My 15 Years: From Assistant To Executive Director of Business Development

BY LAURA BLECHL

If you would have asked me 15 years ago, “Do you want to be a Coating Nerd?”  I’d have said “no way!” Looking back through the years now though, I’m glad I took a chance; a chance on a new career and most of all, a chance on myself

I remember my first interview at DECO as I applied for an office assistant position with zero office experience. What was I thinking? I lacked any training in the field and the only thing I knew about painting was there were different types of paint for interior versus exterior. Not much, I know. But I knew I had to get out of the food service industry, and that I needed a future I could build on. Through perseverance and determination (i.e. several phone calls for what could be considered over-zealous), I got the call for an interview.

 My first couple of years at DECO were challenging at times... (my braces were awesome btw)

My first couple of years at DECO were challenging at times... (my braces were awesome btw)

DECO was going to give me a chance. My first task? Alphabetizing dusty boxes full of old bid proposals. I thought DECO was fully expecting me to quit after that.  But I was ready! “Here’s my chance,” I thought, “let me show you what I can do!”  Several paper cuts and memorized zip codes later; I was ready for the next task. 

 Janet mentored me on job from paperwork to job site safety. 

Janet mentored me on job from paperwork to job site safety. 

From there it was all about the next level for me. I didn’t just want to be office personnel. Pushing for more, I went after my Business Degree from Harrison College while continuing to work at DECO.  The nights were long and grueling - attending networking events, trade show, and learning the sales process by shadowing our business development person at the time. I stayed focused, thinking that could be me one day! 

Acting like a sponge, I quickly soaked up all the things around me. I was intrigued to learn everything about the business from accounting, to best construction practices, to sales. Though I had no interest in paints and coatings before arriving at DECO, as my career developed I quickly began to recognize my love for the field.

I was lucky to work for a group that saw more in me than I did myself at times. I remember how they would tell me stand up and introduce our company at events. Shaky voice and trembling hands, I forced myself to do it. I continued to find ways to put myself up in front at events. Fast forward to now, and just a few years ago I conducted my first national presentation on a topic I love: “Inconsistent Coating Specifications.” Since becoming the first female to serve on an Executive Committee Board for a local association my world has opened up with a more confident business woman.

 Serving on committees and boards, speaking at events, and being involved in my community is part of what drives me forward.

Serving on committees and boards, speaking at events, and being involved in my community is part of what drives me forward.

 I am blessed to work with great people that make the stressful days a little more entertaining. 

I am blessed to work with great people that make the stressful days a little more entertaining. 

It seems to me that it’s the sum of the small events in our lives that change us the most. It doesn’t happen overnight, but when we finally recognize the change we are able to see just how far we have really come. Over time, as I take on higher leadership roles in other associations and getting involved with local community projects I see a different person in myself and joke about the old days with my bosses. DECO continues to invest in my leadership skills and training, enrolling me in ISA Leadership Academy (I'm due to graduate in Q3 2018) and preparing me to become a senior leader in an organization.

DECO’s values are the core of more than our business model; they are how we interact with each other on a daily basis in the company. And that has pushed me as a person, not just as an employee. Maybe that’s how I stuck it out for so long despite the long days and stressful job issues. I thought maybe it wasn’t just about my work, but rather about who I wanted to become in my personal life. 

What DECO does impacts our community, infrastructure, and our people. I am blessed to feel excited coming to work each day, and blessed to love the people I work with, and to love what I do. My hope is to become an advocate for young professionals to choose careers that may seem scary and challenging. Take a chance on yourself and keep raising that ceiling – you may just surprise yourself! As I continue on my career path, my goal is that my ceiling never stops raising and that I’ll never touch an old dusty file box again!

 Celebrating my new title as Executive Director of Business at DECO Coatings with Janet South, my favorite boss. Unless you're reading this, Kirby...then I'm celebrating with one of my favorite bosses lol.

Celebrating my new title as Executive Director of Business at DECO Coatings with Janet South, my favorite boss. Unless you're reading this, Kirby...then I'm celebrating with one of my favorite bosses lol.