For someone like Darla Smith, a career can start to take shape as early as a middle school science fair. She may not have envisioned every step of the way back then, but in this blog post she explains how she built upon her early interests and ended up working at Cascade as a Client Services Manager.
What career did you envision for yourself as a child?
When I was in 7th grade, I entered the science fair and won first place and went to the state competition. There, I earned 2nd. That’s when I knew I wanted to study chemistry and microbiology, and I later pursued a degree in Medical Laboratory Technologies. I enjoyed working in the laboratory, conducting experiments and growing bacteria cultures in the microbiology lab. It was fascinating, and my dream was to eventually work in a forensics lab.
What got you interested in a career in drilling/environmental services?
I was drawn to this line of business after meeting with Cascade and hearing about their vision and mission. After working for an environmental laboratory for more than 25 years, I was looking for a new challenge that incorporated my passion for the environment.
How did you get the education and/or training you needed?
My background was already in science, but I received sales education and training by meeting with the operations team and visiting active sites to see how Cascade performed drilling and technical services on contracted projects. Thanks to previous sales experience, I knew and had a rapport with local clients.
How did you hear about Cascade, and why did you decide you wanted to work here?
Working in the environmental field, I was already acquainted with Cascade and knew several local associates. In 2016, a former manager from the laboratory contacted me. He was the Sales Manager at Cascade, and discussed the company’s vision and national growth. He said I would be a perfect fit as the Northwest Business Development Manager. I was looking for a career change, and working with him again was a perfect segue.
What were you doing professionally before you joined Cascade and/or this industry?
I relocated to Washington in 1995 and accepted a job as a project manager for a small analytical laboratory in Tacoma. As a PM, I also did quality assurance/quality control on USACE and Department of Defense data packages. I was later promoted to customer service manager and supervised the project managers and the sample receiving department. It was in this role I started doing business development, and I loved it! I left the lab in 2006 and began working for Waste Management as an account executive. In 2009, I returned to the lab, now known as TestAmerica Laboratories, as an account executive, which was 100% sales.
Since joining the company, have you had opportunities for mentorship, to further your training, or to earn certifications? If so, please explain what they were and if you’ve found them helpful.
I’ve had many opportunities to further my training and earn certifications while working at Cascade. I attend Cascade’s webinars, local workshops, regional conferences, seminars and symposiums. I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor others, specifically through Women in Environment.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My typical workday isn’t very typical. I generally travel 3-4 days a week, so I’m not often in the office. I cover a large territory that includes seven states, so I’m traveling out of town at least a few days every month, meeting with clients and providing them with information about our service capabilities. My face-to-face client meetings often include someone from the local operations team. Clients enjoy meeting with us and putting a face with a voice, as well as having the opportunity to discuss recent projects. On days I’m in the office, I follow up with clients, set new meetings, and work with our operations team to continue to push opportunities forward in our pipeline. I also coordinate and participate in local networking events and tradeshows to ensure Cascade is well represented.
What is it like to be a woman working in a male-dominated industry?
I was raised on a dairy farm and wasn’t treated differently due to my gender. I worked out in the field and, as a farmer’s daughter, didn’t receive any preferential treatment. I don’t find it difficult to work in a male-dominated industry, and I believe it’s because I’ve always worked in one.
What do friends or family say when you tell them about your career?
This question does make me chuckle. My friends and family have quizzed me on why I would move from a career with an environmental laboratory to work for a drilling firm. I explain that not only was I ready to make a change, but Cascade was a good fit to continue my passion selling for a firm that provides great customer service, world class safety culture and offers drilling and environmental remediation services.
What advice would you give other people who might be considering a career in drilling/environmental services?
I would convey that Cascade is a quality firm and we work with a fabulous team with a successful vision. Everyone I have met at Cascade has been very helpful, positive and focused on making us all succeed.
What would you tell women specifically?
As a woman, I would discuss my experiences working for Cascade and the fact that I’m treated as a professional. Cascade encourages women to apply at any level of the company. We also have a Diverse Workforce Initiative council, which demonstrates to me a culture dedicated to ensuring equality.
Are you interested in a career at Cascade? Check out our current openings for more information.
You can also see Darla in a new web series she hosts, called Drilling Down.