Business Simplification Project Leader, Rexel USA
By Joe Nowlan
It was while she was a student at Michigan State University that Cindy Gintner first heard about the electrical industry.
“Rexel recruits at Michigan State. I saw a posting for their DSLP [distribution and services leadership program]. I read about the job and I was interested in it,” Cindy explained. “I didn’t know it even existed before that.”
Cindy was actually well prepared for something like the electrical industry having graduated with a degree in supply chain management.
“Michigan State had and still has the number one supply chain program in the nation,” she explained. “The program has three areas of focus—procurement, logistics, and operations. So I could go work for almost any company in the country with that degree and experience.”
Cindy entered Rexel’s DSLP right after graduation, eventually arriving at their Carrollton, Texas, location.
“My first rotation was in the warehouse. It was pretty laid-back and I got to go to work in jeans every day for a month, working in the warehouse and learning the ropes from receiving, picking and packing to shipping,” she said.
Her third rotation was in the energy solutions team where she helped manage a $3 million retrofit project.
“I got to enter orders and send the orders to the vendors. I managed the shipping and the tracking of those orders to make sure they were going to be on time at that project,” Cindy explained.
It was challenging but stimulating work and Cindy found that the constant learning was something she liked.
“I took on a lot of work and there was a lot to learn, from the order-entry side, learning the ERP system, all the way to discussing it with vendors, the contractor and speaking directly with our end-user customer,” she explained. “That was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”
Earlier this year, she assumed the title of business simplification projects leader for Rexel USA.
“I work on different continuous improvement projects across the business. The lengths of those projects and the types of projects will vary,” she said. “One of my current ones is on building energy efficiencies. My background in our energy solutions team is pretty beneficial. We look to our current existing buildings and focus on trying to make sure that we can show customers that we are also trying to be energy-efficient. So that we are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.”
A native Californian, Cindy and her family moved to Michigan during her first year of high school. She admits to a little culture shock going from California to Michigan, especially during her first winter there.
“Oh, yeah. It’s one of the reasons I eventually moved to Texas,” she laughed. “I am not a fan of the snow. That was not very fun but you get used to it. You just stay inside and keep warm.”
Happily living in Texas these days, Cindy is single. In her spare time she has been helping her boyfriend who recently bought a house.
“I’ve been acquiring some new home-improvement skills. I don’t think I’m going to become a contractor myself, though,” she laughed.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Try new things and don’t be afraid to ask questions and meet new people. One of the things I was lucky enough with the DSLP is to keep a very wide network. I can say that one of the reasons I have been able to be successful is because I’ve been able to meet a lot of people and have never been afraid to ask questions. The people that you meet are there to help you learn and help you grow, especially at a young age. I think that when most people get into the industry a lot of them don’t know all the ins and outs, unless maybe you have family in the business already.
So don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you are offered work on a project that may not have anything to do with your current role. In that way you can open your network and learn new things and meet new people. I wouldn’t know as much as I know now if everybody closed their doors and wouldn’t help me. At Rexel, they’ve always been very helpful to me whether it was VP of energy solutions or an inside sales person I was standing next to.
Q. In a workplace with three very different generations working together and technologies so rapidly advancing, what of your older coworkers’ habits do you perceive as the toughest to change?
A. I don’t know if it is habits that are tough to change. I think it is more that a lot of them don’t have experience with the technology. When I was in the Carrollton office I had to help out a lot of people in setting up new computers and even working Excel. I helped one of our sales guys manage a lot of the consignment wire for one of their main customers. I built an Excel workbook for him to use. So I don’t know if the fact is that habits are hard to change or the fact that they don’t know how to use some of the systems and they need some help. I think once I started asking them questions they in turn felt comfortable asking me questions.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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