Someone You Should Know: Aparna Sproelich
With so many ERA members, it is not easy to get to know every rep, manufacturer and distributor in the business.“Someone You Should Know” is The Representor department that gives readers the chance to learn about fellow ERA members, including how their time is spent both in and out of the office.
Meet Aparna Sproelich, vice president /partner at Aurora Technical Group – Southeast..
The Representor asked Sproelich a few questions about her time in the electronics rep business and her experiences with ERA. Here is what she had to say.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Essentially, I am a problem solver, lifetime learner and adventurer who is always ready to take on challenges. Also, I am persistent, and easily jump in with a can-do attitude. I was born in Buffalo, N.Y. and grew up in Rockville, Md. (Washington D.C. metro area) and now live in the Raleigh-Durham area. As a young girl, I enjoyed building and creating random things. Since ours was a thrifty household, the necessary hunting for materials made each project an adventure. I remember making a Speed Racer’s Mach5 racecar, a two-story dollhouse with an elevator, moped ramps, string art ships, and 3D art projects from household items. In high school, I had an inspirational physics teacher who made physics fun and encouraged me to join the Physics Olympics Team (so I was a little nerdy…). Hence, I first chose physics as my major at the University of Maryland, where I ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. Since graduation, I held various roles in engineering, manufacturing, program management, product management and business development. I have experience working in several different industries including power tools, defense, utility power, automotive, LED lighting and medical devices. I have been married to a wonderful techie husband for 27 years and we have two grown children. So far my life has been a grand adventure!
What are some things you enjoy outside of the workplace?
In my free time I enjoy traveling, construction projects, woodworking/wood finishing, gardening, skiing, hiking, book clubs, movies, Toastmasters, SpaceX tech videos, playing board games/card games, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.
How long have you been an ERA member and how long in the rep business?
I joined ERA in 2017 after I joined Aurora Technical in Raleigh, N.C.
How did you become interested in being a rep in the electronics industry?
When I was in engineering roles, I would occasionally interact with reps from various firms. There were some reps I encountered who wasted my time or talked too much. However, my thoughts changed after I met Bob Ball. I credit Bob with introducing me to the value of a rep and Aurora Group. Bob quickly became my go-to person to find manufacturers to make cable assemblies and thin fin heatsinks for LED lighting products. His best qualities were that he was responsive, respectful of my time and expertly handled questions and sampling while we were pushing hard to meet our customers production deadlines. I learned from him that a trusted rep CAN be quite helpful in the engineering and product development process. A few years later, I ran into Bob Ball again at a networking event in Raleigh, where we reconnected. At that time, I was in the midst of setting up my own consulting firm. He introduced me to Bob Kirkland, one of the owners of the Aurora Technical Group rep firm, who offered me an outside account manager sub-rep position. I decided to give it a go! The longer I worked with the team, the more I enjoyed it. What I like most about The Aurora Technical Group is the people! The inside sales manager, Cathy Hill, is THE most amazing, capable, competent, and caring person I have ever worked with in any industry! On the outside sales team, Ken Jacobson, Bruce MacLeod and Karen Brown all have years of technical sales experience and possess qualities which has proven to build longstanding trusted customer relationships. I especially learned a lot from Bob Kirkland. Bob has a pragmatic coaching leadership style and ran the firm smoothly. On one of our principal visits in New York, Bob introduced me to Rick Vairo, the other owner of the Aurora Technical Group. The Aurora Technical Group in the Southeast is affiliated with the Aurora Marketing Inc. in New York, and three other firms on the East Coast, which makes the Aurora Group a larger rep organization with inherent synergies. After I met Rick, I realized I could learn a lot from him too! Both Rick and Bob were instrumental in encouraging me to take the leap to manage the firm. On Jan. 1, 2022, I purchased Bob’s shares and took over as the COO and VP of the Aurora Technical Group. I am excited to manage this rep firm as my next adventure!
What have you found to be most rewarding about the rep business?
I found that the most rewarding part of the rep business is helping customers meet their goals.
What recent innovations, best practices and/or changes has your firm made?
Since March of 2020, like many others, we contacted our customers virtually and stayed connected with our customers, principals and distributors using all known methods. Video calls and text/chatting have now become one of the top methods for communication. When permitted by our customers, distributors and principals, we meet in person with masks on in café’s or outside, respecting social distancing and their comfort levels and their company protocols. We also started doing virtual “Lunch and Learns” with our regional favorite convener for the engineering and IoT community, the Regional Internet of Things (RiOT). RiOT expertly offers guidance for startup, educational programs, learning sessions for engineers and networking opportunities. This past fall, we were also fortunate enough to participate in two in-person tradeshows (with masks on), RiOT Demo Day and PCB Carolina, both of which were attended better than I expected.
What have you learned and/or what contacts have you made through ERA that have had the greatest positive impacts on you and/or your business?
The ERA Conference and the ERA in general has been a very good source of information to learn about industry trends and sharpen my skills. At my first ERA conference, I learned about CPMR and MRERF. The CPMR course work is intense and enjoyable at the same time as it directly applies to rep firms from all industries. I also had the chance to make new connections and friendships through the CPMR classes.
Are you active on social media? Do you follow ERA? Have ERA updates via social media been helpful to you?
Yes, I am active on social media, and I follow ERA on social media. The ERA website, direct emails and volunteering on the ERA conference committee have been good sources of tips and connections for me. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve tuned in to the Water Cooler bi-weekly meeting established by Walter Tobin. I found the Water Cooler meetings to be relevant and insightful. And I also liked the “learn from each other on a national scale” aspect of the Water Cooler meetings. That Walter is a class act!
What is one interesting fact that people may not know about you?
I love to dance to country music like my Dad did. Also, one of my favorite songs is by Tim McGraw, called “Live Like you were Dying.”