Jill Christner is the President and General Manager of SLM Solutions for the Americas. Jill joined SLM Solutions following a 15-year career at General Electric, formerly the Product Manager for Peripherals and Factory Equipment in the Additive Division. She started her career in a technical leadership program and progressed in roles of supervision, manufacturing engineering, quality, materials and inventory management, and plant management. She expanded upon her experience with global roles in operations for supply chain and engineering in industries with traditional manufacturing methods before becoming intrigued with additive manufacturing and advancing to the Product Manager role. Jill built her educational foundation with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Business Administration.

What advice would you share with someone looking into a career in additive manufacturing in 2020?

2020 has been an interesting and challenging year for all us inside and outside the Additive Industry.  I would encourage anyone looking at going into any career to understand why they are intrigued by that specific role or that specific industry. I am grateful to witness firsthand, how additive is changing the world of manufacturing.  Much of my career progressed through the supply chains of traditional manufacturing and to watch the barriers additive can break through is amazing. The possibilities additive opens up and creates from design freedom, to speed-to-market, to weight reduction, to agile manufacturing…

When hiring, what are you looking for in a candidate?

First and foremost, I expect the candidate to be competent for the role. This may seem to be very basic but if they are lacking competence, confidence and clarity to execute well, it will be a challenge. Next, I always look for passion. Are they passionate about the customer, about what they bring to the table, about people, about the industry, about the business… Third, do they work well with others.

None of us can succeed alone, it is critical that they fit in well with the culture we are striving for and will they enhance that.

What is the best advice you were given in your career? 

I’ve been fortunate to receive so much great advice in my career from leaders who took a bet on me. I will never forget the advice I received early in my career from a guy named John. He was retired and returned as a contractor, I was an electrical engineer right out of college trying to prove myself.

“It’s not only what you know, it’s also who you know that is key”.

As women we very often feel a need to do everything ourselves and can become so involved in doing that we forget we are wired for relationships and our network is so critical to enable us to move to the next level in our careers. John observed that in me early and I’ve returned to his advice often as relationships are key, working as a team is key, depending on our team is key, and having our go-to mentors for guidance is key.

In your experience, what are some actionable ways we can promote gender equality?

Diversity brings a balance that supports the success and long term growth of business. When we have women at the table there is diversity of thought. Often women think about things differently, we process things differently, we communicate differently, and we organize our strategies differently so it really is about bringing a different approach into the team, into leadership, and into the boardroom. Every company strives for success and growth so we have to purposefully make decisions that support this outcome.

How can a company like SLM Solutions be a leader in gender equality in our industry?

At SLM Solutions we have experienced a major shift in our leadership team and our company culture over the last year, we are on a journey of actively pursuing excellence. I am honored to lead the Americas team for SLM Solutions.

We have a great team and over 40% women on our leadership team in the Americas.

Exciting also for us was the addition of Nicole Englisch to our supervisory board of directors. We are purposefully looking for a balance of personalities, mindsets, and thinking that align to our guiding principles. As we are embracing this our effectiveness is accelerating.

As a leader, quite a few people are looking up to you. I’d like to know who inspires you. 

I have met many leaders, both male and female who have inspired me. I find the trend to be individuals who have started with very little or from behind and every day actively make a decision to approach each day with intention and clarity of purpose. Personally, the most influential and inspiring to me, have been my parents. There are nine children in my family and my parents were very diligent in teaching us the value of faith, hard work, education, and to serve others with excellence.

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