One of the few women in the lumber industry, Trudy Burdge, shares her journey on how she became a leading saleswoman at Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc. This is her story:
My journey in the hardwood lumber industry started early: I was born into it. My father owned and operated a small sawmill. A few of my uncles owned and operated sawmills as well. Several of my cousins worked in one of the family sawmills or were loggers cutting trees for them. Some drove truck, either hauling logs or delivering lumber. Almost every single one of my relatives was involved in one aspect or another in the lumber business. It was more than just their livelihood, it was their life. As I grew up watching them work and listening to their stories, I knew I wanted to be a part of it myself. I wanted it to be my life as well as my living.
After high school graduation, I got a job with a local hardwood concentration yard. I started out working in the plant, first stacking lumber and a few months later, driving a forklift. I spent a year in the plant before moving into the office. Over the next several years, I went from being an office worker to becoming the office manager. That role eventually led to a position working with the company IT department to develop software for the entire organization. My time in these different areas gave me a broader understanding of the business. Those opportunities provided a great learning experience that made it possible for me to ultimately move into sales, which was one of my career goals. To that end I’ve been fortunate. A lot of people took an interest and guided me along the way. Every step I’ve taken, someone – a co-worker, a manager – has taken with me. So many have shared their knowledge. They gave their time and effort to help and teach me. For that, I am and always will a be grateful to them.
While there are still fewer women than men in the hardwood industry, we women are gaining in number. My path to sales may differ compared to other women selling lumber, but we all have a common goal of doing the best we can for our company and our customers. I am proud to represent Gutchess Lumber and to sell Gutchess Lumber products. I am proud to be a part of an industry where a man – or woman – does business “on a handshake”. That’s how my father said it was done in his day and I’m glad it’s still done that way in mine. I was born into this; I have sawdust in my blood. And I want to encourage and assist other young people, especially women, into joining this great industry.