Developing the route to a successful, diverse non-traditional career
Ontario Construction Report special feature
Michelle Vestergaard started her career with Enbridge with conventional administrative responsibilities. Then she discovered new opportunities within the company where she could grow, evolve and discover her passion. Today she is channel consultant within the utility’s residential sales market development team.
“I started with Enbridge working part time in the call centre, then moved into cashiers,” Vestergaard said. “The company had a program called Bridges to help get women into non-traditional roles and I applied to be a Pipeline Inspector.”
Over the next several years she spent six months of the year in the field working with Enbridge contractors completing inspections and creating drawings as gas mains and service installations were taking place. She says she loved working with the builders and clients and loved being outside, away from the office.
In her role today she is a single point of contact for the residential market including builders, real estate professionals and HVAC contractors, delivering programs like Savings by Design and the Community Energy Retrofit program.
“Enbridge is great at helping you look at your career plans. They want to know what staff love doing and then find ways to help them get there. They invest in staff so employees invest in Enbridge.”
Vestergaard says management is able to provide mentoring and advice and the company offers programs including job shadowing which allow people to experience different aspects of the business.
The company also supports the continuous learning Vestergaard says her job requires. “There is a lot of information to stay up on. I am able to take advantage of industry courses in areas like building code and in-house training on technical aspects and new programs I need to know about.”
Having a sound base of knowledge to serve both the large and small builders is essential. Vestergaard says whether it is her first meeting with a builder or contractor of her hundredth, she is there to do a job and provide a service. Ensuring she is knowledgeable and efficient is a big part of that.
“People in residential construction are busy and their time is valuable. My goal is to always make sure there is purpose and value when I approach them.”
Relationship building is a big part of Vestergaard’s job.
The key is to be involved in networking opportunities, educational courses, events, conferences and shows. “Besides bigger functions I make opportunities to stay in touch with clients by email or phone, or a lunch when time allows. I recognize the role Enbridge plays in an overall home is just one of many so part of my job is ensuring we stay connected.”
It may be that this is one of the aspects where women stand out in the industry. Vestergaard says the relationships she develops with her clients are different than what she imagines relationships between men would be. “Many of my clients become friends. As a woman, I have a different approach and different perspectives. My clients tend to open their lives to me – professional and personal – so our relationships form on different levels.”
That difference between men and women is one of the reasons Vestergaard says it is important for women in the industry to find opportunities to connect with other women. Her experiences include a recent Habitat for Humanity women’s build.
“There are a lot of strong women in the industry. Getting together to share information and experiences benefits everyone involved.”
Vestergaard says her career in construction is always changing and interesting and one she would absolutely recommend to anyone seeking a people-centred career.