National Accounts Manager; Guillevin International
By Joe Nowlan
Jeff Turner earned a Master of Science degree in physiology before going to work for a small pharmaceutical company in Ontario. But he soon found the work was not for him.
“I wasn't really enjoying the work or the type of sales I was doing,” Jeff explained. “I had a friend who was working at the time for Guillevin and he suggested that I give the vice president a call and discuss a job opportunity because they were always looking for good people.”
He applied and was later hired at the Toronto Industrial Branch. While enthusiastic about the new career, he admits today he knew little about the overall electrical industry.
“Even when I started on my first day I didn't really understand what the industry was or what exactly what Guillevin offered. “That's how inexperienced I was,” he laughed.
He was the first hire to be admitted to Guillevin's sales trainee program, he said.
“It's for people new to the industry, generally younger people but not always. But new to the industry,” Jeff explained. “And it is a two-year learning program where you begin in the warehouse, shipping and receiving. Then you work yourself into inside sales roles. The end goal is to become an account manager.”
After about two years in the program, Jeff did become an account manager. But even though he had completed the sales trainee program, he realized the learning would never really slow down for him.
“One of my favorite things to do is to learn and increase my knowledge base. When I am asked to do something I like to make myself an expert at it,” he explained. “In my early years at Guillevin, I thought it was really important to take some of those NAED courses and learn the basics of the industry.”
In early 2014, an opening occurred to become the branch Lighting Specialist and management offered it to Jeff. Soon, as he puts it, “I became our very green, albeit eager-to-learn, lighting specialist.”
He soon began studying to become lighting certified (LC), which involves taking a four-hour exam and correctly answering at least 70% of the questions.
“It is a pretty intense process. But I studied for that exam and passed it in 2015. I believe I became the company's first LC in Ontario,” he explained.
This past spring, Jeff and his wife Heather became parents with the birth of daughter Emily.
“I tell you, I am working on fewer hours of sleep than I think I did when I was at university, when my late nights were spent much differently than they are now,” he laughed. “It's been a learning curve for sure. But every day with a newborn is different.”
Tight schedule or not, Jeff still can find time for a couple of hobbies.
“I still manage to get out and play on my softball team once or twice a week. I also play on a Frisbee team once a week,” he said. “When I am around the house, I like to do a lot of do-it-yourself renovations. I am working on a basement-bathroom renovation right now.”
Q. What advice you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. If I had any advice, it would be to not give up in the early years, which tend to be very difficult because it is a pretty senior industry with a lot of seasoned veterans. With those seasoned veterans, the gap between them and a green rookie can be pretty large and intimidating. Those first two years when I started were difficult. And coming into it with a master's degree as I did, there were times when I'll admit I felt my skills were not being utilized to their fullest. But once I got past those first two years, I really started to hit the ground running and when I reflect now can see a lot of positives come from doing the less glamorous jobs. You can learn a lot about the operation from working in different positions.
Don't give up in the early stages and never forget that although it is a big industry, it is a small-connected industry, so make friends not enemies. It's one of those things where it seems that everybody knows everybody either from their current role or a previous one.
Q. You and many in the electrical industry seem genuinely enthusiastic about your work and about the industry overall? Why do you think that is?
A. A couple of things really attract me to this industry. One is you get to learn something new every day. Someone is always calling you with a request for something that you haven't maybe come across yet or maybe don't know a lot about. So you get the opportunity to research something new and become maybe not an expert at it but a semi-expert. The best electrical distributor salespeople are jacks of all trades and can roll the ball until they are able to access an expert or gain the knowledge needed themselves.
The other reason is that it is an industry that is primed for what I will call a youth movement. It is an industry where I look at the people I work with and the people across the industry as a whole, it tends to be top-heavy in age. I think the average age in the industry—while I don't know the stat—it is likely 45-plus? Being on kind of the leading edge of the youth movement at 33 years old is a really good place to be. You have the ability to learn from the savvy veterans and as they move out, there is a great opportunity to step into some senior roles.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tagged with 2017, 30 under 35, tED