Meet The Team: Chris Ramirez

Chris Ramirez For Chris Ramirez joining the lighting industry may have been an accident but there is no mistake about this controls specialist. Chris joined the SDLA team in December 2017, but it didn’t take him long to fit right in with the controls department. Chris has two kids and loves being at home with the family and he recently started training in Jujutsu (he’s actually competed at the IBJJF Worlds Championship!). However, Chris would like to set the record straight! Despite what his boss Cliff is telling everyone, Chris doesn’t only invite people he’s mad at to train (or get beat up) at his gym. Are you ready to get in the ring with our newest controls specialist?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

CR: It was by accident. I had moved to Arizona to start working for a telecommunications company but when there wasn’t enough work for me as a lineman, I started working at a local lighting company. When I moved back to San Diego, I landed a job with Acuity Brands, where I worked for about two years and where I was commuting four hours per day. When the opportunity to finally get into controls design presented itself, I jumped at the chance to come work at SDLA. Luckily, I still get to work closely with Acuity and my old co-workers. When working with Acuity now, it’s a fast turnaround, I always know exactly who to go to and where to find things.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 CR: Everything begins at the bid board. We all check in for our assignments and then turn our concentration to delivering the bid on time. If it’s a large project or really complicated, everyone in the controls department will dig in and pick it apart, there is always a lot of team collaboration. After attacking the bid, we will start on the design and layout. We often are working hand in hand with the fixtures team to ensure that everything is compliant and up to Title 24 code.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CR: Being on the agency side has been a nice change and I’ve been loving the atmosphere I get to work in. Everyone calls our department “the nerds”, “the geek squad” or “big bang theory” because we are the go-to guys, (Cliff, Brendan, JP) whenever anyone has difficult questions. I love the daily challenges this job presents to every department and our ability to solve them as a team. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to so many different places and locations through this industry. I’ve been to over 40 states!

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 CR: The best thing, in my opinion, is the freedom. We have the freedom to get projects done and be confident in our work. Performance is the ultimate priority but we all know we are trusted and treated like adults and I love and appreciate that.

Meet The Team: Debbie Lensky

Debbie LenskyDon’t you just love when things fall into place and they somehow become a perfect fit? That was the case for Debbie Lensky who says her first job in the industry just fell on to her lap. Now an experienced veteran in the industry, Debbie is falling and fitting perfectly into her new role at SDLA. Debbie has worn many different hats in the lighting industry but the same can be said for her life outside of the office as well. Debbie loves being a mom and now a grandmother. She loves to show her granddaughter all around San Diego with some of their favorite adventures including the beach and park. Who’s excited to meet SDLA’s newest project manager?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

DL: I guess you could say I just fell into it. I got my first job in the industry through family and now have done just about everything you can do in a lighting agency. The bulk of my career took place in Las Vegas where I spent a long time in quotations. Since coming to SDLA, it’s been a refreshing transition into project management. Just as I initially fell into the industry, I feel like everything is falling into place in this new position, the agency side just fits right for me.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

DL: Go, go, go. This position is an all-day affair, we are always on the go, busy trying to meet the customer’s needs. My position is very client facing and I spend a great deal of time working closely with distributors and customers. Internally, I work with Kristin a lot as well. Over the past couple of months, it’s been a fun journey getting to meet the customers and learning about their needs and pain points.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

DL: I’ve really been enjoying the customer service aspect of project management. It’s all about providing the client with the best possible solutions with the best possible service. I was in quotations for the majority of my career so working with the clients this way has been a fresh, exciting challenge. I also appreciate how organized my co-workers are and how our communication is so effective, makes life a lot easier.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

DL: I love the fast pace environment, we are always busy, but we also know how to make the day to day fun. The people here really make this company unique, the communication is great from top to bottom and everyone is welcoming and supportive. My first impression was that everyone had each other’s back and that has proven to be the case.

Meet the Team: Rod Equihua

How much do you know about our quiet, inside specification sales applications specialist, Rod Equihua? This dad of three loves being a family man and spending time at home with his crew when he’s not working up lighting layouts for clients! Rod loves playing soccer and whipping up anything you can find in the sea, like a California sushi roll or his specialty “Ceviche”. Ready to get the inside scoop on one of our favorite industry veterans?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

RE: I studied architectural lighting and then worked in the electrical lighting industry for 27 years before coming to SDLA a year ago. I have plenty of experience in the field, like electrical power and lighting design, but this is my first time working for an agency. I’ve really enjoyed the switch and love that I always have something to do, the team here keeps me busy!

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 RE: The specification and distributor/contractor teams work with the client and then they come to me to create the layout. I bring the concept to design and then to execution by creating a layout of the project. Some projects require 3D modeling/rendering calculations, which will give the client a complete look into the luminaire characteristics, room specification and fixture type/placement. I work a lot with the electrical contractors and inside specifications team to communicate and deliver the best service to the client.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

RE: I love the daily challenges my job brings, each project is new and different, so each day I’m met with a new exciting challenge to conquer. There is never a dull day in this position, I always have something to do! I really enjoy working on detail and large projects, because a lot of time and energy goes into creating the model/rendering. Once the project is complete, it’s really rewarding to go back and look at all the work that went into making the large project successful. It’s always a great day when a client comes back after reviewing my layout and says “Yes! I love it and want to proceed with these fixtures!”.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

RE: I’ve worked at many places over the years and this is by far the best place I’ve ever worked. A lot of us say we are one big family, I agree, but I’d also compare us to a thrilling soap opera. Many people know me around the office to be pretty quiet, but I can always be found giggling at something one of my co-workers says or a story they’ve told.  I’ve only been here for a short time and everyone has made me feel so welcome. The nickname master Crock-Dog hasn’t given me an official nickname but people like to tease me about being quiet. Before leaving for the day they might say “Woah, Rod stop talking so much Bro or you are too loud”.

 

Meet The Team: Laura Ramirez

Specifications sales team member, Laura Ramirez, loves traveling the country with clients and coworkers, but San Diego has always been home for this California native. If you’re looking for an adventure around the area she’s your go-to girl. Laura loves cross country mountain biking, trail running and camping. When she’s not tackling an adventure or client design challenge, she loves spending time outdoors with her four kids, (ages 2-9). Though you may have heard about the famous straw story from the Eureka trip in Montreal, there is a lot more to this team member’s story. Are you ready for the next SDLA page-turner?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

LR: I had just graduated college with a degree in interior design and was looking to work with architectural or interior design firms. Unfortunately, I started looking just before the economy crashed so of course, no one was hiring. I had to branch out and get creative in my search and I found an engineering firm with a position open. They were looking for designers who could help them select lighting for their jobs. As Danny would call it “I like the pretty sh%$.” I discovered in that first position that lighting was the one thing on the engineering side I enjoyed, and I’ve just kept going down that rabbit hole ever since.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 LR: My day in the office is different every day, every week. I’m a part of the specification sales team and my clients are made up of architects, interior designers, lighting designers and electrical engineers. With that wide range of clients, I can find myself hosting booths at tradeshows, running design meetings, or taking customers to lighting shows all in the same week. It keeps the job fresh and I love being out of the office, traveling with coworkers and clients. I work closely with other members of the spec team, like Maronee and Brian. And most recently, I’ve been working with our newly expanded quick quotes team a lot by helping facilitate orders for smaller scale projects and establishing budgetary pricing.

Q: Do you have a favorite/most rewarding project that you have worked on?

LR: I’m really excited to see the completed KSS Restaurant project. That project includes a lot of custom light fixtures that I believe will set this place apart, so I think we are all excited to see our hard work in action once the project is finished! Additionally, it was really rewarding to have our lighting package become a building standard at Terragen.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 LR: I’ve been here for just under 2 years, and by far the best thing about SDLA is how strong our culture is. It’s incredibly special to have a unique culture, and there is nothing better than to be part of this team!

Meet The Team: Shareef Stratton

This summer when Shareef Stratton wasn’t eating burritos with his coworkers, he was eating his way through Italy with his new wife on their honeymoon! It’s been an exciting summer for the newlywed who has been helping launch our new Quick Quotes department along with relaunching our softball team to the top of the leaderboards! Shareef loves living in San Diego where he takes full advantage of the beach and, on the weekends, is constantly on the go. He and his wife Michelle love to hike, camp and travel every chance they get. Did you get all that? Let’s dive into this month’s meet the team with our all-star distributor salesman, Shareef!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

SS: Seven years ago, I was in my hometown, Ventura, working in law enforcement, where I quickly learned that that career path was not for me. A friend living in San Diego offered me a position in sales at CED Carlsbad – a local electrical distributor- and my first thought was, “Who wouldn’t want to move to San Diego?” So I accepted the position and made the switch where the beginning of my lighting career began. Having a background in distribution has helped me a lot in my current role, especially since SDLA works closely with CED Carlsbad. Prior to my transition from an electrical distributor to a manufacturer agent, I was lucky to have insight into how the company operated and I was able to get to know the some of the team members before accepting the position here. Since I’ve joined the team, the last year and a half has been really incredible for me. And as an added bonus- with the growth of the company- I’m no longer the new guy!

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

SS: Each day I’m presented with a new opportunity in this role. Either out in the field finding the best solution for our clients, or in the office, problem-solving with the SDLA team. As a Distributor Salesman, it’s my responsibility to help our distributor customers stock and sell the right products for their contractors. It’s exciting to negotiate and work with our distributors on stocking agreements and design-build opportunities.

Q: Do you have a favorite/most rewarding project you’ve worked on? 

SS: The last few months, I’ve been helping launch our new quick quotes department and that’s been extremely rewarding. Creating a new department has challenged us all creatively, and it’s been exciting to see how effective and helpful the team has already been to our clients. Jessica and Chelsea, our quick quotes specialists, has improved my side of the business tremendously by reducing the time it takes to provide pricing and placing small orders for my customers. As I said, the addition of this department has significantly improved the way we are operating and we’re all eager to see where we can take the Quick Quotes Department.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

SS: The environment Danny, Brian and Kristin created here encourages creativity, togetherness and teamwork. We all are working toward a similar goal while also independently being pushed to be better. It’s inspiring working with a team that is driven and is passionate about challenging one another in order to find the best solution. One thing I think that is extremely underrated in the corporate world is amazing coworkers. I can honestly say that this team is more like a family to me, and that makes coming into work each day that much better.

 

 

Meet The Team: Amanda Ivko

Amanda Ivko, or Got-to-Go Ivko, use to be known as the nicest girl in the office. After revealing her Uber score though (tied for last in the office), everything changed. In this month’s meet the team Amanda is ready to redeem herself! Amanda loves being apart of the specification sales team and when she’s not in the office you can find her on the soccer field or in the kitchen whipping up some treats. Next time you have a sweet tooth, Amanda is your go-to girl, she loves being creative with her baking and decorating everything from cakes to cookies. Can you say yum?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

AI: It all happened by chance. Prior to coming to SDLA, I worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years, 6 of those years as a sushi chef! I loved being able to connect with the customers and creating delicious food for them; however, I ultimately ended up leaving because I was missing out on special and important moments with my friends and family. Soon after I left my previous job, my friend Jessica, who also works here, was being promoted and looking for her replacement. After hyping up the company, I decided to come work for SDLA and will have been with the company almost 2 years come December.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

 AI: My day-to-day consists of scheduling manufacturer visits, planning upcoming events, helping my associates with whatever they need while they are out of the office, visiting customers and updating them on the latest products, taking samples to customers, creating posts to our social media accounts, etc. It’s a great mix that keeps me busy and on my toes!

 Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

AI: I love planning the events that our office puts on! Everything from the Bi-Annual product shows, our Designer Luncheons or Happy Hours, I love having a role in making the events the best they can be for our clients and customers. Seeing everything come together is really rewarding, and it’s great to see customers enjoy themselves. Plus we always host our events at unique and fun places around San Diego and I love being able to check out the hottest restaurants or venues in the area. One of my favorite projects to be apart of was our agency product show at 57 degrees. It was completely different than our normal shows, so it was an exciting process to be a part of and so great to see how well it was received by our clients.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

AI: I’ve recently transitioned into the new role of specification sales and the culture of support here has made this process so much easier. I love that my co-workers are always so willing to help each other out and take on new challenges. The atmosphere is fun but everyone knows how to work hard as well. Work hard, play hard.

Meet The Team: JP Castro

JP Castro is quick on and off the field, he has to be as a father of four and controls specialist at SDLA! JP is a hometown guy, who is a lifelong Padres fan and baseball enthusiast. JP loves being able to share his love for baseball with his four sons and coach their teams! When he’s not being a team player in the office with the controls department, he’s teaching his sons how to be team players on and off the field. Ready for this month’s meet the team? Coach Castro is throwing us a fast one!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

JC: I was working for Acuity Brands in Ontario, who is a manufacturer for SDLA. I was looking to cut down on my four-hour commute and got in touch with Danny. They brought me on board a little over a year ago to bring in more tech support for the lighting controls department. What’s really nice for me is that I still get to work closely with Acuity Brands and my old co-workers there but now I’m able to spend more time at home with my family.

Q: What’s your day to day like in the office?

JC: Every morning we try to knock out all our bids so I start off my day by checking in with the board and the team to see what needs to be done. We will load the controls in the quotes, along with the designs and layouts and then send it over to the distributors so they can continue the process from there.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

JC: I really enjoy working with my co-workers to complete a project. Everyone on the team has a different set of expertise and experiences, so we are are all able to help each other to make the best results possible for the client. My co-workers are also very intuitive, they can sense when I may need help with something and step up to the job before I even need to ask. Aside from working with the other controls guys, I work with the fixtures/quotations department every day and their another team that is always willing to be supportive and hard working.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

JC: I love that when it’s time to be serious, everyone here can buckle down and work together to get a project done. But when we have the time to joke around and be silly, everyone can have a good time together too. It’s also awesome that I get to work with one of my greatest friends every day, Brendan. We are definitely office best friends so whenever people hear us bickering or disagreeing about something, they will come over and ask “uh, oh trouble in paradise?”

Meet The Team: Chris Bale

Chris Bale doesn’t mind being reminded that he’s the “old guy” in the office because he loves the chance to be a mentor in the industry. Chris is a born and raised San Diegoian, and when he’s not out in the field as a contractor/distributor sales lead, he’s taking life one wave at a time on his paddleboard. Chris also loves to spend time with his daughter, who is a freshman in college right here in San Diego. Are you ready for a far-out meet the team with one of San Diego’s favorite soul surfers?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

CB: Initially I didn’t think I’d end up following in my father’s footsteps but as fate had it, I was an electrical distributor for 30 years. I was born into that field and was lucky to find a job in that industry. Two years ago, I decided it was time for a change and SDLA was always my first choice to work with when I was on the electrical distributor side, so it made perfect sense to come work for them as a lighting contractor/distributor sales lead. I’ve known the owners for over 40 years and knowing they take customer service seriously, it was easy to take that leap of faith to leave the electrical industry for the lighting industry.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CB: I love having the opportunity to give back to the industry. I have no problem being known as the “old guy” in the office because I love mentoring some of the up-and-comers. Things are always changing in this field and I have the best of both worlds because I can help a new professional navigate the industry while also getting to hear their fresh perspective.

Q: What does a work day look like for you?

 CB: Customer service is at the core of my job, so my day is dictated by what the customer needs at that time. Some days I’m in the office preparing a quote or proposal for a client and then the next, I’m out in the field connecting with contractors and distributors. It’s such a great balance; I have the chance to immerse myself in the field with new experience but always have a place to call home here, back at the office. In the past as an electrical distributor, it was difficult to feel as part of the staff because I was always on the road, but in this position, I’ve always felt as a member of the team.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

CB: Everyone here gets along fantastically; we are all focused on servicing the customer, which centers us all on one common goal. I can definitely echo the idea that we are one big family. Coming to work is like going to a family get-together, your weird Uncle Gary is here, and we definitely have dysfunctional fun.

Meet the Team: Brendan Kelliher

When Brendan Kelliher joined the team two years he became SDLA’s lucky charm.  Born and raised in Ireland, Kelliher moved to the United States and is a great addition to the lighting controls department.  After standing up for a week straight at his standing desk, he officially became known as the office’s standup guy… of course, his teamwork skills played a role in the nickname too! Brendan is settling into his new home here in San Diego and loves the beach, but he does miss those rainy days in Ireland that we don’t find here too often. Let’s meet one of our beloved controls specialists!

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

BK: I went to school for civil engineering and worked in that field before moving to the United States. When I moved from Boston to San Diego I had the opportunity to talk with SDLA and I was really interested in what the company was doing. So, I initially didn’t think I’d end up in lighting, but this company had me excited enough that I decided to make the switch. I’ve now been a control specialist for two years and I can safely say I made an awesome choice when betting on SDLA.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

BK: I love checking in with the bid board for hot projects and seeing all the different rewards and challenges that each job will offer. I love that my day to day is always changing along with the projects we are working on; the job is never monotonous, and it really keeps things fresh and exciting. Also, I love being the point person for a lighting controls project when I’m able to own everything from the concept to the design to the execution.

Q: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on?

 BK: Right now, I’m really enjoying working on the SDG&E Mission Control project. The Fresco™ line from Acuity Brands is a really big component of this job because the line includes high-performance lighting controls that we are excited to use in our layouts. This project is very rewarding because a lot of thought and detail has gone into designing the layout so, after numerous rounds of revisions, it will be great to see the project completed, knowing the client got the best value.

Q: What do you like best about the culture at SDLA?

 BK: What first attracted me to SDLA was the support system given to each and every employee. I saw very early on, firsthand, that everyone is really helpful and supportive of one another and it’s something that I continue to love about the culture here. The environment in the office is great too, the atmosphere is the perfect hybrid between laid back and goal oriented. We work hard, play hard. I can also confirm that our team is like a big family and I’m really lucky to have great co-workers, like JP Castro. He’s the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote.

Meet The Team: Crockett Mercer

Not all those who wander are lost. This rings true for Crockett Mercer, born and raised in Austin, Texas and looking for a change, Crockett left his hometown to find new opportunities in another exciting city. Crockett always said it would take a special city for him to leave his comfort zone but when the chance to move to San Diego presented itself he knew he couldn’t pass it up. His co-workers wasted no time before coming up with nicknames that played on every variation of Crockett they could think of, with Crockdog being their favorite. Crockdog is a valued member of both the project quotations team and our beloved company softball team. Ready to meet the man from Texas and step into a day in the life of a project quotations specialist?

Q: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

CM: It’s crazy to think that I’ve been in the lighting industry now for 10 years, but it all started with me just looking for a stable nine to five job. My friend offered me a delivery driver job at FSG and by the time I left the company in 2014 I had climbed the ladder into project sales. When I was looking to leave Austin, I reached out to reps in cool cities around the country to inquire about any opportunities out there. It just so happened that SDLA was hiring around the time I was looking…the stars aligned and I haven’t looked back since.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?

CM: Project quotations is an extremely rewarding position here at SDLA. I love when requests come in without specifications for the light fixtures and I have the chance to build out the design as well as provide the client with an accurate quote. When my design builds are used I feel extremely rewarded, it really keeps me going.

Q: What do you like about the culture at SDLA?

 CM: The atmosphere of this company is unbeatable, I promise it’s not a cliché when we all say that this company is more comparable to one big family than a group of coworkers. Especially within my department, I find that I can lean on my coworkers for everything and vice versa, they can always count on me. Inside the office, we all work great together and laugh our way through the day and the same can be said for our relationships outside of the office as well. I’m on the company softball team, and I think I’m just there for another warm body, because I’m not that great, but I love that they welcome me with open arms to come out and have a good time.

 Q: What does your typical day look like?

CM: Every morning I come in and check our bid board, which helps us organize which team members are handling what and ensures the work is evenly distributed across our department. Every project brings its own unique challenges and opportunities to our team, and we approach everything with the same process but always provide a different solution. The process may stay the same, but every project is fresh and new, making the day to day fun and exciting.