Mary Fagnant is CEO of Qualtek Manufacturing, a Colorado Springs metal manufacturer that creates components for both the medical and aerospace industries.

Making stuff is nothing new to Fagnant. She grew up in a Chicago suburb working in the family business, a food-packaging manufacturer.

“I’ve always had manufacturing in my life,” she said.

Fagnant left her Illinois home to attend Arizona State University, where she met her husband, Tony, and earned a degree in early childhood education. She said the skills she learned in college have carried over to her career in manufacturing more than she ever expected.

“I didn’t think it would help me as much as it has today,” she said. “As a professor once told me, every adult was a child at one point. If you know how to work with children you will do phenomenally with adults. It’s really paid off. It’s all about focusing on positive behavior. The more positive you can be, the more you get out of any individual.”

Fagnant said she learned how to implement processes, work with personnel and customers and provide accounting support.

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After moving back to the Chicago area to work in the family business, Mary and Tony made their way to Colorado Springs, where they would take over Qualtek Manufacturing. That was nearly 16 years ago.

Fagnant, who became Qualtek’s CEO Nov. 1, said she and her husband switch roles within the company often, depending on strengths needed at the time.

“I think our skills complement each other,” she said.

Fagnant said she is encouraged that as a female CEO in the manufacturing industry, she can act as an example for other women pursuing similar careers.

“For women, it says if you’ve worked hard and have the skills for the job, you can have the confidence to sit at the table. The guys want you there. They really do.

“My goal is to balance our workforce,” she added. “That means equally qualified women and men working together. Because of the way Tony and I operated, we found success between the two of us and we see that in our workforce. We’re good at balancing not just males and females, but we’re also multigenerational, and I think we’re successful because of that.”

Fagnant said her greatest professional accomplishment is “working together with my husband leading and managing Qualtek successfully through significant economic downturns in the last 15 years.”

Fagnant said her most notable personal accomplishment is being married 34 years and her two sons. Her oldest son, Chris Fagnant, nominated Mary for the recognition.

“My mother’s influence goes beyond her role as CEO, or board member or philanthropist,” Chris said. “She lives a life of empathy and kindness, capped off with a smile. Anyone who meets her has no choice but to respond with infectious enthusiasm.”

Regarding being recognized as a Woman of Influence, Fagnant said, “I’m very honored and humbled to hear someone say I’ve earned this. There are so many amazing women out here in our community. It’s a great honor.”

— Bryan Grossman