Colleen Visage: Leader (Manufacturer)

enLIGHTenment magazine is proud to present the winners of our annual awards honoring those individuals in our industry who have been nominated by their peers for leading by example, standing out in their field, and inspiring others.

Colleen Visage: VP/Product Management, Hubbell/Progress Lighting  |  Greenville, S.C.

How did you enter the lighting business?

[After graduating with a BFA in Industrial & Graphic Design from Cleveland Institute of Art], I started as an industrial designer for Gary Kattler & Associates, which had two manufacturing businesses and a design business in Ohio. Prior to that, I had worked an internship with Rubbermaid® Home Products. Gary was looking for a lighting designer who was fresh out of school, so I got to get my hands dirty within manufacturing and materials along with drawing and designing. Seven years later, I joined Kichler® as a designer for its Minoff Lamp division. There, David Porter (director of business development) and the late Nelson Bleisch (general manager) saw a spark in me and invited me along on the company’s three-week trip to Asia. That was my introduction to international product development and production.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen?

There was a lot more domestic manufacturing when I first got into the industry, and we didn’t do automatic CAD. Gary Kattler sent me to ITT Tech in Cleveland and then to Amada Industries CNC programming training in Chicago to learn sheet metal punching, first in G-code and then in CAD/CAM [for machinery in the Ohio factory]. Back then, we sketched and did full-sized detailed hand-drawings of product. In today’s world, it is all digital and transforming into 3D and VR. The speed to market has shifted greatly since I got started in the business, and so has the availability of tools for getting it done. Lighting is so three-dimensional; it’s actually sculptured on the ceiling or wall.  You see it, and you can tweak it, and there’s still very much an artist level to creating it. Another significant change has been in consumer taste. In the 1990s, people wanted all the products in their homes to match and now they are looking for a more curated look.

What do you think has been the key to your success?

I think my success has been the relationships I’ve had with gifted people who have allowed me to push the boundaries of what I could do. I like to collaborate and work with different kinds of people. I always try to have a positive attitude and am driven. I think the best advice I’ve gotten is, “Don’t think small. Think big.” And to that end, I don’t think I’ve ever thought small. I think the family that backs me up – professionally and personally – makes me successful. I’ve had to relocate my family several times over my career to different parts of the country. My advice to someone just starting out in the business is, “Don’t put yourself in a box. Don’t ever think you can’t do something or can’t achieve something – like a leader in product development – just because you’re female. ” I would never have thought when starting out that I could be a VP of Product Management for a large company like Hubbell.” Embrace the opportunities that people put in front of you and push beyond the boundaries. I also think you’ve got to love what you’re doing — that’s what drives me. My passion for the product is what gives me great satisfaction.

Where do you think the lighting
industry is headed?

I feel the need for decorative objects will always be there. All throughout history, people have loved decoration. I don’t see [décor] becoming sterile or ultra-modern. I do think that because of efficiency of LED that the [light bulb] envelope has changed. LED is going to transform our industry, and I think smart lighting will play a part in that. All of this new technology is coming faster and faster at us and yet product quality is where customers will continue to have high expectations.

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