Opportunity through knowledge

on 07 November, 2014

If I can help customers, provide the knowledge or assistance they need, or make a positive difference to their prospects by organising reliable deliveries, then I gain the personal satisfaction of a job well done. I’ve also fulfilled my purpose both as an employee and as an asset to the business.

The fact that I’m one of so very few women in the timber trade bears no relevance to the job I have. Yet it is curious that I am still part of such a small minority in the 21st century.

Perhaps it’s because timber sales, like merchanting, conjures up an image of standing in a dirty yard in the wet or the cold, sorting out products. While that may occasionally happen, the majority of life in a sales role involves much more detailed and focussed customer interaction, essentially helping people by using your knowledge.

‘Doing things with wood’ may traditionally be seen as something that males in this life have a fascination for. Yet there’s no such thing as an interest that’s exclusively male or female. If you’ve got a passion for something it should be allowed to flourish. It’s also important to let individuals explore opportunities for themselves.

My own interest in wood is typical of life’s exploration and discovery, developing through a graduate trainee programme after studying for a degree in English.

So how do we get across to more young women that there are interesting, varied and fulfilling careers available in the timber and builders’ merchant sector? And with the population getting older and working longer, should we only be looking to attract the young? Sharon Corley’s example in the October issue of Builders’ Merchants News demonstrated that in the merchant sector there are opportunities for all.

I much agree that providing excellent customer service through building up and utilising knowledge is what matters, to the individual personally and to the results of the business.

We need to intercept the attention of women seeking career opportunities and present the timber and builders’ merchant sector as a viable option, with equal possibilities for progression into management. I have found that the timber trade offers a ‘family feel’ and a supportive environment for learning.

I have learned and earned my wood knowledge from the bottom up, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. I now run a team of 14 sales staff covering a large area of the country, but I still get real joy from interacting with customers, understanding their needs and helping them.

Perception is the key to bringing in the best people to ensure the sector’s future. If we can get across that we’re a modern, thriving part of the economy, with career options from sales to IT, to procurement and business management, it should help our recruiters. The biggest help, though, will be to get across that we’re a sector where career progression relies on your knowledge and willingness to learn, not your gender.

Rachel Miller, regional sales manager, south and west, Snows Timber.

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