Meet the Robinsons: Career Growth at Weir
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.
He 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
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.”