This past fall, the Industrial Supply Association’s Women Industrial Supply Executives (W.I.S.E.) recognized one of their own with the group’s Impact Award at the annual W.I.S.E. Summit. Presented to Marisol Fernandez, an original member of W.I.S.E. and president of AD’s Industrial & Safety Division—U.S., the award honors commitment to advancing the development and influence of women in the industrial channel.
According to the organization, Fernandez’s contributions to W.I.S.E. include prioritizing new leader development, setting long-term goals and objectives to put W.I.S.E. on a new and more sustainable path and driving recruitment of women for membership. She has held many leadership posts throughout her tenure at W.I.S.E. including serving on the Education and Development Committee and as Networking Group chairman in 2018.
MDM spoke with Fernandez about her involvement in the organization, how it has influenced her view of the profession and what it means to be a leader in distribution today.
MDM: Tell us about your involvement in W.I.S.E., how long have you been a member?
Fernandez: I joined W.I.S.E. in 2012, shortly after the group was founded. An industry colleague and former ISA board member called while building the roster of the first 100 representatives who were being recruited to attend a networking event.
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When I asked about the scope of the meeting and the group, she shared the vision was to create a networking experience for females in our industry. The concept sounded interesting; at the time, I was looking for an avenue to give back to the industry and to also expand my existing network. The fact that the group would be comprised of women in our industry was purposeful and I knew immediately I wanted to be part of it.
MDM: What appealed to you about joining W.I.S.E?
Fernandez: At the time, Kathleen Durbin, CEO of General Industrial Tool, founded W.I.S.E., there wasn’t an organization like it in our channel. I knew that there would be value in networking with likeminded professional women. Specifically, I was interested in building relationships across a peer group that would serve as a resource for industry questions, best practices and business-related topics. In addition, I was looking for an avenue to give back to the industry in a meaningful way.
Needless to say, the experience has been phenomenal. W.I.S.E. is a strong network of women that is focused on bringing together women in the channel. The experience has been invaluable.
MDM: What have you learned about the industry since joining W.I.S.E.?
Fernandez: The industry is dynamic, filled with talented female professionals committed to developing personally and also to giving back. W.I.S.E. is a volunteer organization composed of very talented women. Through the group, I’ve learned a great deal about our industry, and have also learned that it is possible to effectively build programs that accelerate the careers of women in our channel.
MDM: The award recognizes those who are advancing the development and influence of women in industrial distribution. What do you think the industry as a whole could learn from W.I.S.E?
Fernandez: Today, the W.IS.E. network group is composed of over 170 members. Over the past few years, the group has rapidly expanded and gained momentum because of the influence W.I.S.E. members are having in the channel. Businesses that make an investment in W.I.S.E. are making an investment in the development of female leaders; therefore, reaping the benefits of having even more effective leaders at the table.
MDM: What does it mean to you to be a leader in distribution today, and how do you see that evolving in the next five, 10 years?
Fernandez: The industry continues to change and as leaders, it is increasingly more important to recruit and retain talent in our industry. The face of the channel is changing and it’s happening at a faster pace. Whether it’s technology or talent management, effective leaders have the responsibility to develop strategies for the future. This includes recruiting and retaining talent. As I look to the future, I see this as increasingly important.
MDM: What can you tell us about your role at AD and where you’d like to take the organization? Do you see your involvement in W.I.S.E. having an impact on that trajectory?
Fernandez: I am the president of AD’s Industrial and Safety Division in the U.S. In my role, I’m responsible for developing, managing and executing AD’s ongoing growth plans for our channel.
AD is a North America’s largest buying/marketing group and as such, we have a responsibility to ensure that we continue to develop programs and solutions that help our independent distributors continue to compete and win.
As leaders in our market, we will continue to make investment in programs and services, like e-commerce, to help our members differentiate themselves from their national competitors.
MDM: How would you like to see W.I.S.E. grow in the future?
Fernandez: I would like to see membership continue to expand in the channel.
MDM: How can others become involved in W.I.S.E.?
Fernandez: I encourage those interested in becoming members or learning more to contact ISA or visit their W.I.S.E. membership page: https://www.isapartners.org/networks/wise/wise-membership-application-overview/.