Jackie Heeremans

May 17, 2023 hireCNC

My CNC Story - Jackie Heeremans

Jackie's CNC Story

Like so many others, Jackie Heeremans- a certified Tool & Die maker, happened upon a CNC career by chance. Her industry story began as a CNC machine operator and has evolved into her current role with DGI Supply (dgisupply.ca) as a Technical Sales Representative in Southern Ontario.

Jackie recently spoke with Jon House about her CNC journey.


hireCNC: How did you get started in CNC Machining?

Jackie: It was kind of by fluke. Not going to lie. My plan when I finished high school was to work for a year and then go to college for nursing. I ended up getting hired at an auto parts manufacturer in Arthur and worked as a CNC operator in production. That was my first experience with CNC.

Literally, I was just looking for a job. The company was ten minutes away from my house. It was convenient and the pay was pretty good considering I just had high school education.

Once there, I was in production for about six months when there was an opening in the Tool and Die department. I didn't have any experience, but I applied because there was the possibility that I could get an apprenticeship. At this point, I had figured out that I really liked money and I didn't want to go to college for nursing, and have debt. I got the Tool and Die position and the apprenticeship- a three-year day release program at Conestoga College.


hireCNC: It seems like it came naturally to you and you just kept learning?

Jackie: I was always a numbers person. I think that's where I can logistically work through things. I understand them. It's not super complex.

I also had a lot of training, including manual programming- using AutoCAD and creating our programs manually. I had training in Michigan to learn how to make the dies that we were currently purchasing for our Hot Forging Press- that went really well. There, I had a guy come to me, surprised at how quickly I was learning it all.

I was at the auto parts manufacturer for ten years and after went to a few other job shops.


hireCNC: Was it difficult for you to find your next career opportunities?

Jackie: I had to find a comparable job in the middle of nowhere, which wasn't ideal, so it was a bit of a panic. I just hit the ground running. I printed out 20 resumes and just went door to door to machine shops. And by the end of that week, I had two or three job offers.

The last shop I worked at was a plastics company where they had CNC routers. I started running their manual machines to do second and third processes off the routers, which led to Mastercam training at In-House Solutions for programming.

My intention was always to move into an office position.

While pregnant, I couldn't physically do some of the shop floor work. I couldn't reach things. My belly was in the way, and it wasn’t good. I knew long term it was going to take a physical effect on me.


hireCNC: What happened in terms of moving away from shop floor machining to selling?

Jackie: At the plastics company, I was programming using their ERP system. When the paperwork went out to the floor, all the program information was on that paperwork. The operators could just pull it up and away they went. That experience with ERP, progressed to some estimating and then sales. It was a natural transition once I could train someone to take over my programming position.

One day, I saw on LinkedIn that DGI Supply was looking for an outside sales rep. I knew DGI Supply from working at the auto parts manufacturer and thought that cutting tool sales would be a great avenue to go in the long term. I remember when I was at the auto parts manufacturer, thinking one day I'm going to do that once I finish having my family. In my mind, I couldn't be in an outside sales position when I'm having kids- I needed to be able to focus on it. It's funny how it all worked out.


hireCNC: You’ve been in this industry for about 20 years. In terms of females in machining or CNC machining, is there a difference now than there was when you started? Do you see it evolving?

Jackie: It is getting more common to see a few girls here and there. There's still not a ton by any means but there are a few.

When I first started out, I was one of two girls in my college class.

I find the women that are working in the industry- most have a real attention to detail. They catch things faster. And if you're on it, you can do really well- for example- you learn how to set up and tear down a machine faster because you just pay closer attention to what the people are teaching you. I find that women are better that way. They're more organized.


hireCNC: If you were to promote the trade to a female audience, what would you say to them in terms of looking at this career?

Jackie: It's a consistent income and a reliable trade. Like we discussed, it’s easy to get a job once you're in. You're not going to be searching for a year after you leave a place or get laid off.

There's good potential for a regular 9-5 or 7-3 job. You've got guaranteed times to schedule around, and it just makes life a little simpler.


hireCNC: Are there any preconceived notions we should set straight regarding the CNC trade?

Jackie: Depending on the industry or the company that you're working for, it can be a very dirty job, but it can also be a very clean job as well. Some of the customers that I see, I could eat off the floor in there.

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