Dec 8 2015
On the other end of the phone one recent Monday morning, Cynthia Renaud — formerly a student of policing techniques but now a lighting specialist — tells me with pleasure about her unusual journey. It begins at age 25, when with the help of a friend she gets a job with a lighting distributor. During her years there, she takes lighting courses. Her performance comes to the attention of a headhunter, who offers her a position as a travelling sales rep for another distributor. A few years later, she moves into a similar position at Standard, the lighting manufacturer. She has now held this position for eight years.
What attracted her to the lighting industry?
Mother of two children, Cynthia Renaud was drawn to the industry by its infinite possibilities. She could just as easily work on a design project as an energy conservation project. She also appreciates the opportunity to work with the same customers from one project to the next.
She tells me that along the way she has had to adapt to this predominantly male world by doing more. She felt that she wasn’t entitled to make mistakes. Being the best in her field was for her key to proving she was as capable as a man. Cynthia turned this into a challenge, gradually earning the respect of her clients along the way.
Early in her career, she suffered through rebuffs and stale jokes. Today, she is well known in the industry, so it’s become easier, even though she still sometimes senses hesitation on the part of new customers. She has managed to create a place for herself. We can say that she has met the challenge successfully.
She would have felt a greater gap between women and men during police services training. Not having the same physical strength as men and not being partnered with a woman on patrols, she did not feel at ease. She had more of an impression of being there to fill a quota of women in the police force. She did not have this impression in the lighting industry. “There is absolutely nothing in my job that I can’t do as well or better than a man,” she says. This is how to succeed in the face of life’s challenges.
Advice for women wishing to enter the field?
She would say, “Have confidence in yourself. Hold your head high and go forward.” She also advises newcomers to be well prepared. Plan in advance your meetings with clients so that you’re prepared for all contingencies, and don’t be taken in by tricky or difficult questions. In the same vein, knowing not to take what doesn’t belong to you is very important. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to say so. Then find the answer and get back to the client, instead of attempting an uncertain answer. “By doing so, by standing up for yourself, by being right… that’s how we earn respect,” she says.
Today, looking back at the road she has travelled, Cynthia Renaud says she has no regrets and would make the same choices. She loves her work, particularly her customers. She loves having the opportunity to see the results of her efforts. If she designs a clothing boutique, she has the privilege of seeing it lit. She loves this industry and this work, and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
Finally, in Cynthia Renaud’s own words, “It is not unusual for me to hear today that women are more organized than men and it’s nice to work with us.” Women make a valuable contribution to the electrical industry and are an asset to develop.
Laurence Rocher-Brasssard is Assistant Editor for Kerrwil Publications’ electrical group.