Sept. 15 2011 01:09 PM
When was a very young girl, if you asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, her answer would probably have been either a doctor or a teacher. However, neither of those were the career path she would eventually take.

Reilly was born in Detroit, Michigan; at the age of 12, her family moved to Livonia, Michigan.

Upon graduation from high school, Reilly entered the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

She gave a lot of thought to what she would major in.

While in high school, her favorite subject was chemistry, and she was good in math. Her father was an electrical engineer and worked for Detroit Edison for his entire career, a span of 40 years. So, Reilly decided to get her degree in chemical engineering.

With degree in hand, Reilly began looking around for a job. “I didn’t want to do anything easy,” she said. “I was looking for something that would be hard.” She ended up at BP Chemicals, a division of British Petroleum (BP) and moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Her title was Technology Assessment Engineer—in simpler terms, she was designing chemical plants. The year was 1986.

A female chemical engineer in 1986 was not very common, but Reilly was up to the challenge. She did her job well and moved around BP Chemicals, gaining experience in many facets of management. One day in 1991, her boss walked into her office and mentioned that there was an opening at BP in California; the position was for an oil trading analyst. Her boss asked if she was interested. Without hesitation, Reilly said yes. Before you knew it, she was on an airplane to Long Beach, California.

While working for BP, Reilly enrolled at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She had been with BP for eight years and was beginning to think of changing jobs. At school one day, she passed the bulletin board where job openings were posted. She read a job description and thought, I can do this.

The position was with the golf division of Rain Bird. Eric Bescoby, who was heading up the golf division at that time, interviewed Reilly and offered her the job. In 1994, Reilly took a position as a marketing program manager at Rain Bird.

Continuing to gain experience, she moved from marketing program manager to product manager, then material manager. She then moved over to the residential division as a plant manager, and ended up as director and vice president of the contractor division.

Certainly back then, the irrigation and landscape industries were male dominated markets and cracking the glass ceiling took some special skills that Reilly didn’t know she possessed. “Although I was aware of the gender difference I didn’t think it really affected me,” says Reilly. “I just went about my business. I believe I helped contribute to the success of Rain Bird.”

In 1995, while working at Rain Bird, she married John Reilly. She left Rain Bird in 2002, had a baby, took a little time off, and returned to the company in 2003, taking the position of marketing manager for the landscape drip division.

The Reillys have two children:

Michelle, 8, and John Thomas, 5. They live in La Verne, California. Michelle is involved with gymnastics, while JT loves baseball. He is a staunch Dodger fan and knows all the players on the team, their batting averages, etc. Husband John is an avid golfer, and now he’s teaching his kids the game.

Reilly doesn’t seem to be much spare time because she travels quite a bit. So when the family is home together, “That’s our quality time,” says Reilly.

In 2005, Bescoby became CEO of IPS Corporation. He recruited Reilly for the position of vice president of marketing for the Weld- On division; she became president of the Weld-On division in 2008. She is responsible for all solvent cements for plastic pipe. With the exception of the plumbing market in the U.S., Reilly covers the world. Solvent cement for irrigation, pool, industrial, electrical all report to her.

This is no mean feat, but Reilly, always up to a challenge, views this as an opportunity. For the past two years, the domestic market has slowed; however, globally the market is strong. “There’s somewhere in the world that’s growing at any given time,” she says.

There is an old saying, “In order to know where you’re going, you have to know where you came from.” Reilly remembers where she came from. She brings a sense of order to those around her. Very personable to be around, Reilly has a soft, pleasant demeanor, but don’t underestimate her ability. She is a sharp business person who learned from the ground up.

Content with her family, whom she adores, and content with her position in the business world, Janet Reilly will continue to make a great contribution to the company she heads, as well as the industry she serves.

Look out world, here comes Janet!