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Crain’s Business Chicago 2013 40 Under 40 Class, DIANA PETERS

Diana Peters

Eight years ago, when Diana Peters was recruited by her father to run their family startup, a manufacturing education program, he told her to “Make it work. Grow it.” Today, Symbol Training Institute is instructing 180 students annually in advanced manufacturing and finding jobs for 92 percent of them. “There is no reason someone should go through a training program and not get a job,” Ms. Peters says. Last year, Symbol became an official Cook County manufacturing-sector center, one of only a few for-profit companies approved by the county to offer subsidized workforce training.

The daughter of a Russian immigrant, Ms. Peters says her earliest memories are of the floor of the tool and die shop her father opened in 1985. So when he asked her to head his new venture, she left her first job—as a recruiting coordinator at Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP—and went back to the only industry she’d ever loved.

“It’s clear that she understands and values this work,” says Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.

The tireless, and nannyless, mother of two toddlers tries to balance work with life as best she can. Mondays are spent at home with the kids. “There are really not a lot of women in (manufacturing), and I think she can serve very much as a role model for women who are trying to see themselves within the occupations in that industry,” Ms. Norington-Reaves says.

Ms. Peters is in talks with Girl Scouts of America to develop a manufacturing class at Symbol where girls can experiment with the computerized machines and make, for example, jewelry or hairbrushes. “It’s not a men’s club anymore,” she says.

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