledge to do my job.

Melissa Wachholz – I think you are viewed differently as a woman in manufacturing. But since I have been on the 450 line, the guys have gotten to know me and my ability. They know I come here to do the best job I can and I think there is mutual respect.

Annah Kallman – For the five years I have been here, I’ve had to prove my abilities 100 times harder than any guy who’s walked through the door.

Hannah Batterman – I think you have to have a thick skin and be strong—physically and mentally.

Allen – I grew up the only girl with three brothers. So I am quite comfortable working with mostly men—I am used to it (laughs). I grew up in Southern California, so I was raised to think I can do anything I wanted, but moving to the Midwest it’s not quite like that. There were some who might have been skeptical of my knowledge and skills.

Becky Pausha: “I wanted to be a part of this family because it’s known to have great culture.”

What drew you or brought you to Mercury Racing and what do you like best about it?

Jansen – I was beyond excited that Steve Miller (director of marketing, sales and service) asked me to join this group of super talented people two years ago. I had worked for the main brand for seven years, and thought that the Racing brand manager role would be both an amazing opportunity and one of the hardest challenges of my career, so far. I am passionate about boating and have grown to really appreciate the exceptional, unique products we make at Racing.

What I like best is the culture and people. I like that I can walk through the plant and know people by name (still learning some of them!), listen to their stories and ideas, and have a personal connection. It really does feel like a family.

Nicklaus – What I like best about Mercury Racing is that the diversity of the work that I do ensures that no day is like any other and it is a constant adventure. Each project has its unique challenges. Everyone here at Mercury Racing shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission. This creates a great work environment knowing that we are all in this together.

Scola – I love my job 95 percent of the time. The other 5 percent I am on vacation (laughs). I like what I do, love my coworkers, love my customers. This job is challenging at times and I enjoy that. Everything we do is fun.

Pausha – I’ve always had something to do with engineering or quality. I’ve always wanted to be at Racing, so when the opportunity came up to move over I was excited and applied. I have always wanted to continue learning about Mercury, and I wanted to learn about Racing. I wanted to be a part of this family because it’s known to have great culture. This is truly a work family. I have 60 people who work for me, and it’s hard to connect when you are in this type of role—but everyone here is part of the team.

What I like best? People come to Racing because they have a skill that’s wanted and appreciated. It doesn’t matter so much if you are male or female, but that you are appreciated for the skills you do have and that you’re a valued part of the team. I don’t want to just be the supervisor; I want to learn and this is an environment of shared knowledge.

Melissa Wachholz and Annah Kallman.

Wachholz – Racing appealed to me because I could learn the whole process—from beginning to end. You’re not just tightening the same four bolts. You are actually learning how things work.

Kallman – I had known someone who put in a good word for me when I was laid off at a previous company. I was recruited to come here based on my skill set from that previous job. It’s so laid back here—it really feels like a family.

Batterman – When I started I was young and wasn’t planning to stay, but I’m still here. I came here because it’s family friendly and I think it’s got a great work/life balance for me personally.

Allen – I had been looking to get back to Mercury since my contractor gig was over. Coming to Racing is a bonus. I am kind of a gearhead. I love muscle cars and boating. So I have passion around the industry.

What I like best is that everyone is so chill and super supportive. I’ve had PTSD from other jobs where there’s a lot of micromanagement, but this feels like a family—everyone seems to know each other really well and genuinely cares about you as a person.

Yvonne Nicklaus and Andrea Jansen.

What is your greatest motivator for growing your career with Mercury Marine? And what is your hope for growing diversity/inclusion at Mercury Racing?

Jansen – Mercury/Brunswick is a wonderful place to work so it’s no surprise that we are winning awards for it. My hope is that we continue to expand the types of people we hire—focusing on growing our skills and capabilities as a company. Think of all the things we can accomplish when we open our mind to new ideas, attitudes, cultures and knowledge. The possibilities really are limitless. I am not sure how much raw talent this building can hold, but we’ll make room (laughs),

Nicklaus – My greatest motivators are growth opportunities and challenging work. I am a hard worker and passionate about the work that I do. I enjoy taking risks—doing more and being different. There is nothing better than having great coworkers and leadership that really support and encourage me to be the best version of myself and really push me into the wide open.

As for growing diversity, I believe it is important to be culturally competent. Taking the time to learn about different cultures, races, religions and backgrounds represented by my colleagues is vital. Everyone should strive for continuous improvement and be willing to learn, accept feedback and listen to the concerns of those around you. Even the most enlightened individual can find opportunities for growth. And most of all, understand the diversity elements that we each personally bring to Racing. Each of us brings to the table a lifetime of experiences and knowledge and we add value to the organization because of these differences.

Scola – I’m a single parent and I always want to better myself—show my daughter that you can do anything you put your mind to, such as finishing a degree and progressing in your career. Kevin Skiba (Mercury Racing’s national sales manager) is a great support system. He sees that it can be difficult for women to get noticed for their hard work. 

Pausha – This is a family-type atmosphere. There is male versus female but everyone is part of the team. The focus is on growing talent. Who has the best experience? Who has the right skills? That’s our focus and the growth of women on our team is a nice byproduct of that.

Wachholz – This is almost like a mom-and-pop shop, so it’s easy to want to stay.

Batterman – It’s not one job all day. This place is good for my family and I don’t feel like it’s the same thing day in and day out, so it keeps it interesting.

What advice would you have to another woman interested in this type of career?

Jansen – Be open to opportunity and be confident in yourself. You just never know where your professional path will lead with the right attitude and a little ambition.

Nicklaus – Go for it. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Don’t be afraid to speak up and take risks. It will get you noticed and give you the experience that you need to move to the next level. 

Scola – There’s no limitation of what women can do. If someone wants to do something they should do it. Work hard. If you’re passionate for something that helps. 

Pausha – Never stop asking questions. Don’t ever think you aren’t good enough for something. Mistakes are learning opportunities and you will continue to grow.

Wachholz – Don’t give up. Go for what you want.

Batterman – It’s a tough day’s job and sometimes you are going to get your hands dirty. But it’s worthwhile here because I know that I am valued. You have to enjoy what you do.

Allen – Looking at past positions, you have to have a strong backbone. If you have to go toe-to-toe with someone who thinks they know everything, you can’t back down or run away in tears. Here at Racing, you actually get to know people—not just co-workers. I feel very supported and that is important; other women should look for those types of opportunities.

Becky Allen: “I am kind of a gearhead and love muscle cars and boating. So I have passion around the industry.”

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