IN 1991, PATTY SORIA joined a seven-year-old sign company, bringing with her an associate’s degree in accounting — not exactly a straight-line path to ultimately becoming vice president of production and part owner of that same company. But, 30 years later, that’s exactly where Soria has ended up.
Soria’s time in accounting didn’t last long. After a few years, she requested a position change and ended up a production assistant to David Schauer, the current company president. In 2006, she became Signtech’s first female production manager. “At Signtech, they never looked at me as ‘You can’t do that because you’re a female.’ It’s always been even,” Soria said. “Everything David learned, he taught me. I never felt like I was different.” However, she didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes when attending a conference in Dallas after she was promoted to production manager. “I remember being in a conference room. They asked for your name and position. When I stood up and said my name and said that I was a production manager, everybody gasped,” Soria recalled. “Like what? You’re female? You’re Hispanic? You’re young? What do you mean you’re a production manager?
Soria’s always been backed up by her Signtech colleagues, and she continued to prove herself by coordinating the company’s implementation of “lean manufacturing” — a methodology that minimizes waste and maximizes efficiency within production via a number of key principles — and by playing a central role in the creation of the first channel letter cell department in the US, per Signtech. “I don’t know of any other sign company that has one because it’s one of those kept secrets, but we don’t hide it either,” Soria said of the department, which is usually staffed by women. “We talk about it all the time and have had plenty of people in our shop. We’ve never heard of anyone else having a section for just letter fabrication, because you see a lot of pictures of other companies and they’re still fabricating the way it’s always been done.”
According to Soria, keeping production on schedule is what she “lives for,” and her passion is backed up by an impeccable record — Signtech stated that it has never missed an opening date for a customer under Soria’s leadership. That’s millions of dollars worth of signage passing through on time. “To accommodate for all our project managers, so that they can feel assured that what I say will happen, will happen, those are goals that I set for myself every day — and I love doing that,” Soria said. Her incredible memory has certainly aided her impressive production record. “Some of my employees call me ‘Rain Man’ because of my memory,” she joked.
A member of the California Sign Association’s (CSA) Board of Directors, Soria sits on the organization’s education committee, which brings in speakers to educate sign companies, has training programs and a certification tracker. “If you had to leave your company or go to another state, CSA would know what certifications you have in the sign industry,” Soria said. With her three daughters working at Signtech, Soria is more than content. “I definitely want to retire here,” she said.
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