33 (32 at time of nomination)
Corp. Manager of Data and Analytics; McNaughton-McKay Electric
By Joe Nowlan
Donnie Williamson wasn't happy in his job back in 2005. A friend's stepfather was the supervisor at McNaughton-McKay's Madison Heights, Michigan warehouse and made it sound like a good place to be.
After applying, Donnie soon started in the traditional first stop for many in the electrical industry—the warehouse.
"That's not an uncommon story at Mac and Mac either," he said, using the shorthand nickname for his company.
His learning curve started that first week and hasn't stopped.
"In the warehouse you start learning ‘pick, pack and ship.' That's part of what a distributor does," Donnie explained. "That was the very beginning of trying to understand what a distributorship does."
Eventually he was moved to the front counter where the learning picked up considerably.
"That is where I started learning about products," Donnie said.
He appreciated the comfortable interaction between warehouse first-timers and company executives. Scott Sellers, executive vice president of operations, was among them.
"He would bring all of us warehouse guys together and share all of the information about what's going on with the company and share new initiatives that affected us indirectly," Donnie said. "That was my first introduction to someone at a higher level of management. He would field questions from us and take the time to make sure we understood everything."
Donnie took advantage of his company's interviewing process to learn about open company positions while also letting his bosses know he wanted to move up.
"I took a lot of interviews to try to move up in the company, very early on. I gained a lot of knowledge. That's how I really started learning – engaging with management and going to interviews," he explained.
That same path led him to his current position, corporate manager of data and analytics—despite his not having much in the way of IT experience.
"I didn't even know the job was posted. They asked me if I would be interested in working in what at that point was our reporting and development group," he said. "They were willing to train me in what I needed to do. Eventually we went through a reorganization and my group got moved into IT."
While Donnie works out of the Norcross, Georgia branch, four of his five direct reports work out of Michigan.
"I try to do weekly meetings [with my reports] just to stay in contact and things like that. It works out pretty well," he explained. "The biggest thing to me is keeping the communications going at least on a weekly basis, to get a heads up and share what everybody is working on and things like that."
Donnie and his wife, Kennoka, have two children. Abigail, age 7, and Jasper, age 3.
In his spare time, he enjoys tennis and staying active. He is also a music buff. He is an avid fan of Bob Marley's music.
"I would say my all-time favorite artist is Bob Marley. I went on a cruise to Jamaica early on and he's a very impactful artist to me," Donnie said. "If I could see anybody in concert who has passed away it would definitely be him."
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. I would say to always be learning and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Whether you think you're going to get a job through an interview or not, it is worth learning and getting better to do interviews and things like that. Just the attitude of always be learning and remain curious is what has helped me the most. That is my advice.
Q. What do you think is the biggest opportunity within the industry?
A. The advancements in manufacturing technologies and processes will continue to be a growing opportunity for us. Additionally, renewable energy I think can be a huge opportunity. I don't think we know yet the impact of the fruition of the "Internet of Things,"but I think it will present us with big changes, challenges and opportunity.
One of my favorite things about being in the electrical distribution community is that we have an opportunity to impact so many other industries indirectly. We can play a key part in the advancement of new manufacturing and the way things are done. As a distributorship I think we need to take advantage of the new technologies that are out there and become thought leaders in those new types of technology.
Think about electric cars and what that would really mean to make them successful. Electricity is not really going anywhere. Whether it is renewable or non-renewable electricity, you still have transfer that electricity in many in a multitude of ways. Whether it is automation or the change of grids and things like that, we are the ones that are poised very well to take on all of those new challenges. It is an exciting time. Things are only going to increase and will continue to grow exponentially.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.