STEP Ahead Awards honor marine industry women

Three women in the marine industry were recently honored with STEP Ahead Awards.

The STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead initiative began in 2012 to celebrate women in the manufacturing industry who are making a difference through advocacy, mentorship, engagement, promotion, and leadership.

The STEP Ahead Awards highlight the achievements of real women in manufacturing on a national stage. STEP Ahead aims to “close the skills and gender gap” and inspire future generations of women to consider careers in manufacturing. Harriell, Harris and Tubaugh will be honored at the 2018 STEP Ahead Awards on April 10 at the National Building Museum.

Valerie Harriell, vice president of human resources, Volvo Penta of the Americas; Alicia Harris, manager, quality and planning, Brunswick Corp. – Brunswick Boat Group; and Shelley Tubaugh, vice president of marketing, Grady-White Boats, Inc., all received 2018 STEP Ahead Awards.


Valerie Harriell

Vice President of Human Resources

Volvo Penta of the Americas, LLC

Harriell has been instrumental in branding Volvo Penta of the Americas to attract top talent. Over the 10 years she has been with the company, Harriell has recruited and retained more than 30 percent of its 250 employees in the U.S.

“Manufacturing is the heartbeat of America. It is the key to success at home and abroad,” Harriell said. “It is through manufacturing that we bring high quality, reliable and innovative products to market for customers and provide high paying jobs that allow families to prosper. Strong manufacturing promotes a strong America.”

When Volvo Penta began expanding its sales efforts in South America and Canada in 2013, Hariell extended her outreach efforts to find highly skilled internal employees in Sweden and Brazil who were interested in working abroad. By doing so, she enhanced Volvo Penta’s diversity footprint and brought talented workers to new environments.

Taking on leadership roles to implement change, Valerie has always championed diversity in the workplace.

She initiated a Volvo Penta Professional Women’s Network for employees at Volvo Penta’s headquarters in Sweden, as well as a local Chesapeake chapter.

Harriell expanded Volvo Penta’s Summer Internship program to include teambuilding activities, student mentoring and community outreach.  She also began an employee “buddy” program to help employees start work on the right step and has conducted comprehensive year-round mentoring programs for the company.

Stimulating engagement among employees and improving culture at Volvo Penta, Harriell has coordinated many workshops, town hall meetings, celebrations and leadership training classes. Also a Volvo Group Attitude Survey (VGAS) Leader, Harriell has global responsibility for providing VGAS engagement training to Volvo Penta’s more than 200 managers and encouraging greater dialogue with employees.

On and off the job, Harriell has made an impact in her community as an enthusiastic speaker, workshop leader and leadership coach.


Alicia Harris

Manager, Quality and Planning

Brunswick Corp. – Brunswick Boat Group

For nearly 15 years, Harris has been a guiding light on the Sea Ray factory floor of the Brunswick Boat Group.

Now serving as Manager, Quality and Planning, her journey began in the assembly build process, where she ran a production line with 35 employees. Harris became Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, running projects on canvas inventory improvements and balancing newly integrated 29-foot cruisers—with both efforts resulting in significant savings.

As Project Engineer, she directed the addition of a 24,000-square-foot lamination area along with the integration of sport yachts up to 44 feet in length, concurrently developing new technologies to improve the build process.

In product engineering, Harris focused on model change activities and new product integration process improvements, while maintaining production rates and consumer quality expectations. Now LSS Black Belt Certified, Harris has trained new Green Belts and completed an additional 15 projects with total savings in excess of $1 million.

Her leadership skills were also critical to the smooth transition of an intraplant product line relocation and the design of a new facility in Brazil, including its Quality Management System.

Focused on the success of her colleagues, Harris has leveraged her experience to develop the broader organization with training on Lean Six Sigma techniques, the fiberglass boat build process, the use of data to drive decisions and more.

“A manufacturing career is fun, exciting and challenging every day as we’re given the opportunity to see a product from the design phase, through manufacturing integration, and experience customer satisfaction,” Harris said. “Working with builders or operators on a daily basis on issue resolution or process and product improvements is very rewarding.”


Shelly Tubaugh

Vice President of Marketing

Grady-White Boats, Inc.

Tubaugh has made significant improvements to the systems of Grady-White Boats, Inc. over the course of her career.

Since 1988, when she created the first electronic records system and coding for warranty claims analysis, Tubaugh has been an integral part of the company.

Since then, her presence has only become more prominent. She is responsible for the first Grady-White retail website, the first business-to-business website, the first online warranty submission portal, the first dealer standards reporting system and countless other innovations.

Tubaugh has moved up the corporate ladder deftly, and it has taken her from Customer Service Administrator to Vice President of Marketing.

All of Tubaugh’s roles have allowed her opportunities to interact with customers and improve on all that came before. These experiences allow Shelley to help promote Grady-White’s marketing mission of creating systems of communication for all stakeholders to maximize healthy relationships and gather intelligence to satisfy market development planning needs.

Through mentoring, Tubaugh has demonstrated what it’s like to be a true leader—and not just a boss. Her willingness to take on any task and commitment to upholding Grady-White’s core value of paying exceptional attention to detail make her a tremendous example to others.

Away from the office, Tubaugh makes time for her two daughters, her church and her community. She’s an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Washington, NC, holding numerous leadership positions.

She was also involved as a Beaufort County Recreation Department Cheerleading Coach and 4-H Club co-leader. Tubaugh is currently the secretary for the Beaufort County FFA Alumnae Association, working with the county high schools to foster leadership skills in agricultural-related learning fields.

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