As company owners, leaders, financial and human resources managers, contractors in the field, administrative professionals and more, the women of NECA are a growing force. In fact, 9.5 percent of NECA member companies are women-owned businesses – a number that has tripled in the past 15 to 20 years, according to EC Magazine. Women bring different perspectives and skillsets to the historically male-dominated table and bring a much-needed light to the industry’s gender evolution.
October is National Women’s Small Business Month and we sat down with two leading women members to discuss their experiences, challenges, and advice for others.
All in the Family
Alison Smith, President of Union Electric Contracting Company, followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandfather. She never envisioned that she would serve as a third-generation owner of Union Electric Contracting Company, a company her grandfather purchased in the 1960s.
“I didn’t have a career path,” she said. “I left college after one semester, worked at a restaurant that I eventually quit, and ended up at my grandfather’s company, where my mom worked.”
Smith enjoyed working alongside her family and rose through the ranks, from handling secretarial work to supporting payroll and later, managing the company. In January 2017, she took over as President, a role her mother and grandfather held before her. Smith says keeping her grandfather’s legacy of the company brings her the most pride.
“I would not go back and change anything,” Smith said. “I’m glad I started out where I did. I got to see and feel out each position. It’s important to me that people know I worked my way up, and having gained personal experience in each position makes it easier to manage in my role. It makes all the difference.” Smith’s biggest piece of advice for aspiring female professionals is to be confident in their ability to do what they want.
Answering the Call
Admittedly, a career in the industry isn’t something many women know they want from the get-go.
Natalie Linder, Area Operations Manager at Black Box Network Services, found her passion for telecommunications thanks to the help of a friend. She wanted to pursue a career in health administration after college, but a friend introduced her to a network in the telecommunications industry and she came to realize it was a good fit for her.
“It was a great industry to grow up in,” Linder said. “There were a lot of opportunities. Strong, successful, knowledgeable people were willing to take a chance on me and helped me to succeed.”
Linder started her career in the 1980s working for a company that provided phone services in high-rise buildings to tenants. She moved on to The Delaney Companies, learning the business of voice and data cabling services, and eventually became Executive Vice President. In 2000, Black Box Network Services purchased The Delaney Companies and with the transition, Linder became a Regional Manager. She is currently to Area Operations Manager.
“One of my proudest moments was working with and leading my team of new and seasoned technicians to complete a project on time and on budget for a large financial client. It led to substantial growth for the company,” Linder said. “On the other hand, one of the most challenging things for me is to ensure we have a steady stream of projects to keep our people working. The downturn of the economy was very challenging.”
Linder encourages young women in the workforce to be fearless, find opportunities related to what they are truly interested in, and then go for it.
Empowering Women at NECA
NECA Penn-Del-Jersey is the first chapter to have a committee focused on recognizing, connecting, and supporting women in the industry. The Women in NECA (WIN) Committee offers networking events, educational opportunities, and encourages women to explore careers in the field.
We want to hear your empowering stories about the women of NECA. To share, or for more information on the WIN Committee, contact Sarah Bennett, Director of Public Relations and Special Projects.