34 (33 at the time of nomination)
Sales support manager; Werner Electric
By Joe Nowlan
Jeff Kraus was about a year or so out of high school when he received a good piece of advice.
“At the time Werner [was] looking for people who wanted to start in the industry at a young age,” he explained. “I heard about it from a good friend’s father who was in the industry. He told me that Werner was looking for people to start in its distribution center. It sounded like a good gig to me.”
That good sounding gig has turned out well, as Kraus is now in his 13th year with Werner Electric.
“I started in the warehouse and within six months I was a supervisor in the warehouse,” he explained. “So I started leading people and started my managerial career, if you will, and kind of took off from there.
His Werner branch had only recently opened and still didn’t have any trucks. But that soon changed.
“We started there without any trucks. This was in 2002. But by 2006 we had 30 trucks on the road and I was asked to lead the logistics and the drivers of the company,” Kraus said. “So from 2006 until 2011 that’s what I did.”
In 2011, Kraus was promoted to distribution center manager and worked in that post until early 2014. Around this time, Kraus decided to go back to school and complete his bachelor’s degree at Bethel University.
“I thought for a long time that the associate’s degree would get me as far as I needed to,” he explained. “It wasn’t until a couple of years back that I decided that…many of my counterparts had a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. And I thought I wanted to be part of that group. So I went back to [college]. I’m in an adult accelerated program.”
He anticipates receiving his bachelor’s degree in business, with a minor in HR, in 2016.
“Bethel University has a really good human resources program,” he explained. “Here on the operation side of the business, I people-manage a lot. And I wanted to know the ins and outs…the many, many different aspects of HR that coincide with operations. I wanted more of the inside scoop on that.”
Kraus grew up in the North Metro area of Minneapolis with two older brothers.
“I had two very blue-collar parents. My dad was a bus driver and a welder and my mom was a social worker’s assistant. My dad taught me at a young age to respect people and do not be afraid to help people,” he explained.
In high school he wrestled and played football.
“I think those things taught me a lot of self-discipline and respect as well,” Kraus said.
Kraus and his wife Christina have two children. An eight-year-old son, Liam, and a five-year-old son named Everett.
The respect for people and overall people skills that his father instilled in him is something he is passing on to his sons.
“I believe our industry is built on relationships. If you can grow those relationships you’re going to grow yourself. That’s my philosophy,” he said.
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would say to just be willing to work hard and be willing to challenge yourself. Challenge is what makes you grow. When you push yourself and you are uncomfortable, that is growth. If you are uncomfortable, that can be a good thing. Some people may shy away from that. But I think if you really want to do well in this industry…things are evolving and changing so that you have to make things a little uncomfortable for yourself so you can grow through it and learn from it.
Q. What industry-related books, websites, blogs, and social media do you follow regularly and why (aside from NAED materials)?
A. There are a lot of vendor related articles that are out there, or related vendor data and booklets. That’s what I’m kind of into now. So I think I get a lot of my industry knowledge from the vendor side of the business. Because what they know, they can pass on to us and we can pass that down the chain to our customers.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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