Border States Electric
By Joe Nowlan
Josh Cree was in high school when the father of a classmate suggested he would enjoy working in the electrical industry.
“After chewing on that for a while I decided to go to college for electrical technology,” Cree explained, referring to North Dakota State College of Science.
He did that for a year before becoming an apprentice electrician. Cree soon discovered that getting out into the workplace was a better learning experience.
“Instead of spending money to go for the second year [of college] I decided just to join the apprentice program and make money while learning instead of paying to learn,” he explained.
The apprentice program, where Cree spent three years, was with Main & Holmes Electric in North Dakota. But once winter set in, the company laid off many apprentices, Cree explained. He applied for a civilian electrician’s position at Minot (N.D.) Air Force Base.
Federal budget cuts eventually eliminated his post there, but not before he met a salesman from Border States Electric.
“Every Thursday morning a salesman from Border States came to visit his customers,” Cree explained. “So at my 10 o’clock break I would visit with the salesman.”
That salesman spoke highly of Border States and when an opening came up he encouraged Cree to apply.
“He thought it would be a good place for me…. He couldn’t have been more right,” Cree said.
Cree started in the warehouse and soon realized that his background as an electrician was an asset.
“Having the hands-on background that I had and all that experience made the warehouse and will call desk very natural and easy for me,” Cree explained. “When somebody would ask for a certain part I knew exactly what it was…. Also a lot of the slang that electricians use I picked up in my experience. So when they’d use slang terms I knew what they were talking about.”
He rose through the Border States ranks and after training as a quotes rep at the branch in Bismarck, Cree returned in March 2014 to Minot as Border States’ quote rep at that location.
As part of his role, Cree gets to visit area jobsites.
“I go out probably two to three days a week and see how it’s going,” he said. “My future, hopefully, will be outside sales so that is what I like to do—go out there and learn the stuff. See it hands-on and see what they’re talking about instead of just trying to picture it via a phone call.”
Cree grew up in Minot, where he likes to golf whenever his schedule and the weather permit.
“I still golf every chance I get…. I try to go three days a week,” he said.
His girlfriend Stacy is in her second year of optometry school in Arizona, he explained. And while it is difficult to be apart, there are far worse places to visit in the winter than Arizona.
“That’s what I tell everybody,” he laughed. “When they ask about the long-distance, I say it’s not that bad…. I don’t mind the travel and I don’t mind the warm weather.”
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. We have a lot of up-and-coming young guys around here. My main advice for them is to continue to learn, continue to be interested in what you are doing and continue to make yourself a more valuable person, not only for the company but for yourself outside of work. Work every day to become a better person both at work and at home. Continue to learn and stay hungry and keep on going.
And if something tough comes up, just look around you. There’s a lot of knowledge in this building. So if you’ve got a question don’t be afraid to go to somebody and learn. You want to get to know this stuff and be able to help people out. It is a great feeling when somebody calls on you because they need to call on you. It is a good feeling to be wanted or needed by customers.
Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in this industry?
A. I would have to say it is the relationships. I have made some really great relationships with some really great people. I have made a lot of friends throughout this industry. I have learned a ton and have had opportunities to travel for work-related training. They give you time to see the sights when you’re in different cities like Boston or Milwaukee. Being able to meet people and travel and learn is very rewarding for me.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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