Interview with...

Kathy Theys | European Business Development Manager Power Transmission

Kathy Theys is European Business Development Manager for Power Transmission. She has been part of ERIKS since 2013, when she and her sister Lieve sold their family business CET Motoren to ERIKS.

What is CET Motoren?

CET Motoren is, or was [smiles], a company active in gears, motors drives and services. 

It was founded by my grandfather and his family around 1910, a true family business in every sense. 

My father also worked here from 1955. He transformed the business from a motors’ producer to a reseller/distributor. ​​​​​​​

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​​​​​​​What part did CET play in your life?

As you see in many privately owned companies, the business plays a central part in family life. This means that, as long as I can remember, I hung around the production floor – living and breathing electrical motors. 

It’s why I became interested in engineering and eventually graduated as electrical engineer. After my studies and a short internship at WEG in Brazil, I started at CET. 

It was, of course, a function at beginners’ level, a clear signal from my father that there would be no favoritism. I worked my way up and eventually bought the company with my sister Lieve in 1995”.

How was it to be a female leader in the industrial environment of the nineties?

I have three sisters and my father was frequently approached by external parties that wanted to acquire CET because he had no son, meaning no successor. Fortunately, he ignored these advances and put trust in me and Lieve to take over the company. We bought out our other sisters and the adventure began. 

The market at the time even more masculine than today, but it helped that we were both engineers with a lot of knowledge of power transmission. In the early days however, as a young girl picking up the phone, I’ve suffered plenty of bias. People simply did not expect a girl to have any knowledge of technology. At a later stage, I often was asked how I combined the leadership role with family. Men were never asked this question.

 

How would you describe your leadership?

By nature I am not someone who is extraverted or demanding attention. I don’t like politics at all. Lieve and I brought cheerfulness, fun and empathy, leadership close to the people. The motto has always been: everything to support the customer. It worked well. So well in fact that in 2004 we received the Womed Award, a prestigious Belgian prize for female entrepreneurship.

 

What is your current role?

I’m currently business development manager for gears, motors and drives – focused on European countries. My role is to strengthen and maintain the knowledge about gears, motors and drives, for example through training of application engineers and account managers. I develop Product Market Combinations (PMC’s) that add value to customers.

A key challenge is that we are not perceived as a motors’ specialist in all countries. We work hard to change this perception, for example by developing new features such as the TCO Motors Calculator. I’m very excited about this tool, as it really helps our clients to select the right motor, improving their efficiency and carbon footprint.

 

You have an impressive career and track record. What is your motivation to keep working every day?

Driving entrepreneurship in ERIKS is one of my ambitions. I believe everyone should work as if it’s their own company, with a fighting mentality. I really don’t like complacency. Our products do not sell themselves! To be successful, we all need to contribute and put in the extra effort. I am convinced that this ultimately also makes people happier in their work.

 

How can we get more women in leadership positions at ERIKS?

I believe there are a number of factors that limit women their career, such as an inherent drive for perfectionism, or being afraid to fail. This often makes women hesitate whether to accept their next career move.

There are also prejudices that are limiting women, such as the bias that women in senior management will perform less because of their role as mother and wife. To catch up and get more women appointed in senior positions, we therefore unfortunately will need quota.

In general, I am not a big fan of these quota. It should be quality that matters. I suggest we start by looking at the women we already have, by giving them more confidence in applying for jobs that they think are not suitable for. The WIN network can play an important role in this.

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