With a degree in accounting, Jan Morr never intended for a career in the fastener industry. After university, she worked at the wireless company, Verizon, managing phone plans for corporate clients — and she excelled. In fact, one of the companies that she worked with was so impressed with her abilities and responsiveness that they tried to recruit her for a sales position.
“They were a steel distributor,” Morr explains. “When they first approached me and shared that, I laughed. I knew nothing about steel. Plus, I was an accountant. Sure… I could potentially manage the business side without an understanding of the steel sector, but I was not qualified as a sales rep.”
Six months later, Morr changed her mind. She had been with Verizon for about three years and figured maybe the novelty and new experience would be worth it. It’s also what eventually led her to the fastener industry.
“MAFCO & Poseidon Barge was the distributor, and they continued to pursue and keep the door open for me until I finally agreed to join them,” she says. “So, I went from selling phones to becoming a core distributor of steel for bridges.”
Fast-forward three years and similar events unfolded again. This time, it was one of Morr’s vendors — Formed Fastener, a steel and parts manufacturer in Illinois — that was also impressed and wanted her to join their team.
“Again, it took me some time before I agreed to work with them but it’s where I ended up spending about 10 years of my career and, essentially, led to two roles,” shares Morr. “I continued in steel but slowly also got introduced to structural bolts and the fastener business, selling to all of the major fastener distributors.”
This opportunity is what led Morr to learn more about the structural fastener industry and build a network of knowledge and associates, many of whom have become lifelong friends. It’s also what led her to connect with Women in the Fastener Industry or WIFI, a non-profit organization that offers support, education, mentorship for women in the fastener industry.
“I noticed WIFI’s booth at tradeshows…I mean, how can you not? The pink really pops, and the women there always seemed to be interacting, laughing, and supporting one another,” she says. “I knew that was something I wanted to be a part of and, so, I volunteered at their booth a few times before I was asked to become a board member.”
Morr joined the board in 2019 and then became the vice president of the board in 2020, where she continues to volunteer.
“The comradery and support that’s part of the WIFI team are like no other I’ve ever experienced,” she says. “I mean, you could be in direct competition with the gal next to you and still have one another’s back — 100 percent. We encourage one another, share opportunities and knowledge, and build connections. I think this is so important and, especially, in what has historically been a male-dominated field.”
Morr is particularly proud of the scholarships WIFI offers, which provide funds for members to attend industry-related training, conferences, or trade events. “Each scholarship we offer honors a different veteran in the fastener industry and is designed to support the continued education of women working in fastening.”
The board is already making plans for 2022, with a focus on networking, mentoring, and scholarships.
The women at WIFI have also served as a support system for Morr, especially during the last couple of years. With the pandemic hitting in 2020, she was forced to move on after a decade of work with Formed Fastener. She’s also struggled with a rare autoimmune disease that’s been particularly taxing over the last few months. But somehow, she continues to persevere and seek new challenges.
“I have such a great support system — with women who also have my back,” she shares. She’s had some difficult decisions to make and felt she always had someone to turn to for advice.
Morr spent most of 2021 working as a regional sales manager for Würth Industry North America, a major industrial distributor of C-parts, specialty fasteners, and supply-chain solutions. “I was back doing what I was comfortable with, supplying the bolts for the bridges, which was great experience working with such a global brand.”
Though most of us might have preferred to remain in our comfort zone, especially after the uncertainty of the last couple of years, Morr was dedicated to growth. So, she decided on two things. One, she needed to slow down and take better care of herself, given her autoimmune challenges. Two, she wanted to learn something new.
“I think too often as women, we’re either overworked and feel stuck balancing work and family life. Or, we’re just so grateful to have a career, that we don’t want to jeopardize it by chancing a new path,” she says. “It’s certainly not easy but I knew, for myself, that it was time for something new.”
Morr recently took on an outside sales position with All State Fastener, a global supplier with a strong focus on the automotive sector.
“Interestingly, it’s so different than the structural side of the business, which offers far more standardized parts. Now, I’m learning about rivets and the heavy truck division, as well as customized manufacturing, and it’s been surprisingly refreshing,” she shares. “I think it’s so important to continually pursue new insights and to keep learning and challenging ourselves — especially as women. It’s important to follow what inspires and drives us.”
All State Fastener also happens to be a big supporter of women in tech and engineering. “One young gal who works in our purchasing department actually recognized me from my VP role at WIFI. She’s still in college, and just the thought that I could be seen as a mentor or role model for what’s possible for women in the industry is such an honor and a privilege.”
Morr adds: “I might never have planned a career in the fastening industry but I’m so grateful for the experience it’s provided me. And, more than anything, I’m grateful for the connections I’ve made and the women I’ve met as colleagues and friends.”