Learning in the Lumber Industry: From Pulling Weeds to EVP

Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc.’s “Learning in the Lumber Industry” series consists of a monthly article focused on career paths and opportunities in the lumber industry and written by our Executive Vice President Brian Conklin. This is the first article in the series.

I suppose the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” might sound a little silly to some of you. If you are like me, you haven’t been asked this question in a very long time. But for some of you, I hope, you have recently been asked this question and you don’t know the answer.

I have many memories of growing up. I can remember teachers, my parents and other family members along the way asking me, “what do you want to be when you grow up”? For many years I thought that I was going to be a major league baseball player. I can’t tell you how many times I visualized in my mind, while lying in bed at night, me hitting the game winning grand slam with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth in game 7 of the World Series. At least in my mind, and for many years, that seemed like such an achievable task. While I played many years of baseball and have many fand memories of the game, I soon realized that the game winning hit in the World Series was…, well it was just a dream.

I graduated high school in June of 1994. Unfortunately, I still could not answer the question that was asked so many times of me up to that point in my life. I had graduated high school and really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. The one thing I do remember upon graduation was wondering where the last 18 years went. Those years just flew by. I did not possess any special skills. I really didn’t know how to build or fix anything (if anything my attempts at fixing things only made it worse ). I really wasn’t disciplined enough at that point in my life to go to college. Even if I was, what would I major in? I had no idea. However, I was smart enough to know that I needed a job. So, I applied at a local sawmill. Keep in mind that at this point in my life I did not know a single thing about the lumber industry. I literally could not have properly identified a Cherry board from a Red Oak board. I had never seen a sawmill in operation, so all the various equipment and lingo was all new to me.

I will never forget that first day on the job and how intimidating it was. I really did not know anyone, had never seen any of the equipment nor did I know how any of this equipment worked. However, I have always had a good attitude by nature, I was dependable (I never missed work and was always on time), I liked learning new things and generally speaking I was the type of person who took pride in their work. I was very fortunate to have mentors along the way that saw the potential in me and help direct my career. If you would have told me in June 1994 that I would be where I am today, I likely would have laughed at you.

In this series I will talk about my career path and the career opportunities that exist not only in on our industry but here at Gutchess Lumber. If you are at a point in your life and you are not sure what your career path might be or if you are looking for a career change and not sure what that might be, do not worry. With some dedication and hard work, there are so many exciting opportunities today, much more than when I got into the industry 25 years ago. This industry has taken me all over the world and has given me the ability to make a very good living and provide for my family, all the while learning new things almost on a weekly basis.

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