As a business student at the University of Michigan, Nancy Berg recognized the importance of learning about technology and manufacturing. She did an independent study in automation and robotics and used a presentation she developed from her research to make a pitch for a job at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

The young Michigan native's presentation won over association staff members, and she was hired by SME in 1982. After 17 years in the association, 10 of which she spent leading the trade expositions department, Berg has been named general manager. In her new role, Berg keeps watch over all SME programs and the wide range of projects keeps her busy. "No two days are the same," she says.

SME, located in Dearborn, Mich., is a large organization with 300 people on staff and 65,000 members worldwide--engineers and executives in a range of industries from manufacturers of computers to musical instruments. The association has four main branches: membership, publishing, education and conferences, and expositions. Berg says the group organizes 450 courses each year and is one of the top 10 trade show producers--the only organization in the top 10 that is nonprofit.

Learning the Ropes During her first two years at SME, Berg worked in a variety of positions to learn the ins and outs of the association. In 1984, she joined the 65-member trade expositions department, and five years later, took over as director.

SME's 20 trade shows feature about 4,600 exhibitors and 175,000 visitors. The expositions are primarily held in the United States, and SME maintains partners in Europe and Asia for overseas shows.

Berg remained the head of SME expositions until she was promoted to the general manager post in May. Of her new position, she says, "It's more responsibility, but it's looking at the same objectives." Her objectives are to build on the success of the 67-year-old association while making sure it remains leading-edge. Most of that edge comes from keeping up with the pace of technology. "Computers and the Internet have changed the office, and that's doubly true of manufacturing," Berg says.

SME also must continually update the format for its meetings and expositions. "For the first time, SME has members in three generations learning in different ways," Berg says. "It's important to use every available means to communicate."

SME staff design two types of courses: trade show sessions and corporate training programs, which cover a full range of topics. Berg points out that manufacturing is more than building products out of components; it involves designing, testing, producing, and shipping. And then there are the financial, human resources, and marketing facets of manufacturing.

The biggest growth area in SME courses are in corporate training. "Manufacturers are too busy to send their people to conferences out of their hometown," Berg explains. "It's going to be a significant service area for us in the future."

All in a Day's Work Despite her busy role at SME that can sometimes stretch into 18-hour days, Berg says, "anything that is important gets fit into my schedule. I like to have fun." Her favorite pastimes include golfing and playing the piano. Berg also loves traveling, and at SME, she gets the opportunity to visit manufacturing facilities all over the world.

She's spent 17 years at SME, but Berg isn't considering leaving any time soon, especially after being named GM by the board of directors. Berg sees her association's mission as vital because of the importance of manufacturing to the U.S. "It is what generates wealth for our country," she says of manufacturing. "It generates our standard of living."