Volume 8, Issue 2        March/April 2006


T r a i n e r ' s  C o r n e r                
on-the-job tips

800/246-4405 ext. 23

Full Circle

by Dale Malcolm

Trainers may train and mentor many employees in their careers, but many times they don’t get to see the results of their teaching as the trainees move out of the classroom and into the world. I would like to tell the compelling story of one trainee I had.

In the late spring of 1986, I was running a shop for Portland Glass, a large New England full-service company. We had a customer that manufactured the shuttle trolleys that you see in resort areas. I decided to hire a high school student to come in afternoons and do some of the repetitive prep work involved in servicing that account. My customer service assistant suggested I talk to a girl she knew who was taking some industrial arts classes in school. I told her to set it up. When Mary Morissette came in for an interview a couple of days later, I was impressed with how serious and quiet she was. I hired her to work several hours a day until school let out for the summer. In June, Mary graduated and became a full-time employee. She got used to the shop environment and became a little less quiet. Mary had good hand skills and showed a solid interest in learning the glass business. Soon she became one of the lead glaziers servicing the trolley account. She also started learning auto glass, residential replacement, and even some commercial glazing. 

Time passed and Mary naturally took to auto glass work. Her hard work was impeded only by the occasional eruption of her developing temper. I personally witnessed her “flight-test” more than one of her tools. In 1992, Mary took the NGA senior auto glass technician test and became the first woman certified in the program. 

In 2000, Mary thought it was time to try something different and she left the glass business to take a job in the public sector. Late in 2001, however, she decided she missed the glass business and applied for a job at Champion Glass a family owned, seven-shop, full-service glass company in Sanford, Maine. She was hired by Dave Belaire, the operations manager. “I first became aware of Mary several years before she came to Champion,” he explained. “When driving by her previous employer, I saw this 5-foot 2-inch young lady carrying a DW1226 with one hand in the parking lot and was impressed. I was with an installer who had worked with Mary and he told me about her experience. Anyone who works with her quickly comes to respect her ability.” 

Dave told me a customer story about Mary. “An already difficult customer expressed concern when she found out a woman was going to do her work. Shortly after arriving at the job, Mary quickly won her over and she is now a regular customer who will only let Mary do her work.”

Here, told in Mary’s own words was the next challenge she faced. “In November 2002, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer that affects your lymph nodes. They assured me I had a job when I got better and just to take the time I needed to get well. I was out of work until October of 2003. It was a very difficult time, but the support I got from family and friends helped me through it. I had six months of chemotherapy and four and a half weeks of radiation treatments. It was definitely the toughest thing I have ever done. My strength slowly came back over time and in January 2004 my cancer went into remission.” 

“I had a great mentor.
 He was patient and had a lot
 of knowledge that he liked to share, 
although at 18 it wasn’t all that important to me.
 Now I understand how much his training has impacted my life.
 Almost 20 years later I’m in a profession that gives me the chance to be a true craftsman.”

I asked Dave Belaire about that time and he told me that Champion Glass had lost an employee to cancer ten years previously. He said there was no question about giving Mary the time and support to get well. “It was a difficult time for the company while Mary was out on medical leave, as it would be for anyone who had to do without their best auto glass technician. It was a great relief for many reasons when she returned,” he said. 

When I asked Mary about her temper, she said that surviving the cancer put many things in perspective and it has changed her for the better. She said she now has more patience with the little things that used to aggravate her. Mary currently is working as the company safety and technical trainer in addition to her duties as the Sanford store manager. Mary currently lives in Sanford with her partner of 17 years, Deb Bernier, and their daughter Avery Leigh. 

I am proud to have had a small hand in her journey from trainee to trainer and I am very proud of her. Perhaps Dave Belaire said it all, “She is the best!”

Dale Malcolm is technical services supervisor with Dow Automotive/Essex ARG in Dayton, Ohio.

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