Falling into the perfect career by chance is possible. Brittney Lane, project manager at Oklahoma City-based Oswalt Restaurant Supply is proof.
She joined the foodservice equipment and supplies dealership as an inside sales associate right out of high school more than 12 years ago, and then transitioned into managing projects in 2006.
"When I started at Oswalt, I didn't expect it to turn into a career," Lane says. "This was not an industry I knew existed prior to working here, but looking back, I can't imagine doing anything else."
Lane's clients are mainly non-commercial foodservice operators, including schools, hospitals, correctional facilities and churches.
FE&S: You are known for having a good understanding of everything that goes into a project — from reading blueprints to specifying the equipment. Why is this important to your customers and company?
BL: Bidding and managing projects is very detail-oriented and something that comes very easily to me. I find it's important to take a step back and look at the overall project. This helps me to understand the customer's vision for the final product. A large part of my success came from treating everyone involved in the process the same way I like to be treated. I pride myself on relationships built with all parties having a role in each foodservice project I work on.
FE&S: Some of your projects can be very large and loaded with details. How do you keep them all straight?
BL: I find that by taking care of the small things up front it prevents them from becoming larger issues later on in the project, and makes for a more successful project.
FE&S: A good DSR needs to balance the needs of their customers, company and suppliers. How do you make this happen?
BL: Trying to communicate everything correctly the first time around is important. If you don't specifically express what you need, things can go awry. Also, responding in a timely manner is important. It's essential to treat everyone as if they are the biggest, largest project you have, no matter what size the operation.
FE&S: Understanding that no project is ever perfect, how do you handle challenges when they arise?
BL: I pinpoint what caused the issue, then identify what I need to accomplish and how I will resolve it. It's important to identify the issue's cause and effect and communicate it properly to the customer. Most people understand that issues will arise, but handling each situation honestly and with integrity lays the foundation for long-term relationships and helps resolve the issues in a better manner.
FE&S: How do you keep your product knowledge current?
BL: SEFA conferences are invaluable in terms of continuing my education. It's that passion that keeps me motivated and makes me realize how fortunate I am to love what I do for a living. I can't say enough about my company and its owners, who have taken the time to invest in my education and training. They saw something in me that made them want to use their resources to educate me, and if it weren't for them and SEFA, I wouldn't be where I am today.
FE&S: What keeps you in this industry?
BL: This industry is like a second family to me. I have met so many wonderful people throughout my career. I want everyone to be a successful partner with me as I go on this journey. The relationships I have worked hard to build are a huge part of what I do and what I love. I also love working on the details, thriving on what I know and bettering myself.