Toyota Material Handling
Title: Assembly associate
Location: Columbus, Ind.
Experience: Thirteen years as an assembly associate
Modern: Let’s start at the end here. You participated in the Toyota Material Handling Group Global Skills Competition. What is it, and where did you finish?
Douglass: The competition is an annual event held in Japan with representatives from other Toyota group companies around the world. Besides the United States, this competition included participants from China, France, Italy and Sweden.
I competed in the Assembly category, which was a natural fit given that I build lift trucks here in Columbus. We had to demonstrate two skills. One was bolt torquing to a specific standard by feel, and the other was assembly by memory of 19 metal plates to a prescribed pattern.
My performance earned me first place and a gold medal. I am the first woman ever to finish in the top three spots, and, needless to say, the first woman ever to win.
Modern: That’s quite impressive. Going into the competition, how did you think you would do?
Douglass: I had trained for a year going into this, so I felt confident about my skills. And, honestly, I felt good enough that I expected to place. But I was stressed and wasn’t so sure about winning. Then again, I can beat my husband at golf, so why couldn’t I win this competition? And then the stress would creep back in.
Modern: You trained for a year? Tell us about the preparation that goes into this competition.
Douglass: This is actually a 12-month program. And there’s much more to it than training for the competition.
In January of 2022, I went to an introductory session. It sounded fairly interesting so I applied. When I was accepted, it was a WOW day.
Being accepted meant I was moved from working on the assembly line in the factory to the training and development department here at Toyota.
Since then, I have been focused on much more than the bolt torquing and plate assembly skills needed for the competition. In this new department, I’ve been part of the training program required of new hires.
Every week we have a new class and introduce them to assembly as well as experiential learning. I am part of the training team. And I figured out that I love training people. It’s one of the best experiences.
I’m also part of the selection team for next year’s competition, and I’ve attended more than 30 leadership classes. While I like to train people, I also like to practice continuous learning myself.
Modern: It sounds like this has been a life changing year for you. What’s next?
Douglass: I’ve worked hard to build myself this past year. And I’ve made some decisions. I’m hoping to move on from assembly on the floor to an office job here at Toyota. And I’ve gone back to college and I’m close to earning a degree in business administration.
It’s been a great year not just for me but for other women. I made women proud by winning. Girl power is awesome.
My words of advice for others are simple. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid. If you want it, push for it and keep pushing. And you’re never too old. I’m not 21, you know.