Striving for a Better In-plant
Having run in-plants in three states, Catherine Chambers has made a career of improving and advancing the print operations she leads.March 2014 By Erik Cagle
It is not altogether clear whether Catherine Chambers believed in fate when it came to choosing her career as an in-plant manager. As the director of Printing and Mail Services at Virginia Tech sees it, it just “kind of happened.”
But make no mistake about it, Chambers loves what she does.
In the tight-knit circle of college and university in-plant managers, Chambers and her husband, Ray, are as close to celebrities as this space offers. As a tandem, they developed a consulting business, the Chambers Management Group (CMG), that has provided guidance to more than 100 college, university and non-profit in-plants. Any in-plant director who has bothered to step outside his/her shop to tap some sort of association knowledge base is undoubtedly familiar with the dynamic duo.
Catherine Chambers’ career path took off in 1986, when she was manager of the secretarial pool (which she changed to “word processing center”) at Sewanee University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. The center, which reported to Printing Services, provided support for all faculty on campus. During this time, she helped set up the school’s first computer network, and taught virtually every staff member how to use their computers, along with programs such as Word and Excel. (Many attendees of the 1995 Association of College and University Printers conference recall seeing the Internet for the first time when Chambers offered a demo on her laptop.)
Chambers later took the helm of Printing Services, which she operated in conjunction with the word processing system. Along the way, she also took control of the student post office and mailing on campus. Chambers remained on board at University of the South until 1997.
It was during her term there that she met Ray Chambers at an IPMA conference in Florida. Watching a session on team building and management, she saw one of his employees conducting a “trust walk” where people walk together in line—hand to shoulder—while blindfolded. Chambers was intrigued and wanted to learn more.
“The session was being taught by one of Ray’s employees,” she observed. “The University of Louisville printing facility (where Ray was then vice president of IT) was moving toward team-based management with the Joiner Model. I was interested and wanted to learn more about it.”