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2022 30 Under 35 Profile: Jacob Gerstenberg

Jacob Gerstenberg, 24
Buyer II
NorthEast Electrical

Jacob joined NorthEast Electrical in August 2020 in the Sonepar Sales & Operations Development Program (SODP) after graduating from Boston University with a degree in Business Administration & Management with a triple concentration in Operations Management, Information Systems, and Retailing. Through the SODP Jacob rotated through the warehouse, counter sales, inside and outside sales, project management and quotations, and digital tools before landing in the purchasing department in May 2021.

“Since joining purchasing, I have consistently picked up more responsibility within the department—starting with typical residential and commercial electrical products to now doing more involved purchasing for other product groups such as solar and industrial automation,” noted Jacob. “There are also two panel board assembly shops that I am involved in the material management for, which has been exciting given all the supply chain issues we are running into. We get to get creative with solutions for our customers, which has been fun to be a part of.”

Jacob is also involved in multiple corporate teams, including a newly formed Employee Resource Group (ERG) supporting multiple generations in the workplace (Connect ERG), NorthEast’s DE&I Committee, and Sonepar USA’s Women Advocating Together for Tomorrow ERG (WATT).  “I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of multiple projects at the Sonepar level through the SODP as well as being part of the Sonepar USA Innovation Team, which has helped me to understand our company better while also researching new ways we can make our warehouses safer and more efficient with the use of technology,” added Jacob.

Like many in electrical distribution, Jacob didn’t plan to work in this industry. “It essentially found me and presented a great opportunity to grow,” he said. “Coming out of college I was, and still am to this day, passionate about process improvement and continuous improvement. With that in mind, being in a rotational program was important to me so that I could see every aspect of a business and understand how they all interact with one another. It is very difficult to effectively change processes to be more efficient if you don’t understand all the potential ripple effects on different departments. The opportunities that Sonepar could offer through the SODP were extremely appealing to me. After being in this industry for the past two years the things that keep me excited about it are the people and the opportunities to grow.”

Asked about a challenge the industry is currently facing, Jacob pointed to the aging workforce.

“There is so much talent leaving this industry, which really gives us an opportunity to develop young talent and continue to motivate and excite individuals who seek out development opportunities,” he said. “I am a strong proponent of the Sonepar SODP and constantly try to recruit new hires and offer support to all the trainees across Sonepar USA—whether it be personally offering advice or opening my personal network up to them to find them a mentor who can help with their career path.”

Looking ahead, Jacob aspires to be a people manager and help challenge associates within their roles. “As an associate, I prefer to be busy and constantly challenged by the work I am doing, and I would love to help others find what excites and challenges them within the scope of their job,” he said. “The more excited people are by the work they do, the more motivated they are to do a good job, and everyone ends up happier in the end. My current manager has decades worth of knowledge and is passionate to share it with others within our company while also being extremely understanding and supportive of our department and I am eager about keeping that same mentality as I work my way up the ladder and hopefully get into a management position. Eventually, I would like to manage overall operations for the business or work in vendor relations to help support our customers and our vendor partners while also driving business for NorthEast and Sonepar as a whole.”

What would Jacob tell someone just entering the industry? “Be a sponge and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see your dream job posted,” he said. “Entering this industry can be incredibly overwhelming, but we have some knowledgeable people in our organization and this industry as a whole and they are almost all eager to share that knowledge with someone just getting their feet wet in the industry. I am also a big believer in always having as much information as possible. If you can ask as many questions and retain as much information as possible, you are able to reduce your risk in decision-making, which is really the biggest key to making any decision. Uncertainty can be the death of a business so limiting that as much as possible by being a wealth of information for your own role, as well as others in the company, can go a long way.

Jacob added that we are at a noticeable shifting point in this industry where we are moving away from traditional pen and paper business and into somewhat of a technological/digital revolution. “With that being said, every day more and more jobs are being created to help foster that transition in culture and operations and occasionally a company doesn’t know a new position is needed until that perfect candidate with a fresh perspective walks in the door and changes their mind,” he said. “Stay positive, work as hard as you can, and inspire change in everything you do. It WILL be noticed.”

When he’s not working Jacob enjoys traveling and exploring nature. “I have been to 41 of the 50 states and want to try and get to all of them before I turn 30 in addition to getting to all 63 National Parks at some point (I’ve been to 15 as of right now),” he said. “I also have a brother and two sisters who are all older than me and have given me six nieces and nephews who I absolutely adore spending time with.”

Jacob also plays guitar. “I enjoy jamming with my friends and brother when possible and have a habit of following Dead & Company around on tour in the summer since I was too young to catch the actual Grateful Dead live,” he said. “I also enjoy watching just about any sport on TV or in person and have been conflicted over my fandom since I grew up in Pennsylvania but moved to the Boston area for my current position—which means I have an eclectic mix of sports teams that I root for between Philadelphia and Boston.”

Each year tED magazine recognizes 30 of the industry’s best and brightest under the age of 35. Please visit tedmag.com/30Under35 for nomination information and updates about the 2023 program. Questions can be sent to tED Editor Misty Byers at mbyers@naed.org.

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