Project Manager; Irby (A Sonepar Company)
Michael Cummins started at Irby in Jackson, Miss., just after graduating from the University of Mississippi in 2016. He first met with Irby representatives at a career fair in the fall of 2015.
“I had a great conversation with them and was very interested in the program I would be starting in,” Michael explained. “I was offered a job and started shortly after graduation,”
Michael started on the C&I side of the electrical industry and completed the Sonepar Sales and Operations Trainee Program in the summer of 2017.
“I started in the warehouse, worked on the sales counter, dipped into inside sales and then worked on the corporate level with the HR team for about 10 months before I moved to Fort Worth,” he explained.
Michael is among those who freely admit that while in college, he had little if any idea of what the electrical distribution industry was about.
“In college, I really didn’t know this industry existed. Since I’ve started, I’ve come to believe that this industry is a hidden gem, especially for young guys like myself,” he said. “I know a lot of people my age want to work for the Google’s and Amazon’s of the world but I truly believe there is something in this industry for everybody.”
Also, like so many rookies in the electrical industry, Michael was struck by how vast it is and how much he had to learn.
“At first it was kind of overwhelming. You’re thinking, ‘How is anybody going to learn all of this?’” he laughed. “But the thing that they impressed on us is, ‘You’ll never learn it all.’ You just have to be a sponge, take it all in and learn as much as you can from your peers and your customers.”
During his training period, Michael learned a great deal while on the sales counter, interacting with contractors and other customers. Eventually he worked his way to his current position, project manager at Irby’s Fort Worth, Texas, location.
In that role, Michael works with a variety of utility customers including Contractors, EPC Firms (engineering, procurement, and construction) and electric cooperatives.
“I work in the Irby Packaging Group where we estimate transmission, distribution, and substation jobs across the country and package that into one bid for the customer,” he explained. “We are a one-stop-shop for the customer.”
While Michael’s responsibilities and increasing workload means more learning, it’s a challenge he embraces.
“I’m always looking for trainings, site visits, lunch and learns, etc. so I can continue to learn as much as I can,” he said. “I would say the cool thing about this industry is that we’re all learning from one another. This industry is always changing and evolving so it is important to stay up to speed.
Michael and his wife, Kristi, have been married for a year. They enjoy volunteering in the community, traveling, and have recently adopted a rescue dog, Eve.
Michael grew up in central Illinois and still reflects the Midwest roots as he has remained a loyal Green Bay Packers fan, despite living deep in the heart of Cowboys’ territory.
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would say to have an open mind and always be willing to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get out of your comfort zone. The opportunities in this industry are endless, so be patient, work hard, and be willing to learn. If you do those things, you will do great.
Also, find a great mentor. Find someone in your organization that will support you, challenge you and guide you though the beginning steps of your career. It always helps to know someone is on your team and willing to push you to be the best you can be.
Q. How do you see the industry attracting a more diverse workforce?
A. I believe introductory training programs such as the Sales & Operations Training Program that I went through are a fantastic way of attracting new and diverse talent. It gives young professionals a full year to learn the industry from the ground up. It’s a way for these individuals to see multiple segments of the industry and their organization to find what they like best, what their strengths and weaknesses are and pursue a full-time role after completion of the program.
From my experience, I have seen numerous segments of this industry within just a few years. With that, I truly believe there is something in this industry for everybody.
Tagged with 2019 30 Under 35, 30 under 35, Irby, Sonepar