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Interview with Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America Vice President of Business Development—Sara Zimmerman

March 24, 2017
Olivia Martin

Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America (SMA), part of Sumitomo Drive Technologies, announced Sara Zimmerman as the corporation's Vice President of Business Development, effective January 1, 2017. Mrs. Zimmerman previously served as the Director of Business Development.
In the position of Vice President of Business Development, Mrs. Zimmerman provides leadership, guidance, and direction to the marketing, engineering, product, business development and corporate industry managers. She works closely with Sumitomo Power and Transmission divisions to ensure customer satisfaction, revenue and profit goals are met.
We asked Sara about her journey to Vice President, her vision for the corporation, and who she is inside and outside of work.

How has your tenure been throughout the years at SMA?
I began at SMA in 1997 as an Electrical Product Specialist. Shortly after I began, SMA was awarded a 10 million dollar project from one of our largest material handling customers and I was tasked with managing the project from cradle-to-grave. Over the course of three years, I received a lot of hands on training from experienced employees who were willing to share their expertise and knowledge with me. I did anything and everything to ensure that the project was delivered on time and in scope-project specification to driving forklifts and overseeing the jobsite in-person, which included training millwrights on proper gearbox installation. This opportunity, along with all the positions that I have held at SMA over the past 20 years; Product Manager, Food & Beverage Industry Manager, Project Manager, Strategic Marketing Manager, and Director of Business Development have helped to prepare me for the Vice President role.

How does it feel to be the first woman executive of SMA?
I have always worked in male-dominant industries, such as Electrical, Heating and Air Conditioning distribution, both inside and outside sales, and now Power Transmission (PT) Industry. I'm both honored and excited for the opportunity that I have been given. Along my journey, I have had a great support from my parents, my family, my high school shop teacher and several mentors at SMA. I hope that I can inspire more women to enter into the PT field and leadership roles.

What is your vision for SMA?
My passion is customer focused product development. Listening to customers to validate and guide the product development process is crucial. I have been very fortunate in my career here at Sumitomo to work on some of the options and features that have allowed our products to reach new customers and grow our business. It takes a team effort to bring new products to the market with research and development, marketing, engineering, design, operations, product and business development. Our goal is to provide products and engineering solutions that create lasting partnerships with our customers. Putting the right people in place with the right resources is a key ingredient that will allow us to achieve our vision. I am very fortunate to lead a very talented and diverse group of individuals.

What advice would you share with young professionals?
I think that Dwayne Johnson "The Rock" said it best, "Be the hardest working person in the room," which is something that I have also followed. If you have a strong work ethic, take pride in your work, and commit to continuously learning, you'll get noticed. When I first started at SMA I attended a motor school, then a PT fundamentals school. In 2016, I earned my MBA in International Business from Regent University and I believe learning the fundamentals and continuous learning is important, and it is something that I highly recommend others to do.

In work or personal life, what is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
Work/life balance has been the hardest thing for me to overcome. I haven't always done a great job at that. I have a strong sense of work ethic, which has sometimes lead me to put work first. So I am now trying hard to set aside time with family, friends, and the things I love. Another personal challenge that I have had to face in my life is that I have a learning disability; I am dyslexic. Throughout my MBA program an assignment that may take four hours to complete by other students, would take me eight. While I do not emphasize this, I do let other people know that I do have a learning disability as I am hoping that it inspire others not to let personal challenges hold them back.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
My children are my proudest accomplishment. I am extremely proud of my children and the goals that they are able to achieve through hard work and dedication. For instance, my daughter participated in Virginia's Two Plus Two program. She first attended Tidewater Community College, earning two Associate's Degrees in two years and then going onto UVA where she is working on her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Education. As a parent, nothing gives me greater joy than seeing my children accomplish a goal that they have set for themselves.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy running, reading, and spending time with my family and church community. Volunteering is meaningful to me, and we are involved with Stop Hunger Now, Vacation Bible School, and supporting our local food bank.

In three words, how would you describe yourself?
In three words, I would describe myself as loyal, dedicated, and a mom.

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