Kim Ziomek: Leading Women Through Career Challenges with Confidence

Kim Ziomek
Kim Ziomek Director of Business Development Schwartz Machine Company

Kim Ziomek, the Director of Business Development at Schwartz Machine Company, was inspired to pursue a career in the automotive industry by her father, Joe Ziomek. Introduced to the intricacies of the field at a young age, she accompanied her father to industry meetings and forged connections within the automotive sector, particularly at Ford. Despite initially focusing on Electrical Engineering due to her affinity for math, Kim decided on a dual path during her junior year in college, graduating with a unique blend of technical expertise and a major in business.

Throughout her career, Kim has enjoyed diverse roles at Tier One Automotive Suppliers, relishing the opportunity to sell a variety of products to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Her current role at Schwartz Machine Company, a privately held operation specializing in prototype machining of high-niche, low-volume products, represents a departure from traditional business development. Drawing on her extensive educational background and industry experience, Kim is dedicated to adding value to the company’s new business ventures.

With three years at Schwartz, Kim acknowledges the significance of her professional network and attributes her current position to a combination of background, experience and connections. As she emphasizes the importance of fostering professional relationships, Kim underscores the unpredictable ways in which networking can significantly impact one’s career trajectory.

Let’s explore how Kim’s vision is propelling Schwartz Machine Company forward in the mobility sector with electrification!

Investing in Excellence

Kim embodies the company’s mission and vision, Kim asserts, “Schwartz’s mission is committing to provide precision machining for low volume prototype components in mobility sectors.” The company synergistically delivers high-quality, value-added products and solutions with integrity.

Their vision is clear—to be a premier American machining organization, continuing the company’s heritage. Kim envisions Schwartz as the ‘supplier of choice,’ an indispensable partner sought after for precision machining. “This vision will be accomplished by sharing the responsibilities of planning and decision-making with all of our employees,” Kim emphasizes, highlighting the collaborative spirit at Schwartz. Schwartz Machine is investing in newer equipment for machining and training employees to enhance the throughput and quality of operations.

Continuity and Change

Founded in 1951 by Edward Schwartz, Schwartz Machine Company has seen a dynamic transition of leadership. In 1966, his son, Bob Schwartz, took the leadership and in 2020, granddaughter Cheryl Schwartz assumed the role of President/CEO. Cheryl steers the company with a commitment to its mission and vision, maintaining the legacy that made Schwartz the ‘go-to’ machining organization.

In a recent development, the company saw a change in ownership as Mr. Tom Murray, President/CEO of Stratadyne, took the helm in late 2022. With this purchase, Tom has ensured that he will not only maintain the company’s current associates but bring in new talent and purchase new capital equipment. As Schwartz embraces this new chapter, the tradition of excellence and forward-thinking leadership remains a constant.

Influence and Impact

Kim’s journey from Electrical Engineering at Oakland University to a leadership role in the automotive industry is marked by purpose and impact. “I switched to management as I am such a people person; I wanted to be out and selling Vs. inside and designing or being ‘stuck at a desk,” she reveals. Beyond her personal success, Kim is dedicated to paving the way for others. “The impact that I have made through my expertise in the industry is giving other women the awareness of the opportunities that exist if you want it.”

A certified Mentor and Coach, Kim emphasizes the importance of aligning with organizational values. “You need to ask for it, want it and align with the goals and objectives of your career road map,” she advises aspiring professionals.

As a Co-Founder of the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF), Kim’s influence extends to fostering connections with industry leaders. “Starting this organization has given me the opportunity to meet Presidents, CEOs, V. Presidents, as well as leaders of Entrepreneurial organizations.”

Beyond Zero Tolerance

Kim has faced many challenges, some of which include:

  • Leading a diverse and global team.
  • Working to have my colleagues accept ISO in everyday business.
  • Dealing with harassment in the workplace.
  • Having a professional network that others only wish they could have.
  • Always being dressed and acting professionally.
  • Working in a non-diverse team and adding value to the team whether it be technical or commercial input.

To overcome some of the challenges, you need to be on top of your game, know your product”. Kim’s strategy includes breaking the ice with a touch of hospitality, stating, “To break the ‘ice,’ sometimes I brought in treats for early or afternoon meetings.” Communication is key, both internally and externally, with emphasis on honesty, “If you don’t know the answer, get back to the person, don’t ‘fake it,’ it only leads to problems.”

Kim’s enduring success is attributed to relationship-building. “Being nice to people and nurturing relationships opened doors and enabled me to build a network of fantastic contacts that still go on after 40 years.” Her timeless motto emphasizes the power of personal connection, “Go and see,’ whether that be a colleague in the offices or a visit to the customer, ‘Face to Face’ is always recommended versus email or text.” In Kim’s pragmatic approach, the path to success involves skill, sincerity and a personal touch.

Milestones and Mentorship

Kim provides a candid perspective on the automotive industry’s current state, deeming it ‘disruptive.’ The shift from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) technology to electrification marks an unprecedented transformation. Kim raises critical questions about adapting manufacturing plants, educating the workforce on the ICE to EV transition and forecasting volumes along with program acceptance. This change is very disruptive to the industry as many questions arise.

Kim emphasizes the pivotal role women will play in this evolution, highlighting their ability as ‘multi-taskers’ to assemble teams that are ‘doers’ and ‘task oriented.’ Drawing from personal experience, she reflects on a time when being the only woman in the room, driving her determination to provide women with a voice and a seat at the table. With the current emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives, Kim applauds the positive impact of witnessing women regaining key leadership roles.

As a Co-Founder of the AWAF, Kim shares the organization’s mission formed over 25 years ago. AWAF provides a platform for automotive women to connect, fostering advocacy and career advancement. The foundation’s commitment is evident in its support for women through mentoring, coaching, educational programs, and a robust scholarship initiative. “To date, AWAF has awarded close to $650,000 to over 243 women. This is remarkable for a 501c3 volunteer organization to accomplish such a journey,” Kim proudly notes.

Shifting Gears

Kim is a certified Mentor and Coach and she addresses the challenges in the automotive industry with clarity and purpose. Lack of awareness of the opportunities in automotive, the industry bias in leadership and recognition of the lack of diversity and inclusion. In advocating for change, Kim urges leadership to actively support women’s advancement. Men can help by advocating for women who show qualities that can add value to an organization’s operations.

Sharing her commitment to mentorship, Kim emphasizes the importance of women having a seat at the table. “Be Mentors, give diversity a seat at the table and recognize that there is a business benefit of having diverse leadership.” Acknowledging the need for senior-level women to share experiences, Kim actively engages with young college women to guide them in their educational and career journeys.

At the Automotive Women’s Alliance Foundation (AWAF), Kim extends opportunities for women to connect and advocate for career advancement. Under the AWAF umbrella, she introduces the Legacy Re-Firement Influencers Group (LRIG), creating a platform for senior automotive women to strategically influence and support the next generation of leaders.

Machining the Future

Kim’s vision is to lead a team of sales/business employees to support the growth of Schwartz Machine’s business in racing, marine, off-highway, heavy-duty applications, and possibly an aftermarket service sector. Electrification has certainly been the disrupter and Schwartz is expanding machining services to include various components of the mobility sector.

With continued investment in capital to support the landscape, educating the employees on new equipment, hiring new talent and seeking a business that is non-traditional. In terms of staying true to the core values—it comes from leadership.

Defying Limits

Reflecting on a transformative experience in 2021, Kim recalls a unique assignment from a coach—writing her own obituary. “I want to leave a legacy that reminds people of my ‘spark, inspiration and a Catalyst Queen’ who made a difference in women entering the mobility space.” Her friend’s LinkedIn tribute captures her essence, “If you want one to pull off the impossible, give the assignment to Kim.”

Power of Networking

During some of the ‘out of the ordinary’ changes in the industry, Kim offers crucial advice for navigating disruptions in career development. She shares, “Maintain a current resume as opportunities come quickly and readiness to respond is key.”

Joining professional organizations like AWAF provides vital support for women amidst mobility technology changes. Kim emphasizes the importance of networking, urging individuals to build upon it, listen and learn from other women who have succeeded or have been challenged while advancing their career. Cherish the camaraderie with talented women and always be prepared with a ‘30-second elevator speech.’