October 2, 2018
A few weeks ago Kim Quelch, National President of Electro-Federation Canada (EFC)’s Young Professionals Network, invited her male and female colleagues to share and publicize their expertise among all members of the industry. Like many, she arrived by chance in the industry. After graduating from university with a Bachelor of Commerce and a speciality in marketing, she began her career in a packaging and software company.
“The part of the software industry I was in was a predominantly male industry and I didn’t feel the support senior management to facilitate our integration. In addition, I found that the size of the business limited the professional challenges ahead of me,” says Kim.
Informed of an opportunity by a friend, she had a first interview at Standard and knew from the beginning that she had just found the place and the industry where she would make a career. “It was the beginning of LED technology. Everything changed — business models, margins, competition.”
It was a unique opportunity for young people and women to take their place in a new and vibrant industry. Kim’s career has been growing steadily for 10 years. She has since completed an MBA, during which she learned to work with people of all disciplines and circumstances before getting involved in the Young Professionals Network (YPN). Its goal is to attract young people to an industry where young people are increasingly present and whose knowledge is valued.
What impact would you like to have in your business? Industry? Society?
When I started in this industry just under 10 years ago, I remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? How am I ever going to fit into the Old Boys Club? As the years went on I realized how much passion I had for the industry and that so many others shared this same passion.
The industry is changing and it is my goal to help share that enthusiasm in a message to our future leaders, really making them realize that there are a wealth of opportunities and technological changes that are occurring in the industry today that they can be part of. Unless they are coming out of a trade school or are part of a family already in the industry, most new graduates are not thinking of a career in our industry. Making them aware is our responsibility, now more than ever.
I also hope that the awareness and relevance that we are trying to bring to the YPN group will stand the test of time, to a point where one day it may not be needed in the same capacity as today because the lines will be blurred between young and experienced individuals working together for common goals.
What is your biggest work-related challenge right now?
I would definitely have to say my biggest work related challenge in the last five years has been getting and keeping talent. The electrical industry is a small one and is not considered very “sexy” by young, up-and-coming professionals. There is such a war for talent in our industry these days. The more it changes, the more difficult it becomes to find top talent. With the disruption that is occurring, we need to be open to stepping out of our companies and industry to recruit. Being forward thinking of the types of talent we will need in the future and what will make them happy is so important. When a company recognizes the value in their employees and strives to keep them happy and engaged, it is a win-win for both parties.
What industry developments interest you the most?
How do you see the industry benefiting from it/them?I am most interested to see how IoT will affect our industry. For me, IoT is exciting as it changes the purpose of lighting. Emitting light no longer becomes the primary purpose of a fixture or a lamp. Instead it will become a hub for data collection and analysis. It is exciting to also think of the partnerships that this technology will foster. It will force us to think out of the box and out of the industry when it comes to strategic and long-term planning. As exciting as this is, I also think that IoT will bring with it the struggle of privacy protection and usage of this data. I don’t think our industry is quite prepared for that today, which I think could pose some potential challenges in the future.
Describe one way in which you effectively separate work from family and personal life?
This is a tough one! At Standard one of our core values is to have fun and I take this to heart. We spend so much time with our colleagues during a week that they essentially become family as well. I like to think of it as having two families, my Standard family and my personal family, and I have fun and give 110% of my attention and time to whichever family I am with.
With technology as it is today, it is hard to disconnect. It has become just too easy to check that last email at the dinner table or respond to a text from your boss or one of your colleagues at 10:00 pm. Separating the two is an individual choice. I consciously make the effort to do this as much as possible. This really has to be a two-way understanding between the company and the employee.
Who has been a source of inspiration or a mentor to you?
This is tough to summarize as I feel so many people have impacted my life. Personally, I would have to say my parents and my grandmothers. They taught me about dedication and love and also how to be persistent and empathetic. My grandmother brought over six kids from Myanmar during a very difficult time and without that persistence and dedication my family would not be what it is today.
Professionally, I would have to say the executive team at Standard. They have always believed in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, which has helped me to get to where I am today. I’ll never forget a trip I took with David (Standard CEO David Nathaniel) and Jason (Executive Vice-President Jason Prevost) after working at the company for maybe three months. Sitting in the airport, having a conversation the three of us I drifted and started to look up at the lighting that was above us. When I looked back down David had a smile from ear to ear and said to me, “Welcome to the family.”
Why did you get involved with YPN?
I remember my first EFC Christmas reception in Ontario nine years ago. I was young, 25, with six months experience. I am walking into this room and all I saw was dark suits. It was intimidating the more I attended the industry and attended events. In our on-site team there are many young people and women, and I wondered why people did not come into our industry. YPN is a great opportunity to open your eyes. We knew when the network is gone, both worlds are really merging.
Line Goyette is Managing Editor of LDS; firstname.lastname@example.org