Quotations Specialist; Dakota Supply Group (DSG)
By Joe Nowlan
Chad Baumgartner graduated from the North Dakota State in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in hospitality and tourism management.
“But when I graduated there were not a lot of new hotels going up,” he said, referring to the struggling economy. “All I could get was part-time at the front desk at a hotel. I needed some full-time work.”
His father-in-law mentioned the electrical industry as a good landing spot.
“He works for a rep that dealt with the Dakota Supply Group [Fargo, N.D.]. He said give those guys a try. It would be full-time hours,” he explained. “So I started in the warehouse and pretty much worked my way up.”
While it was a different world from working in a hotel or casino, for example, Chad approached it with his eyes open–and saw that it could be challenging and rewarding work.
“I got to learn a lot,” he explained. “Working in the warehouse helped me with learning products, part numbers and helped me get a base knowledge of the industry.”
The economy in the hospitality industries improved after a few years, Chad explained, “but by that time I was already enjoying what I was doing at Dakota Supply.”
From the warehouse he went to the city desk for three years. And for the last four years he has been working at DSG's lighting quotations department.
“Going into it, I knew some stuff about lighting from just working at the desk,” he said. “I got trained for about three months and then I started quoting projects. As I got into the position, I got more and more interested in the lighting and that's the way I went.”
Like virtually everyone working in the lighting end of the industry, the constant change and innovation is something he finds stimulating.
“There's something new with LEDs coming out pretty much every week—from different trends to improving on the old LED fixtures that may have only come out two years before,” Chad explained. “Better luminance with fewer watts. It is changing weekly.”
Business in the Fargo area has been very strong.
“We have big industries within Fargo. We have a plant that manufactures farm equipment. We have a huge agriculture industry in our area, and commercial business as well,” Chad said. “We also have a new hospital going up that will be opening up next summer. Just a lot of industries in Fargo that are growing.
Chad was born in Duluth, Minn. He now lives in Fargo with his wife, Lindsey.
Getting outdoors when the North Dakota winters let up is a favorite pastime.
“I do try to get out and fish. During the fall I try to go out and go deer hunting. In the summers I love to go fishing because on the Minnesota side we have plenty of lakes,” he said.
Then there is the DSG softball league.
“We have a softball team that is sponsored by Dakota Supply,” he said. “We have probably six or seven guys who play on that team that work here. It is fun, nothing serious. Just guys getting together.”
Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?
A. Get as much knowledge as you can. There is a lot of info out there and you can go in many different directions in the electrical industry. There was lighting for me but we have people in this office who do switchgear, which is basically panel boards and all the services that go into getting power to a building. You can do automation that has frequency drives and soft starts. So once you get started, get as much knowledge as you can. There is plenty of training programs and plenty of classes to take. There are the IMARK classes and the NAED classes. Plenty of stuff to do and there is so much knowledge out there that I would recommend. You always want to try to have that edge above your competition so you can offer one more service to the customer for them to come to you rather than to your competition.
Q. What you think is the biggest opportunity within the industry?
A. I think right now it actually is the lighting industry. It is always changing. There is always something new and people are attracted to it. You can do so many different things now with LEDs. Plus there is so much old technology still out there that needs to be retrofitted. There are certain states that offer a lot of rebates and I think it is pretty much wide open for the business to grow within the lighting area. I think I'm in a good spot here in order to grow and sell a lot of product.
Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Tagged with 30 under 35, Dakota Supply Group, lighting, tED