By Joe Nowlan
In April, the editors of tED magazine sent out a call for the industry’s “rising stars”—electrical professionals 34 years old or younger who have the initiative, drive, integrity, and creativity to move the industry forward in the decades to come. The call drew nominations from all segments of the industry—distributors, suppliers, rep firms, software/services providers, and VARs. Here on tedmag.com, we will post a new, full interview with one of these impressive young people weekly; coverage of all of the honorees can be found in the July 2012 issue of tED. Watch for information about our next “30 Under 35” competition in early 2013.
Believe it or not, Whitney Walrath was a senior at Colorado State University before she ever heard of the electrical industry.
“It’s true. [Senior year] was the first time that I had ever heard of electrical or anything about it,” Walrath laughed.
Slightly more than a year later, she was working for GE Supply in Florence, Italy.
When she met with the company, she was familiar with GE as a brand name and knew that the company’s training program had a solid reputation.
“What really sold me on it though was when I met the people and the GE team, and started learning a little bit more about the industry and what the team was responsible for,” she explained. “It seemed like a great environment to be able to learn and grow and have a great career.”
She started work after graduation in 2006 and, in 2007, landed a three month temporary assignment in Florence, Italy.
“It was a fantastic experience. It was right after Rexel had purchased GE Supply. At the time GE Supply was going international to follow specific customers,” Walrath said. “So there were a couple of customers they were servicing in Europe…. [GE/Rexel] followed that same customer to one of its facilities in Florence.”
From there, she spent two years in Atlanta, before returning home to Colorado. She was born and raised in Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver. She is currently Rexel Holdings’ lighting category manager.
“I manage our strategic suppliers on a corporate level nationally,” she explained. “We break our products into four categories: one of them is lighting and energy efficiency, which is the category I manage. We have about 150 strategic suppliers. Of those, I manage the lighting suppliers…. Additionally, I’ll help facilitate things like online training webinars and in-person training, when sales teams might go and spend a couple of days at a manufacturer’s facility.”
Lighting is a category that is constantly changing and evolving as new developments and technologies come about. For Walrath, the more change, the better.
“Personally, I love the changes. It doesn’t bother me or scare me at all,” she said. “I love that there are always new and exciting things happening.”
As if keeping up with lighting innovations doesn’t take up enough of her time, Walrath is also pursuing her MBA at the University of Colorado at Denver. A little over a year ago, she and her husband Marc were married.
The seemingly endless innovations and developments are among the attractive elements of the electrical industry for Walrath—along with her colleagues at Rexel.
“One of the things that keeps me engaged and really enjoying what I do is the group of people here. It’s a great industry in terms of the people who work in it,” she explained. “There’s a lot of diversity and different experience levels and backgrounds. You get a solid team of people, whether it’s our customers, our sales teams, our suppliers— just generally a great group of people to work with. This may not be the sexiest industry sometimes. It’s not like working for Apple. But I think there are some interesting challenges that come to a business like this.”
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED