As an interviewer, the dream interviewee is someone who can tell an entire story (that is, verbally write an entire blog post) from only one starter question. Lyn Smith is that dream interviewee.
Lyn has been with Butler-Cohen since the company’s earliest days, and in telling the story of her career journey, it’s evident that life has been preparing for her role here since long before that. Lyn’s secrets to success aren’t a mystery to anyone in any business, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy: one must keep learning throughout their entire career, and never be afraid to embrace change. Read on to see how Lyn has modeled both on the winding path that led her, finally, to Butler-Cohen:
BC: What is your background and what attracted you to construction in the first place?
LS: When I was growing up, my dad was a DIY-er. If there was something to be done around the house, he did it. He built a huge workshop from the ground up. And then he built an addition onto our house – anything that needed to be done he was able to do it. I watched him and anything I could participate in, I participated in. So, that started a very early interest in construction.
I took two years of accounting in high school, in addition to typing and business law. My mother was a business education teacher so she was a big influence in my interests in business courses.
My parents owned their own business at one time, a printing and office supply store. I was interested in the graphic arts; and originally, I went that direction after high school. I could do layout design, but back then there was no computer for that. It was very labor intensive (think drawing on paper with grids and dots).
Along with the graphic design, my mother had me do the books for the company. She basically kept me learning the hands-on, “real world” accounting and bookkeeping. Back then there was no computerized accounting, it was all long-hand journaling in the ledger books. It was labor-intensive but I am glad because when you do it that way, you really see what’s happening. I am so thankful that I learned it that way because I understand it, all the ins and outs, instead of just entering it into a computer.
After a number of years of other accounting and business office management jobs, a friend called me in need of someone to help with their accounting system for their company, which provided staging and lights for the Rodeo, concerts, etc. So, I did their accounting work. They also started this other company of imprinted drinkware, and I would do the graphic design for what was actually imprinted on the drinkware as well as their accounting. With that, I was able to get back into doing graphic arts, because I love doing that. By that time, it was all computerized so I had to learn these new design systems.
All through these years, my learning has not stopped.
After they decided to close that company down, someone from a construction firm contacted me, and my first thought was “oh, construction. I like construction. I kind of know what that’s about.”
I worked at that company for 6 years, as an assistant on the production side. I loved the fact that I was learning operations for construction work. I worked projects from pre-construction through the closeout phase of the project. Back then we printed the drawings, and we’d have to ship them out. That part of it was so different from what I had done before (and what I’m doing now) but I’m so glad I learned all that because I learned the ins-and-outs of operations for a construction business.
Then I worked for another construction firm for an additional 2 years, so all told I had been in the construction industry for 8 years by the time I started working at Butler-Cohen.
I started when we were a much smaller organization, so I had many duties. We’ve been able to phase those out for me as the company has grown. However, that’s why I say every step along the way of my career has prepared me to support a company like Butler-Cohen right when they are starting out. I’ve learned so much through life experience in different areas, from graphic arts to accounting to construction.
The construction industry has changed and evolved. Really, not just our industry–everything is evolving. That’s what I like about Butler-Cohen because we are always forward-thinking. We are looking for better ways to do things. When I started at Butler-Cohen my goal was to be digital. I wanted to push in that direction. I wanted us to stay in that direction. Now we’ve gotten to where, with today’s technology, you can look at drawings on the computer. On occasion printed sets are needed, but now technology allows us to do take-offs and measurements digitally.
I had to learn the computer, because it’s always evolving. The key is to never stop learning. Technology changes, there’s new processes, it’s always continuous change. Which I like. I’m one that doesn’t mind change. Some people dig their heels in and can’t stand change, but I don’t mind it.
As we move forward, I find that with the technology we have in place, especially as an all-digital office, I can actually do more as one individual than a team could if we were all manual, paper-based. With all the automation, we are a small organization accomplishing big things.
Lyn Smith has been an integral member of the Butler-Cohen team since the beginning. When she is not at Butler-Cohen, find her spending time with family, which includes 10 beautiful grandchildren, camping with her husband in RV parks, along with family and friends, and singing with a band called Modulation Band. She also enjoys working jigsaw puzzles, as well as arts and crafts.