Angela E. Harrison
Owner & CEO of WELSCO, Inc.
How did you get started in your industry?
It’s my family’s business. My father asked me to join, so I started out running mail and answering phones. From there, I spent a year learning every job in the front office, then spearheaded the development of WELSCO’s Human Resources Department. After HR was up and running, I shifted over to sales, which I absolutely loved. Around that time, my father began experiencing health problems and we also tragically lost our president. The next thing I know, I’m running the business at age 27.
Have you faced challenges because of your gender?
Yes! I was a very young woman in the male-dominated gas and welding industry. Back in those days, workplace harassment wasn’t such a concern, so I had to stay strong and keep my head up. Even now, my golf instructor husband and I go to conventions and people ask him about his business, he always replies “Great, people always need lessons.” I had to work much harder to get noticed, but my persistence and determination has paid off. I was one of the first females to be elected to the International Oxygen Manufacturers Association’s leadership board, and one of only four Americans. I’m determined to show that women are just as capable of success in any industry.
What is your secret to success?
I’m not afraid to hire people smarter and more talented than me. If you employ the best people, respect them and pay them well, they’ll give you their best work. I want my workers to feel like they own the company themselves, and they do.
What advice would you give to a young woman starting her career?
Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. If you want to go far, particularly in a traditionally-male industry, you’ll have to work smarter and harder than anyone else. Have high goals and follow them persistently, but don’t forget to be polite and respectful. Most importantly, remember to give back to your community.
How do you maintain a balance between your work and personal life?
My girls grew up going to work with me, and I was fortunate to never miss a class party when they were little or a single pep rally they’ve danced and cheered. I was only allowed to do this because I knew I could rely on my employees.
How do you hope to be remembered?
First and foremost, as the best mom and wife my family could ever have. Second, for others to realize that I truly cared about others and worked to uplift them. I’ve enjoyed watching people develop and become successful, seeing their pride in themselves grow and show.