As part of our efforts to help Keep Craft Alive, we are talking to skilled-workers across the U.S. and Canada about how they got started in the field.
Name: Danny Suster, CIMA Contractors LLC, a CertainTeed Gold Star Commercial Contractor
How did you get your start in this industry?
I came from a background in computer science. I graduated from UTA, the University of Texas at Arlington, and worked in the tech industry for about 11 years (doing disaster-recovery and other information technology projects) but after awhile, I wanted to move in a different direction.
I joined my brother Sam in 2007. He’d been in the industry since the mid 1990’s working for CertainTeed in sales and distribution. When my brother left CertainTeed he moved to learning the contractor side, from residential to commercial. Several years later we started our company.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
We specialize in storm damage restoration and I love helping customers restore their property back to pre-storm conditions. I help assess the damage and coordinate with insurance companies – it’s a way of really connecting all of the pieces of the puzzle.
What advice would you give those entering the profession?
Get an apprenticeship; either straight from the manufacturer or with an experienced roofer. Someone has to teach you. For example, when we’re hiring someone new we pair them with a veteran on the team. This way they have a place to turn with questions and can get up to speed quickly.
And once you have that knowledge, network. Networking is really important in this industry. That’s how we find people for open positions. Rarely do we post anything online, it’s all through word of mouth.
What’s the key to success in your industry?
One thing that has really helped us succeed is being bilingual. Having skilled workers who speak another language can cause barriers, but being able to communicate with them effectively is a major benefit. We are able to communicate and explain what and how we want something done.
Another thing that brings success is having people on our team who’ve mastered the art. Other companies seem to have lost the art, they’ve forgotten that, and now it’s harder to find those skills.
What can we do to get more students interested in a career in the trades?
The trades can be rewarding, but planting that seed of interest has to start not in college, really around high school or vocational school. Not everyone may want to be a roofer forever, but this type of position should be viewed as a stepping stone. As you learn the trade and you get better over time, you can move towards managing, consulting or owning your own business.
Thank you, Danny!
Are you employed in the trades? Help us combat the image problem and share your story. We know there are a lot of talented people in the trades and we think it’s about time everyone else did too.
Want to read more profiles? Here you go.
For more information on how we support those in the trades and what you can do to help, check out our Keep Craft Alive initiatives.