Judith Gorog said she had an advantage in her industry whenever there was a merger or acquisition.
“I probably was the first one that anyone remembered, because I was the only woman they were dealing with,” she said.
For the last 20 years, Gorog has moved back and forth between North America and Europe, progressing through the typically male-dominated steel industry to become the only female member of her current management team.
But it is not simply her gender that sets her apart as chief financial officer of Skyline Steel in Parsippany.
Gorog also has completed an Ironman triathlon in less than 12 hours, all while maintaining her professional career and the personal responsibilities of raising two kids.
“I was noticed,” Gorog said of her colleagues in the industry, “and they always knew who I was.”
Born in Romania, Gorog earned a scholarship to study finance at the Universite de Liege in Belgium. Upon graduation, she began her career in public accounting as a senior auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“When you work in public accounting, you work with clients in all different industries,” she said. “But I actually was (at) the gym when I met a woman who worked for a steel company, who told me they were looking for auditors.
“I was ready to make a move, and, so, I sent in my resume and was hired.”
Gorog began working as an internal auditor for Cockerill Sambre in Belgium in 1998 before moving to the U.S. for work in 2001 and back to Europe in 2004.
“The steel industry has gone through a lot of consolidation over the years,” Gorog said. “As there often is a high degree of loyalty from employees, I have had many jobs within the same group of companies.”
After working with J&L Specialty Steel, Ugitech SA and ArcelorMittal, Gorog returned to the U.S. in 2008 to work for Skyline Steel, a distributor and manufacturer of steel foundation products with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.
“There is nothing that we sell that goes above ground,” Gorog said.
Skyline, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nucor Steel in Charlotte, North Carolina, not only manufactures steel sheet piling, but is the largest piling distributor in North America.
With locations in Mexico, Canada and 14 additional U.S. states, Skyline has worked on numerous bridges and highways, water and sewer lines, and ports and waterways in North America, the Caribbean and Central America.
The company was especially instrumental in helping to rebuild and better protect New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy.
With its quick access to international airports and major highway systems, Gorog said New Jersey has been a highly beneficial hub for Skyline.
“We also have a large pool of skilled employees here,” she said.
Skyline employs 50 at its headquarters in Parsippany and nearly a dozen more at its Middletown and Clifton offices. The company employs more than 500 at all of its locations — not all of which are as easy to staff as those in New Jersey, Gorog said.
“We built a facility in Pennsylvania, for example, (since) we did not have any facilities close enough at the time to be able to competitively bid on the Tappan Zee Bridge project in New York,” she said. “And, to this day, we still face a lack of skilled workers there.”
Gorog said New Jersey is not out of danger.
“When young kids graduate college or finish their studies, they cannot afford housing here,” Gorog said. “And the high cost of living and taxes here decreases our ability to attract young talent to the state.
“So, we are basically limited to the people who always have been here, the local residents, because no one wants to come and live in New Jersey when they can go to Charlotte or Atlanta, where the cost of living is much (lower).”
Gorog said that is why she works to make sure that Skyline Steel has the ability to offer top-of-the-market compensation and benefits packages in order to compete.
“Also, if we find motivated people, we are willing to train them,” she said.
The lack of available skilled workers is not the only issue Gorog said her industry faces today.
“We are fighting imports and are protecting a shrinking sandbox, as we don’t have many new construction projects,” she said.
Despite constant research and development, American steel is still more expensive than imports from China and the Middle East, Gorog said.
“Federally funded projects in the U.S. require the use of American steel,” she said. “While that helps qualify us for a certain number of projects that (foreign manufacturers) do not, (they) still can supply any project that is privately funded.
“Within the current landscape of the steel industry, we always are competing with cheap imports, as well as with local manufacturers who are currently unable to sell above-ground projects and therefore start selling (similar) projects to ours.”
Gorog said that, for the last few presidential administrations, Skyline Steel, along with its competitors, has had access to a list of projects in the works.
“But nothing has been approved by Congress,” she said. “We have the ability to supply the steel, but there is no funding for it.”
Gorog said this has limited Skyline Steel’s expansion plans.
“Instead of growing, we need to learn how to do things better and more efficiently so that we can compete more effectively,” she said.
Gorog said she also personally has focused on working smarter — not harder.
While she said she still devotes 40 percent of her life to work, including evening and weekend work and travel, Gorog said she also has learned to make time for herself now that her children are young adults.
“I completed a full Ironman triathlon at Lake Placid in 2014, swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running 26.2 miles in 11 hours and 33 minutes,” she said. “Above all, I have accepted certain opportunities and rose to meet certain challenges, traveling across the world to do so.”