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Kat ESCO 1.jpgMeet the Robinsons: Career Growth at Weir

by Kat Robinson  

12 December 2018

 

At Weir, and especially within the ESCO Division, we pride ourselves on being like a family. The ESCO Division has been a part of my family for 36 years, since my dad, Allen Robinson, first began his career. Since then, I have also joined this family and have found a home at ESCO Division. Even though my dad retired at the end of 2017, his story continues to inspire me and my colleagues—not only to constantly seek new challenges and opportunities as he did, but also to be proud of the company where he worked for 35+ years. 

 

My dad went to work for ESCO in 1982 after earning his engineering degree. His first role with the company was in Houston, where he worked in sales then supply chain. He managed the people and equipment on the shop floor, including electrical and hydraulic maintenance. His division distributed stainless steel products—a niche market at the time. In 1988, they asked him to move to the Bay Area and he was excited to take the opportunity.

 

Kat ESCO 2.jpgHe spent a few years in California working as a plant engineer when he saw that the world around him was changing.

 

So in 1994, he decided to go back to school to get a degree in computer science, an emerging field of study at the time. ESCO generously paid for the degree program and helped him make the necessary adjustments to his schedule so he could go to school in the evening and work full-time during the day. Upon graduating, he realized that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to use his new degree at ESCO.

 

“I asked myself, do you give up almost 15 years with a company you really like and start over?” he said. “Because of how well ESCO treated me and the others I worked with, I chose to stay and not directly use my new degree at first.”

 

My dad showed ESCO how to use the new skills he had developed through the computer science degree, ultimately moving into a new role in 1996 that included managing the new business-to-business internet website.

 

“In all those areas, ESCO was growing and changing and they made room for me to bring in my new skills,” my dad said of the late 1990s. “By 2000, I was probably doing 80% technology or computer work, and only about 20% people or shop floor management.”

 

Recognizing his skill working with computers and technology, ESCO asked my dad to leave the steel distribution division to join ESCO’s corporate staff as one of our IT managers.

 

“It was a difficult decision. Was I prepared for that kind of job? I didn’t know if I had the experience to be successful, but again, in true ESCO fashion, they encouraged me, and everyone helped me adapt and become successful and, ultimately, I did,” he said.

 

As a child, I never thought I would end up as an environmental engineer. But because I have always enjoyed science and been STEM-minded, my dad suggested that I might want to start thinking about studying science in college.

 

Eventually, I found my way to an environmental engineering degree at Oregon State University and completed four years’ worth of summer and winter break internships at ESCO. I enjoyed getting to intern with the environmental group multiple times, building good working relationships and continuing work on projects from one summer to the next.

 

I really enjoyed my internships here, because I didn’t want to do research or work in a lab. I wanted to do more hands-on work with my degree and see the immediate impact of my contributions.

 

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When I was looking at jobs after graduation, I saw what a career at ESCO had done for my dad and for my family as a whole so I decided to apply for a full-time position. In 2013, I officially joined the Environmental, Health and Safety team, the same group I’d been working with as an  intern.

 

In June 2015, I shifted over to the safety team and a few months later, the site manager of the former main plant approached me and suggested I apply for an opening as the safety manager. To be honest, I was terrified to apply for that job, it was going to be a huge learning curve. But again, in true ESCO fashion, my site manager encouraged me to apply and mentored me through the process of learning a new role. He answered my questions, supported me and helped me find solutions to the new challenges I faced.

 

While taking the job in safety was a challenge, it resulted in a lot of professional growth for me— growth that I’m not sure I would have achieved if it hadn’t been for the site manager who made me believe I could be successful as our safety manager.

 

Similarly, my dad was challenged and supported throughout the shifts in his career by his many managers. From supporting his desire to get his master’s degree in computer science to encouraging him to modernize the computer systems at the steel distribution division to encouraging him to join the IT team in Portland, managers at ESCO have helped him progress throughout his career. “They encouraged and guided me to help me change and grow,” my dad said.

 

While all of our managers have had deep positive impacts on our careers, the familial culture at ESCO is what really made the difference for me. I truly enjoy the people I work with here. We look out for one another, we get along really well and we’re a great team. I appreciate that we take care of each other both professionally and personally. This is reflective of the company culture that encouraged my dad t o stay here for his entire career.

 

20181015_110902.jpg“Even from the very beginning, ESCO always felt like family to me,” said my dad when he talked about his early years with the company. “I think when you grow with a company like this, you truly value how much they trust and value their people. I like to think that Kat saw the same cultural values in ESCO as I did and, having had the opportunity to work with people who worked with her, I am proud of the way she has grown into a leadership role here. I think I’m the most proud of her ability to solve complex problems by organizing people and process. You put a mess in front of Kat and she’ll very quickly understand what to do about it and will be very willing to work with whoever is responsible and able to help. She is willing to talk with people and say, this is what I see, and this is what we need to do about it.”

Growing up around the company and learning about the culture here from my dad, I never thought I would end up here too, but I’m grateful that I did. Being able to work for the same company as my dad for a few years – even though we were in completely different departments and rarely saw each other at work – was valuable in so many ways. Ultimately, I am grateful for the opportunities ESCO has afforded me and my family for the same reasons my dad was grateful: the way they treat people.

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“In a job, you’ll always have good days and bad days,” said my dad. “But here, people are encouraged, respected and valued. When you start with a company in 1982 and stay with them until 2017, there has to be something about them that makes you want to stay for the entirety of your 35-year career. For me, there certainly was.”