An ‘Unmatched’ Career Choice

Joni Brown never imagined when she took a chance on a job as a business development representative for a forklift manufacturer that she’d grow in the industry to become a national account sales manager more than a decade later. In 2009, when Brown was ready to make a career change after a decade in the cosmetics industry, her sales experience and a referral from another female friend in the forklift industry led her to the business development position, where she said she was immediately assigned to a challenging territory.

“I was cold calling, learning my way and pounding the pavement,” Brown said. After six months, she took advantage of a job opening in Las Vegas, where she started selling electric forklifts and accessories. After years of growing her career path, she said the flexibility, money and connections with others in the material handling industry is unmatched, and she feels at home in her role. Brown is currently a national account sales manager with Advanced Charging Technologies (ACT).

Despite her success in the industry, Brown said it can still be challenging to navigate an environment where she’s often the only woman in the room – but that has pushed her to be the best she can be.

“Typically, the buyers and people in the industry want to make sure you’re knowledgeable about all of your products, more so than what they expect from the men that come in to sell,” Brown said.

Brown said she takes this as an opportunity to build stronger and more trusted relationships with buyers – she’s had some of the same customers since she started in the industry.

“This dynamic has made me challenge myself personally and make sure I can be a true resource for my customers, as well as a trusted advisor that they could call and ask me anything, and I’d know the answer,” Brown said. “I read all the trending publications so that I know what’s going on in the industry and how different issues are impacting my customers’ operations so I can create solutions for them.”

Balancing her love for and success in the material handling industry with the unique challenges of being a woman in such a male-dominated area has inspired Brown to push for the change she wishes to see, starting with more diverse hiring practices within her own company. When she was exploring job opportunities with ACT, she made clear that as a director, hiring women and young people would be a priority for her.

“ACT recruited me – they said they wanted me to have a sales team under me and to bring on other females in the industry and coach them up,” Brown said. “For the next several years to be able to have women or young people in general to work with and train – I love that. That’s why I wanted to do this role and work for ACT, because they’ll give me the resources to do that.”

Brown is also passionate about facilitating the conversations about bringing more women into the industry, and sharing her experiences with other women – as well as men who also see the value of actively recruiting females.

“After MHEDA’s Women in Industry roundtable last year, I had some young men asking about how to bring more women into the industry too,” Brown said. “We all see the value in bringing women on in a sales capacity, not just as coordinators but outside sales. It’s important to share those ideas and how-tos, not just with other women but also for men to understand what attracts a woman to work for and stay at your organization.”