CDC HR/Training Manager; US Electrical Services (USESI)
By Joe Nowlan
Before starting her career in electrical distribution, Erin Ducharme graduated college with a degree in psychology and was working in a day care center in her native Massachusetts. While the work was rewarding, she eventually was looking at changing careers.
"I had been in that industry for about eight years and was at the point where I needed to look for something different," Erin explained.
She went to an area job fair at Rexel, applied and soon started as an entry-level employee, picking orders in the Rexel warehouse.
Unlike many new to the electrical industry, Erin had actually been in a warehouse. Her father was an engineering manager for a bicycle manufacturer and as a child she had visited him at work and saw what a warehouse was and what it did.
"So it wasn't anything that was foreign to me. I kind of understood how the world of a warehouse works. I just had never worked in one myself," she explained.
Erin started at Rexel's Mansfield, Mass., location in 2007.
"So it was almost refreshing getting into a more physical job than in a classroom setting; to get back into the world of moving around," she said.
She enjoyed the industry, rising steadily in the warehouse to where she was eventually promoted to supervisor.
"I was approached about a second shift supervisor position," she explained. That second shift would mean working the hours of 2 p.m. to 10-11 p.m.
"So after some thought and some lifestyle changes, I went back to the second shift as the second shift's supervisor. I did that for about two years," Erin said. From there, she went on to run that distribution center for four years.
In 2014, a former colleague was working at U.S. Electrical, in Stoughton, Mass., and told Erin about an opening.
Now at U.S. Electric, Erin wears a number of hats as the company's CDC HR/training manager.
"I assist in racking layouts and the hiring for supervisory or managerial positions in all of our distribution centers as well as a lot of the cross-boarding training; also, when we hire those supervisors and managers, getting them affiliated with our system," she explained. "Get them up to date on their safety certifications and make sure they are following all the steps that they need to be as safe as they can be."
Erin has a role as teacher in many instances. But she finds she often learns as much as anyone.
"I definitely still see myself in a teaching role but I also learn about as much as I teach every day, learning from the people on the floor in different management styles and different ways of how to communicate with people," she explained.
Erin is a native of Massachusetts and lives in Attleboro. She is in a domestic partnership with her girlfriend, Lianne. Time permitting, she is an ever-improving golfer.
"When I do have time I enjoy golfing, which I'm sure is one of the top answers of anyone in electrical distribution," she laughed. "I'm actually in a golf league and it's been fun. I really enjoy the sport. I'm usually out there every Sunday if I can."
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Probably the best advice that I can give anybody is to never stop learning. Don't ever think that you know everything.
For example, one thing I didn't really understand initially is how far in this industry we actually will go for our customers. I first thought it was kind of Home Depot-like. You go there and pick up what you need. But we will go same-day deliveries and drop everything, send a driver out to go talk to a customer. The above and beyond that we do to maintain customer service was a little shocking to me at first. I think it is great! But it was an adjustment for sure. We are selling a service at this point. It is not just the products on the shelves. They can get those anywhere. But what service are you going to provide with that. That is what's going to keep them coming back to us.
Q. In a workplace with three very different generations working together and technologies so rapidly advancing, what of your younger coworkers habits do you perceive as the toughest to change?
A. I almost feel that they are a little impatient about needing to earn things. There are some people who have 100% earned what they've got. But that takes time. That is the hardest part I think for the younger people to understand—the need to be patient.
Again, not everyone is going to come up through the warehouse the way that I did. Some are going to come in as a supervisor or at manager levels. But understanding that there is a process to get from point A to point B—I think that is probably the most difficult part for the younger folks here.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.