Quality Implementation Specialist, United Electric Supply
By Joe Nowlan
In an indirect, degree-of-separation way, Steve Eagland was a customer of United Electric Supply before he became an employee.
He was working as a general manager for a Delaware restaurant that bought its replacement light bulbs from United.
“We ordered all of our light bulbs from United. The price was always good and we got them delivered. It was nice and easy for us,” Steve said.
Eventually he went back to school and earned his bachelor’s degree, after which he hoped to land a job with more growth opportunity and better hours than the restaurant industry.
When he began his job search, Steve remembered United Electric and looked into the company. This led to him getting hired at United as a Management & Sales Trainee, starting in the warehouse in 2013.
“It’s good that everyone starts in the warehouse because you begin by learning the logistical side of what we do,” Steve explained. “Distribution is not just selling product. While it is great to sell it, you still have to get it out the door. The warehouse is really the beating heart of all of our operations.”
As great as that warehouse learning experience was, however, Steve doesn’t get too sentimental about it. The warehouse is hard work, he emphasized.
“Those first couple of weeks are tough. You’re constantly moving and picking up heavy things, counting out individual bits and pieces. It can be tedious at times, but you learn so much,” Steve said. “Customers come into our will call counter to pick up their orders. You get to know some of them and their needs while you are in the warehouse. That’s very helpful when you move into a counter sales position. The experience in the warehouse also provides an understanding of what it is we sell by getting your hands on the parts and learning which manufacturers we stock.”
Steve went on to study LEAN Six Sigma at Villanova University.
“Having LEAN Six Sigma education was part of the requirements for the job that I am in now (Quality Implementation Specialist),” he explained. “Our senior executives wanted the company to move toward a LEAN culture, so they sent me to Villanova to get the certification.”
Steve’s penchant for learning seems to be never-ending, as he is on track to receive his MBA next spring from Wilmington University.
“I have four classes to go. They are accelerated courses and they are difficult and time consuming. But I should be finished by May, 2017,” he said.
Steve lives in Middletown, Delaware with his wife, Jamie. Hobbies are on the back burner these days as both are very busy.
“Hobbies are tough because of our time constraints. What I do really enjoy is getting into small home improvement projects. I recently built a table for our deck, and I actually renovated our kitchen. I enjoy getting into that kind of stuff, even though most of the time I have very little idea what I’m doing,” he laughed. “So I make all the mistakes and then figure out the solutions. I think now I have a good idea of what I know and what I don’t know.”
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Most people somehow “end up” in the electrical industry from all walks of life. I would tell young people new to the industry to relax. Let your career play out. You’re going to find that you will actually like it a lot more than you think. There is always something new. There is always something changing. The customers are usually great. The people you work with are usually great. You will learn some really interesting things, and find many opportunities for growth. Give it time.
Everyone talks about the generation coming out of school right now. They are educated with a ton of student loan debt and they want to set the world on fire. They want to make a boatload of money right away, but that is just not realistic.
You have to put in the time and put in the work. Work hard, ask questions and learn as much as you can. Be really good at your job. And then it will all start to happen for you.
Q. If someone approached you during your freshman year in college and said that someday you would be working in the electrical industry, what would your reaction have been?
A. I would probably have said that I highly doubted it. But here I am, having found a great career at United Electric. As I said earlier, most people don’t seek out the electrical distribution industry. We literally have one person in our company who actually planned to be in the electrical industry. One person. Everyone else somehow ended up here. And we’re all happy that we did.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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