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INSPIRING WOMEN IN HVACR

According to Wolseley’s Vice-President of Marketing & e Business “The world and the world of business are all about change. We have to embrace change because things are constantly evolving.” If Gail Kaufman’s career trajectory is an indication, this is very good advice. She has been moving up the ladder continuously ever since she left the Brantford area in Ontario as a young, adventurous woman. And she has embraced new challenges with enthusiasm and aplomb at every turn.

 “I think growing up in a small town fuels your curiosity about the world. I couldn’t wait to go out and explore. I always wanted to work in different, exciting places. And I’ve done that.” She studied marketing at the University of Western Ontario, and then took a job in an ad agency where she worked with a divers set of clients on developing creative solutions to their business challenges.

She was soon able to apply her knowledge more intensively to a specific marketing and sales challenge, because she left the agency and went to work for a client in the automotive sector, then later to Quaker State initially as Director of Marketing. It became Pennzoil-Quaker State, which which led to a promotion to the Houston headquarters working in the international division. This opened more doors and introduced her to all kinds of talented individuals in a variety of situations.

“Marketing has been a very good path for me because it really does expose you to all facets of a business. The advice I would offer young people is to keep an open mind and learn as much as you can, because then you will be able to put yourself out there and demonstrate initiative. You’ll be able to offer new ideas and take on assignments that provide value. When you are open-minded to learning new things, it makes it easier to embrace change; and planning is all about having a vision that aligns with change and then executing your strategy effectively.”

Pennzoil-Quaker State was acquired by Shell, so Gail was able to work her marketing planning magic within an even bigger distribution system, for some 23,000 retail stores outside of North America. After implementing successful programs at the global level, she decided it was time to return home to Canada. Her parents were getting older, and for the first time she left a company with no new job arranged.

“I actually learned about an opportunity at Wolseley somewhat accidentally at a cocktail party. I decided to try it; and I’m glad that I did. Working at Wolseley has been a highly gratifying experience. First and foremost, I think we have the very best people. That’s important because we think the customer experience is the battleground for differentiation in a business where technology is changing buying habits, where there’s going to be a wholesale change in the workforce, and competitors like Amazon are having a big impact.”

“Wolseley really is a company with a vision for the future, and we also have the talented team and financial means to bring that vision to life. It’s exciting to work on e Business and evolve our omnichannel, using customer feedback surveys in real time, data analysis, high tech tools and training to improve communications with customers. We want to provide the best possible service to them no matter which way they choose to interact with us, whether online, in the branch, or on the phone.”

Asked about being a woman in a male-dominated profession she says: “I really have no basis for comparison because most of my career has been in that environment. I always felt I had to work hard, but I never thought it was because I was a woman.”

“There are numerous women in our business doing well and enjoying their careers. Kim Forgues is our Vice-President, Human Resources, Kelly Martin is our Chief Financial Officer. We also have several talented female directors, branch managers and counter staff.”

“Good leadership isn’t really about gender. It’s about empathy, listening skills, and ultimately, teamwork. It’s about recognizing that everyone brings a valuable point of view and their own special talents to the effort; and none of us can manage change entirely on our own. So it’s important to realize that and to work on making a positive impact together.”