Most companies need to make a conscious effort to make diversity a priority when hiring. But for Woodland Park, New Jersey-based FSR, diversity started when the company was established in 1981 with its three founders, Jan Sandri, Bill Fitzsimmons, and Charles Rodriguez.
“It was incredibly unusual back then for a woman to be in a management—much less ownership—position, but I always believed women brought something special to the workplace,” said Jan Sandri, FRS’s president. “We were multi-tasking long before the term became a common phrase, simply because we had to.”
Sandri began her business career working for a large conglomerate back in the days when it was frowned upon for women to travel for business, be promoted into management ranks, or go to work dressed in a pants suit. “I wasn’t going to let that stop me though and I managed to push the envelope. I traveled, was promoted into management, joined the all-male management club (with two other women), but I still preferred dresses! I didn’t stay in that management club long because it lacked the challenge I craved, but I’m happy to say that I helped break the ceiling for other women,” she said.
Bill Fitzsimmons and Sandri began in the AV industry with Charles Rodriguez at AV Services serving the staging and rental segment of the industry. “Charles wanted to move toward installation and Bill recognized the opportunity and began developing products that every installation company needed in a growing industry. And so FSR was born, and the innovation began! In addition to our standard product line, we created custom products for IBM, M&M, Allen-Bradley, etc. We developed wonderful relationships with the few consultants that existed back then and provided them with the solutions they requested,” Sandri explained. Initially the product line consisted of small control modules, a multi-plex control system, video and audio switchers, and of course its flagship floor boxes.
Over the years FSR watched as the industry transformed. “InfoComm grew into the huge trade show and organization it is today, the NSCA tabletop trade show disappeared but the organization remains strong and healthy, supporting and being supported by integrators,” Sandri said, “And as new technologies emerge and transform workflows and workspaces, we enjoy being part of organizations like BICSI that directs its trade shows and education toward the IT industry.”
As the company grew and needs increased, staff was hired based on talent and ambition. “FSR embraced diversity and gender equality from the beginning with a multi-cultural team comprised of different nationalities, skin color, religions and genders,” Sandri said. Today women at FSR hold positions that range from production workers, to accounting heads, HR management, inside sales supervisors, purchasing managers, design engineering professionals, and of course Sandri as the president. “I’m especially proud of the longevity of our employees,” she added. “Many of our production workers, engineers, sales staff, etc. have been with FSR for over 25 years. That says something about our company culture as well as our management style.”
A Changing AV Industry
As the industry has changed over the last 40 years, FSR product lines have also dramatically changed. “Our one floor box solution has proliferated into dozens of choices, plus now we offer robust lines of wall, ceiling and table boxes which have been outrageously popular,” she added. “Most recently we added our Smart-Way Floor Raceway System that has taken off like a rocket.”
The rise of AV/IT has also brought new opportunities. For FSR, the challenge was identifying the players in the IT world. “We were already well known to the AV consultants and engineers, but at those same familiar facilities there were now a new set of contacts, those designing the IT infrastructure, that needed to be introduced to our company. While many of our products serve both industries, we are flexible enough to make the adjustments that the IT professionals require. But it didn’t end there. We also had to get in front of a new set of architects, interior designers, and end users to familiarize them with our capabilities and showcase our solutions.”
Facing Pandemic Challenges Head-on
The past couple of years has been a challenge for the entire world, and the pandemic has affected so many. “However, throughout the entire pandemic FSR has kept working, manufacturing products, and loading them into inventory,” Sandri said. “Although sales slowed, we knew our products would still be in demand when things turned around, and they are!” During a time when nearly every industry throughout the world is experiencing supply chain issues, FSR might be among the few who are saying, “We have inventory!” Sandri explained, “One of the things I’m most proud of is that we manufacture in the USA. And because of that we are quick to respond, can handle requests for custom or customized products, and can give our customers the service they deserve.”
While trying to project into the future is always difficult, Sandri offered, “But I can say that FSR will continue to serve our wonderful industry and we will continue to manufacture in the United States of America!”
A Staff That Reflects FSR’s Philosophy
FSR’s hiring philosophy has not changed in its 40 years in business. Sandri explained, “We live by it today: hire the best person for the job. Period. The only qualifications we’ve ever considered were, and still are skill, knowledge and ability to achieve results. Today the FSR staff reflects the great country we live in, a melting pot of people from different walks of life; a diverse team comprised of different nationalities, skin color, religions and genders.”
FSR is a woman-owned business and as it happens, 18 percent of its Metal Fabrication Division is staffed by women, which is a departure from a traditionally male-dominated metal department. “Their positions are as diverse as they are,” Sandri said. “Some operate machinery, others assemble products, some are responsible for inventory control, and some are on our management team. In our main building women make up about 50 percent of the employee population. Some work the day shift, others the second shift. What they all have in common is an impeccable work ethic and commitment to quality.
At FSR we strive to maintain a healthy work environment for all our employees where they can thrive without fear of bigotry, misogyny, or any sort of intimidation. We are especially proud of these women and appreciate the enormous contributions they bring to the company, the industry and ultimately our customers,” Sandri concluded.
The Metal Shop Women of FSR
We asked some women who worked at FSR if they’d be willing to share a bit about themselves and working at the company. English is a second language for some, and to keep the responses honest, we chose not to edit their comments. Additionally, their comments were not vetted by FSR management.
Anayeli Brito Azcatl
How long have you been at FSR? 2 years, 7 months
Describe your job function: I put together the piece by using screws.
What attracted you to this job? You work at your own pace
Share a bit about the FSR work environment and what makes it a good fit for you as a woman: I like working here because you have your own space to work at, especially now with the pandemic. In addition, I also like it because men respect us; they do not talk to us unless you talk to them.
Job: Set up person for the night shift
How long have you been at FSR? 6 years
Describe your job function: I do the set up start with the piece, take out the piece and do the quality control of it; after the quality control I take it to be inspected and after being inspected then the piece continues to be elaborated in production to completion and I have to be aware of the rest of the operators to try to keep the surroundings clean, check that all tools are okay and all tools are okay and there are no broken tools; because if there’s one broken tool that would create a malformation of the pieces. Well, there is a lot of quality control involved.
What attracted you to this job? When I first came here, I already had knowledge of what machine was and how it worked. I was also attending Community College and studying Design like master cam so, I have been trying to get involved into Design, it has not been possible yet at a 100 percent but soon it will come. But I really like the second shift, as a woman, my co-workers have respected me, of course there’s always competition amongst each other which I think is normal; but of course I think the environment is mostly masculine rather than feminine in this case; however, I consider that as woman we do more polished job, supervised, controlled and I think a cleaner one.
Share a bit about the FSR work environment and what makes it a good fit for you as a woman: I feel good working here, however, sometimes I do feel there is some kind of male chauvinism, which is normal, but what matters is what you give. I love getting into the machines, I love to set up and I truly love my job.
Dulfary Salgado Gomez
Job: Machine operator
How long have you been at FSR? Two years on February 10
Describe your job function: Set up person. From the beginning of setting the piece to looking for the tools I need to work with, I put the piece together in the raw. I monitor throught the entire process, and when the piece is already finished I confront it against the blueprint and I verify that all the parameters and measurements are all correct, following that I take it to the supervisor to make sure everything is okay and signs for it. Then I continue my labor.
What attracted you to this job? Previously in Colombia I worked for a company were I learned how to work a machine like that or similar to it. I really like the process of how the raw material becomes into a piece, which is what I love the most.
Share a bit about the FSR work environment and what makes it a good fit for you as a woman: In the shift that I am in there is a lot of fellowship and support; it does not accentuate that difference, you know like that male and female difference or male pride if you will. As far as shifts go, yes, it shows a bit more how men show their competitiveness, like us women we don’t the same mental capacity, like intelligence, so, only in certain people not generalize it’s just in the same level of type of work that we do. However, out of that, there is a perfect type of fellowship and respect, you do not see that difference and the environment we move in other jobs.
Daybelis Jaquez Hernandez
Job: Production coordinator
How long have you been at FSR? 7 years
Describe your job function: Responsible for processing various orders and make sure there is follow up on all orders and maintain an inventory of the supplies needed for daily operation.
What attracted you to this job? A lot of things, but most important was that it was a big opportunity for me to learn and to do a variety of work in this company as well as flexible hours.
Share a bit about the FSR work environment and what makes it a good fit for you as a woman: Of course it does! FSR is a very healthy place of work, my co-workers and manager treat me with a lot of respect and we are given equal opportunities to women just like men and FSR helps gives us opportunity of leadership.
How long have you been at FSR? 3 years
Describe your job function: I assemble the covers, all the electrical pieces that are meant to be assembled I put them together. I know them all now! (laughing)
What attracted you to this job? Well, at the beginning I was looking for a job that would humanly understand me, because I have a sick child, therefore I constantly have to be asking for permission to be out, and Gustavo (supervisor) he is very human and understanding in that area and he helps me out so much. Not every job will understand my situation and sometimes I have to be gone for weeks, and Gustavo tells me “don’t worry about it, take your time.” If I have PTO time I get paid and if not, at least I get to be with my child and I don’t leave him alone, and when I get come back I still have my job.
Share a bit about the FSR work environment and what makes it a good fit for you as a woman: As a woman, yes, of course I love what I do!