A combined effort: QLM Label Makers

QLM Label Makers has grown to become one of Asia Pacific’s leading label manufacturers, utilising modern printing, converting technology and a skilled professional team to provide printing excellence. And a part of that excellence is its women-led digital team based in its Melbourne facility.

All of the women within the team – Jacqueline DePietro, Jeanine Sheppard, Kate McIlvena, Mandy Milgate, Haylea Robinson, and Jo Forbes-Salmon, amongst a few other female staff, work together within this facility, supplying to customers nationally.

DePietro has been the company’s Melbourne state sales manager and has been working in the label industry for 20 years and with QLM for 13 years.

Her role encompasses, managing the Victorian sales team to meet targets, building new business relationships, nurturing and growing existing accounts, key account management, business development, customer retention and solution selling.

“It is rewarding to work within a team where all roles within the industry are represented – from sales, marketing, production, warehousing, through to design and machine operators, and not just in a role that traditionally a woman would hold,” DePietro said.

“But to survive in a male-dominated industry, you need ‘tough skin’ and be determined to be heard. There once were stereotypical attitudes and beliefs about women’s leadership abilities and the kind of role they would fulfil.

“Thankfully this attitude has now changed and women are now being judged by their merits and strengths, not by their gender.”

Sheppard, who is the production planning manager at the facility, schedules production in the factory for best efficiencies. She has been at QLM for 18 months and in the printing industry since 1989.

“I work in a small, tight knit group. I enjoy building and working with teams that are built on personal responsibility and respect,” Sheppard said.

“There are times when I’ve worked for companies that have not been as receptive to women as they are to the men in similar levels but we have a great mix of both males and females at QLM Melbourne, which leads to great diversity in ability, skillset and opinion.

“It’s very gratifying to see more and more young women coming through in our industry, particularly in the more historically male roles, such as printing and dispatch. There is a great deal more equality in the industry now than there was 30 years ago. I hope that it will continue to evolve and improve.”

McIlvena has worked at QLM for 15 months, and is now in the packing and despatch department. She has been in the industry since graduating high school. She was an apprentice screen printer before moving into despatch.

“My responsibility relies at the end of the chain, so I am the last person to look at our jobs before they leave the factory. I ensure jobs are followed as per instructions and always ask questions to be double sure of things,” she said.

“I don’t mind working in a male-dominated industry; Over the past 10 years, the vibe towards females in the industry has definitely improved in the print industry.

“And working in a female-strong team at QLM is great! It’s so amazing to see so many women working all these machines, and we can’t forget the fantastic women in the office roles as well.”

As for Milgate, she has been in the print industry for over ten years, with her career at QLM commencing eight months ago.

“My role at QLM involves digital finishing, applying varnishes, foil, and laminate, along with die cutting of various labels,” Milgate said.

“At QLM, I look up to all my female peers. Each and every one of them bring a unique quality about themselves, and together we make a great team. Working in a female-strong team, it’s a great feeling to be appreciated, and a great opportunity to display our level of professionalism.

“The females dominate at QLM, and it’s proven that we can successfully achieve anything in a typically male-dominated trade.”

Robinson has been at QLM for 15 months and first started in the print industry back in 2009.

Her role at QLM is pre-press, with responsibilities consisting of artwork proofing, stepping of artwork, and ensuring that the artwork is set up correctly for various types of finishings.

“Since starting at QLM in Melbourne, I have expanded my knowledge and confidence in the vast range of different printing methods within the print industry,” Robinson said.

“I look up to Jeanine (Sheppard), whose organisational skills are amazing. Not only that but she is also very helpful in providing assistance where needed and always pushes a person to do their best.

“We definitely need more women in print to give these types of opportunities in the industry a go.”

And Forbes-Salmon, who has been in the company’s marketing team, has been at QLM for five years, starting her career in print with the company.

“QLM took a chance on me five years ago when I was looking for a career change. I had no experience in print, but I have loved learning about it as I go,” Forbes-Salmon mentioned.

“Working in a male-dominated industry feels tricky at times. It’s easy to question my opinions or understanding when I am the only woman in the room. I have to remind myself that I have been given these opportunities because people trust in my abilities.

“But the strength of our team comes from the fact that everyone is equally respected, regardless of gender. My advice to other women in the industry is to not be afraid to speak up and take every opportunity as a learning opportunity.”

This article was first published in the May 2020 issue of AP. The digital version of the magazine is available here.

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