Lighting Showroom Manager, Inline Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
The year 1988 was an eventful one in the Summerville family. That year was when the family’s business, Inline Electric Supply, was established as well as when the youngest child, Stacey, was born.
While Stacey wasn’t exactly putting light fixtures together while in her playpen, she did start work at a pretty young age. And despite being the owner’s daughter, she started at the bottom, she recalled.
“But that’s the best and really the only way you’re going to learn product—actually sitting there and taking inventory of the entire showroom or putting together fixtures… Learning about that and seeing how you use that knowledge in the showroom and doing the sales,” Summerville said.
The experience inspired Summerville to go on and earn a bachelor’s degree in interior design from the University of Alabama. While there, she’d occasionally have to explain to friends that her major was a lot more complicated and involved than it sounded.
“Many of my friends thought I was there learning how to pick out pillows,” Summerville laughed. “When they saw me doing whole houses and hospital floor plans, they changed their tune.”
It was an intensive major with a wide array of courses.
“I was doing everything from floor plans to construction drawings to lighting layouts,” Summerville explained. “It was a very broad spectrum.”
She was also savvy enough to realize that the undergrad degree alone was not all she would need. After graduation, Summerville went on to earn her MBA from the Manderson Graduate School of Business at Alabama.
“I did not take one business-class [as an undergraduate]. It’s not the fault of the program,” she said. “It is just that there are so many other things that I had to take. I did not feel confident enough in my skill set that I earned with my [bachelor’s] degree to enter a management position.”
Summerville is now the lighting showroom manager at Inline Electric’s Pelham, Alabama location. In addition to her management responsibilities, Summerville strives to make the workplace a fun, positive environment.
“We are smaller branch and it’s definitely a team effort, a culture of teamwork… Everyone is respected and everyone is approachable,” she explained. “But I’m also an outside salesperson so I have customers that I call on. [And] work the showroom floor as well. It is different every single day.”
Summerville enjoys this lack of daily predictability.
“Lighting in general is changing every day… That is something we enjoy doing and working on together,” she said. “If someone has an idea, I will tell them to run with it. It makes our showroom and business better when the employees really want to go that extra mile.”
Summerville is very active in charities and sits on the junior board of the Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Center.
“We have a job… but I also think it’s important to enrich your life by giving back,” she explained. “[Glenwood] is a campus here in Birmingham for children and adults—anyone on the spectrum of autism… We also offer daytime schooling and a preschool which is a combination of clients and children who are not on the autism spectrum.”
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. My advice would be to keep an open mind. A big problem with our generation is we graduate from college and are expecting our dream job.
But especially our industry, you’ve got to start at the bottom and you have got to work your way up. So just keep an open mind and not get discouraged, and to be able to ask questions and see where this job could go, not just have the job be a means to an end. Try to invest in the company and invest your time and energy and you will get ten-fold out of it.
Q. You are one of the younger people to be recognized this year. Do you ever run into difficulty in the company commanding respect? If so, how do you manage that?
A. It is definitely intimidating to come into anything, whether it is your job or any sort of situation, where you are kind of the odd one out; whether it is anything that could differentiate you from the rest. I would say that you have to be confident in yourself and know your skills [and] that you’re highly qualified for the job that you are doing.
And, again, keep an open mind. You have to respect and be open to those who are older than you because they have been working there longer. Hear their opinion, and respect them and hear what they’re saying. But then also know that you can add to the conversation and you can add to the company. That is what I’ve tried to do every day.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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