Women in Industry 2018 Spotlight — Jessica Schussler
To coincide with our annual Women in Industry issue, Supply House Times will spotlight a new PHCP-PVF supply chain female executive each day during the work week in the month of March. If you would like to be included or know of someone who should be included in our 2019 presentation, email Chief Editor Mike Miazga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Company: The KB Design Studio, a division of Lion Plumbing Supply, Miami, Florida
Position: Showroom manager (7 years)
How did you get started in the industry?
The best answer I can give is luck! I started at Lion answering the phones and helping the admins with clerical work. About six months in, our showroom manager decided she was ready to retire after 40-something years in the industry and came to the owner asking to find someone with adequate time to train before she left. Paul came to me first, offering me the opportunity to build a career in plumbing, explaining that he saw a lot more potential for me and that he would rather promote from within. Three months later I was at my first Luxury Products Group meeting, and a few months after that I went to my first KBIS show and I knew then I was hooked and I’ve never looked back!
What do you like the most about your job/company you work for?
This really goes hand-in-hand for me. The best part about my job is the company I work for. We go way beyond being coworkers. We are friends and we are a family. The majority of employees have been here for at least a decade – in this day and age that really says a lot about the people you work for. We have employees who have been here as long as 35 years! Coming from a secretarial background I never imagined how much I would love being in sales. The kitchen is the heart of every home and the bathroom is a necessity. I help design those!
There is a little part of me in hundreds of kitchens and bathrooms across South Florida – that is pretty cool when I think about it! I remember the first time I told someone what a Neorest cost. Four-thousand dollars on a toilet seemed insane to me — now I sell dozens of them a year. I have worked on several multimillion dollar projects. I have met and worked with famous athletes and entertainers, and been on jobsites that take my breath away. I am fortunate to have made so many friends in the industry and have had the best mentors to guide me along the way. I no longer think of what I do as a “job,” it is a career and a second home for me.
How important do you feel it is to attract young professionals into this industry?
Extremely important! This industry is changing and progressing every day and plumbing is an integral part of the modern-day world. Technology within the industry is skyrocketing and the baby-booming generation is on its way out. Luxury plumbing is not just for the rich and famous anymore, and with the internet taking over the world with how and what we buy, it is imperative we have more young professionals taking interest.
Millennials need to come in with their fresh, untainted ideas and grow with the industry. The “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is totally relevant in plumbing. It is hard for industry veterans to grasp the new technology that is coming around when they’ve been in the industry for 10 – 20 – 30-plus years. We need new attitudes and young minds to keep us current and relevant to the younger generations that are now buying our product.
How important do you feel it is to attract women into the industry?
It’s pretty simple. It is 2018. This isn’t a man’s world anymore and hasn’t been for a very long time. The mind state that plumbing is a man’s job is going by the wayside. This industry is comprised of so many avenues that women can excel in. What I do in the showroom seems like a “typical” job for women, designing and selling luxury plumbing. I love showing off my technical knowledge of the ins and outs of valves and the mechanics of how things work. It amazes me how many people still compliment me, as if I am an anomaly for knowing these things.
There is nothing more exciting than when I meet women who are engineers for manufacturers, or on the national sales level, or who own their own companies in the industry or executives with some of the biggest, most well-known names. We need to break the barrier and start thinking of this industry as a commonplace for women in all avenues and stop the thinking that we don’t belong here. We need to get the message out that the plumbing industry is so much more than someone under your sink turning wrenches. But for the record, if a woman wants to do that more power to her!!