31 (30 at time of nomination)
Vice president-distributor channel, Keystone Technologies
By Joe Nowlan
After graduating from George Washington University in 2006, Josh Brown's first job was in commercial real estate. He liked the challenge, but could see the writing on the wall for that field and was looking at other industries.
"A job opening came across my desk through a friend for [Keystone Technologies]," Brown said. "I interviewed and got the position."
While he now admits he then knew virtually nothing about LED lighting or the electrical industry, Brown saw great appeal in both the industry and the company.
"It was very much an entrepreneurial company with a lot of upside," he explained. "It was a position with a company that was growing and would allow me a lot of independence and opportunities."
Brown's natural curiosity and willingness to learn served him well, even if he wonders now if some may have tired of his constant questions.
"I started from the ground up [and] leaned on a lot on my coworkers and our lead engineer," Brown explained. "He probably hated me for the first two years I was here because I would just call him and pick his brain in conversations here and there to understand everything that he knew."
That thirst for knowledge and constant questioning is something Brown encourages today from his younger employees, especially new hires.
"I want them to ask as many questions as possible," Brown said. "A lot of the people that I personally have hired are learning from scratch and have to learn everything, which is exciting. It is definitely a role reversal [at times], which I thoroughly enjoy. I now manage a team here at Keystone and I encourage them to ask the same questions I was asking. I make it a point to have an open door policy and want them to ask as many questions as possible."
As Keystone's vice president-distributor channel, Brown travels quite a bit—something he enjoys.
"I travel throughout the U.S. meeting with customers to better understand their needs," he explained. "I'm also pretty involved in the product development side. I love that aspect of understanding how products are built, listening to the customers' feedback and then coming up with ideas to improve products accordingly."
Schedule permitting, Brown likes to leave himself an extra day or two and explore cities and countries he is visiting.
"I try to have a good work-life business mix…and spend an extra day over a weekend exploring," he said. "When I was in China I ended up extending the trip for a couple of days and hiked the Great Wall which was spectacular."
He grew up near Philadelphia and today lives in the Center City section of the city. Brown has run triathlons and also enjoys just being outdoors. But there's also something else he enjoys.
"Believe it or not, I actually enjoy working. Don't get me wrong, there are certain days I don't love it. But on the whole, I am fortunate enough to say that in the 6 ½ years I have been here, I don't think there has ever been a day that I have dreaded coming into work," Brown said.
Q. What advice would you have for other young professionals in the industry?
A. I guess the number one thing I would say is never stop asking questions and never stop learning. It is very important to listen to the answers you receive and at the same time embrace any and all criticism that you received. I am a big believer in wanting people's feedback so I can continually become a better person and a better employee. There are a lot of people in the industry that have been where we younger people are and they have a tremendous amount of knowledge that they are willing to share. You just have to be willing to ask. And people should be taking advantage of that. You really have to be willing to listen to what people are saying and particularly what your employees and customers are saying about ways that you can become better.
Q. What is one of the biggest challenges of running your department in today's economic climate?
A. I would say how quickly the technology is changing. You really have to be on the balls of your feet at all times. I keep coming back to this but you really have to keep learning. You have to keep understanding the changes that are going on – if it is between different utility company rebates or if it is a more efficient product that's come out on the market. In my company, we always want to be innovative and be the ones pushing the envelope and coming up with new and exciting products that ultimately can help our customers differentiate themselves. In the past, fluorescent lighting was very static. There really wasn't that much change. Here, it is happening very quickly and you have to adjust accordingly.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.