In our member spotlight series, RVWA interviews many of the women who make up the RV industry, highlighting how they got into the industry, what they currently do, and advice for other women. We also dive deeper to understand these women more and what drives them both in and outside the industry.
Lalitha Balakrishnan is a chemical engineer by trade, but has found different uses for her skills in a variety of industries over the last 18 years as she and her husband moved from India to the United States to follow her husband’s job in Michigan.
Before moving, she had worked with Unilever R&D formulating shampoos, skin and hair creams but a break in the professional action gave her the freedom to pursue her master’s in business administration. She currently leads Thetford LLC as a product development manager to develop new products.
“Chemistry is fun,” Balakrishnan said. “It’s like solving real problems and giving out the best solutions. That’s one thing I love about my job.”
Solving problems is kind of a way of life for Balakrishnan. It’s in the way she approaches her job, the way she looks at the world and the way she interacts with her family and friends.
After 5 years with Thetford, it’s even how she describes the best way to succeed in the RV industry.
After all, in chemistry, as she says, the science remains the same but the products are different.
“The RV industry is so connected with family and friends and having a good time,” she said. “Being in this industry is really about solving day-to-day problems that people have. That’s one thing that keeps me interested in this industry. We have a space in an RV that’s 10 times smaller than the home, but you want all of the comforts of the home. In thinking about space constraints, your water usage is different and being a chemist with a product formulation element – to double your products in different conditions is very challenging.
“That’s one thing I really like about the industry,” she continued. “You are connecting solutions to make people’s lives easier. When you are camping, all you want to do is have fun with family and friends. I’m glad I can play a big part in solving real issues for people and help them make memories. That’s one thing I really like.” For example, we develop and offer product solutions for all RV/camping related issues.
Finding sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions is becoming more challenging and more important as the industry grows, Balakrishnan said as she wants to offer products which are not only safe for humans but are also safe towards environment.
The new influx of younger customers has a completely different set of wants and needs than those of even just a year or two ago, she said.
“As an example, people are more environmentally conscious. They want to use less water,” she said. “They want to use products that are safe towards them and environment. The conditions are ever-growing and are changing.”
She also points to the automotive industry’s growing interest in sustainable electric vehicles and greener chemistries as a possible harbinger of the future of the RV industry.
She said the industry needs to be highly aware of what is going on in automotive and be ready to pivot to similar needs in RVs.
Which opens up a realm of possibilities to anyone looking for a career in RV.
“Know what you’re really passionate about,” Balakrishnan said. “Once you figure out what your passion is, you really put yourself into it. Then you can really do some extraordinary things. You start seeing things which nobody else sees.”
She said it is never too late to learn a new skill that can lead to a new passion.
In fact, she didn’t learn to swim until after the birth of her first child.
She said any woman looking to enter the RV industry should take that same pathway. If there’s something that is of interest, pursue it and set personal goals to improve. Network and connect, identify mentors who would help guide you towards your dreams and aspirations.
“The number of women in the industry are less, but I see a trend of a lot more coming into the industry,” she said. “I would motivate young women and girls to think of anything they like and come into the field and explore because it is very nice. It is one job where you can easily find your passion.”