By Ashley Reyes
The SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN) named Stefanie Galeano-Zalutko, president and CEO of Zalutko Business Services, as the newest #SheIsSEMA spotlight member.
Growing up in a family of small-business owners, there are many things Galeano-Zalutko loves about entrepreneurship. Having started her marketing agency six years ago, she enjoys the self-fulfillment attached to the work, coupled with the company culture her team has created. Find out what the most challenging part of her career is in her interview with SEMA below.
SEMA: What is most challenging part of running your business or job?
Stefanie Galeano-Zalutko: By far, the biggest challenge is a proper work-life balance. I think working mothers, in particular, can agree there is a lot of pressure to find the ideal sweet spot between excelling professionally and prioritizing parenthood, while still trying to carve out the necessary personal time to recalibrate. I want my kids to grow up admiring and practicing a strong work ethic, while also understanding how important it is to enjoy the fruits of your efforts. I walk a very fine line to maintain that balance.
SEMA: How many years have you been in the industry and what was your first industry job?
SG: I've been around the car scene for 16 years, but formally entered the industry nine years ago as a product coordinator at Keystone Automotive Operations Inc.
SEMA: What are three qualities that got you to where you are today? How have these qualities benefited you?
SG: One—integrity; be the hardest worker in the room, do the right thing and own your mistakes. Two—intuition; grow in self-awareness, follow your gut and partner with the right people. Three—ingenuity; think laterally, be original and creative but be resourceful and seek authenticity in everything you do. These qualities are foundational in my life, both personally and professionally.
SEMA: Being a woman in the industry, what have been your biggest challenges and accomplishments? Do you have a specific situation that comes to mind?
SG: The challenges I’ve faced are no different than those of many other women across the industry—misogynistic behavior, unequal pay scale and the balancing act of being a professional and primary caregiver. Undeniably, progress has been made, but there’s still a lot of work left to do. What’s important is to not let those challenges dim your light. If you stay strong, remain true to yourself, speak up, approach your day with passion and let your work product speak for itself, then I believe all challenges that do exist can be overcome.
On the accomplishments side, there are many team projects that I’m proud of, but a calculated risk to take the road less traveled is, I believe, my biggest accomplishment. My first-born inspired a shift to freelance work, so I could achieve everything I aspired to accomplish professionally, without sacrificing the special, everyday moments of being a full-time mother. At the time, flexible schedules, remote work or optional travel weren’t possible in my line of work. The only way to structure life on my terms—to excel professionally but truly be present at home—was to create my own path. Quite honestly, it’s gut-wrenching to walk away from a company you love, leaders you admire, a job that’s positioned you to climb, and co-workers who are like family, but to take that jump for the greater good of self-fulfillment, while being able to maintain those relationships—it’s an honor and a blessing. In my personal situation, the risk was worth the reward.
SEMA: Who are your role models or mentors in the industry? How have they helped you along the way?
SG: I've been blessed with numerous role models and mentors in the industry, from Larry Montante and Harneet Kaur of Keystone Automotive/NTP-STAG to Kyle Shiminski of WARN and Jane Donnelly of LKQ Specialty Products Group. Jane introduced me to B2B marketing and merchandising—teaching me the art and science behind successful contract negotiations. I’ve absorbed a lot of life and leadership lessons from Jane. She is soft spoken and composed, but confident and firm. Incredibly smart, but humble. Wise, but never condescending. I’m a better woman and professional for growing under her tutelage. At the same time, I was working alongside Kyle in truck, off-road, and private label. With him, I gained a solid understanding of the business at large, foundational elements of the supply chain, the importance of nurturing supplier relations and affirmation that details matter. Similarly, Harneet has inspired deeper critical thinking in my day-to-day—from the power and impact of data, analytics and process to evaluating all angles of a situation before coming to a conclusion. As a top female executive, she models intelligence, strength and perseverance—inspiring all women to dream ambitiously, work reverently and never settle for less than you deserve. Larry has this endearing knack for recognizing a diamond in the rough and intuitively knowing what it needs in order to shine. He helped develop skills that I didn’t know I had and taught me early on that it isn’t the length of your to-do list, rather the value-add of those items. As a business owner, I choose to cultivate talent in a similar way and echo his sentiment of value and prioritization.
SEMA: What is the best career advice you have received? How has this advice helped you either professionally or personally?
SG: I tend to lean on three sayings that guide my life in general. One, “Prioritize the priorities.” Those three simple words put everything into perspective. Two, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” I find that even in those seemingly impossible situations, women have an inner strength that transcends all challenges. Three, “Give it to God.” In those moments when you feel low on strength—and we all have them—emember to lean on who and what matters most… have faith.
SEMA: Have you always wanted to work in the automotive industry? What keeps you here?
SG: I always say the automotive industry found me. It was the missing piece that I didn’t know I needed, but one I’m sure glad I found.
SEMA: Who was the most influential person on your career/goals?
SG: If I evaluate my career in its entirety, then Mary Ryan Malone, president of the Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, holds the title for most influential person. As a seasoned professional and lifelong mentor, she recognized a yearning for change and growth past my position at the time—change and growth that had nothing to do with professional titles or pay, rather feeling valued and fulfilled. In fact, in hindsight, she probably recognized my need for more before I even did and, like a positive mentor, she always presented opportunities to challenge me, whether it was a complex community research project, networking or reading material. She was a silent but forceful strength in helping me take a leap of faith past my core strengths and embrace an entirely new position in an entirely new industry in order to strengthen my weaknesses and cultivate potential.
Do you know, or are you, a woman with a career in the automotive industry? Fill out a #SheIsSEMA spotlight form to submit a self-nomination or nominate a colleague and highlight how you or she is contributing to the specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are automatically eligible to be considered for SBN’s #SheIsSEMA Woman of the Year award, featured on SBN’s social media, SEMA eNews and recognized on the www.sema.org/she-is-sema website.