Meet The Team: Angie Alvarado

It was Angie Alvarado’s experience in the lighting industry that caught SDLA’s eye, but it’s her passion for retrofit lighting that makes the two a perfect fit. Angie not only leads our Energy Sales department, but she is also a lead singer for a band called Eva’s Lyric. Angie loves kicking old lighting to the curb, just like her eight-year-old son loves kicking butt in karate. Eco-conscious lighting solutions and family are what fuels Angie’s mission, and her expertise fuels ours!

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

AA: My story in lighting began 30 years ago after I served time in the Navy. My brother-in-law owned an electrical contracting firm in Los Angeles and brought me onto his team. Since then, I’ve done everything in lighting, from electrical contracting, electrical distribution, lighting manufacturing to owning my own agency. Innovative Lighting Solutions, Inc., was the brainchild of my passion for lighting and giving back to mother earth. I quickly became recognized as a lighting solutions provider for the lighting retrofit industry as I brought energy reduction solutions to the San Diego marketplace while trying to pioneer innovative technologies that have been successfully vetted and used in Europe & Asia for over 30 years, and in the USA for the last 10 years.

Q: What attracted you to SDLA?

AA: Once I started my own agency, I never imagined working for a big rep. My passion is fueled by energy reduction and that was an avenue large agencies just weren’t exploring at the time. In recent years, CA code has changed making energy-efficient lighting a requirement, and that’s where I come in. When Danny approached me about the opportunity to join SDLA to expand their retrofit business, I saw a great opportunity to have a big rep like SDLA support my mission by making it a priority and providing me with the training & support necessary in order to focus on the energy reduction Retrofit Market. I was taken aback at first, but then I realized the platform I’d have if we joined forces would be hard to ignore in the marketplace.

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

AA: Everything is immediate in my line of the business. Once I explain to clients the thousands of dollars they can save by upgrading their lighting & controls, they want immediate action. My day is always filled with job walks, on-site audits and then providing the client with a quick turnkey solution. Whether I’m meeting with clients or taking utility courses or working with the lighting & controls teams, my day is at full capacity. The beauty of my role at SDLA is that I still get to work with some of my old clients- people I met along the way over the last 30 years. For example, one of my first clients was the Pechanga Casino. I upgraded their parking garage lighting 7 years ago, and sure enough, they happen to be one of my first big projects I’ll be working on here as an SDLA agent. 

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

AA: My TEAM. Although most of my coworkers are younger than me, they are incredibly intelligent, competent people that are passionate about what they do but more importantly, they have an unending desire in getting educated on what they don’t know. This is a GREAT quality to have. They ALL truly care about what they do and are very responsive. At SDLA, there is no deadweight, everyone pulls their own and we have each other’s back.

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

AA: The work ethic & team mentality. It starts at the top. All of the principals genuinely care about their employees and that resonates with everyone’s work ethic and dedication to their job. The principal’s offices are always open to their employees and questions are always welcomed. Even when there is a mistake, the principals use that as an opportunity for all of us to learn from, they instill an idea that we are all in this together. They are the core of the company and as a result, have built a phenomenal team that is the heartbeat of this organization. I’m happy with my decision and have no regrets, however, I am still waiting on my SDLA jacket!

Meet The Team: Athena Ramirez

Sunny San Diego native, Athena Ramirez thinks her hometown is magical. It may have something to do with her annual pass to Disneyland or the perfect weather year-round. When she’s not seeking thrill on the latest Disneyland ride, she’s hanging with her friends and family. Athena is the newest member of our quotations team and she’s an all-around team player! In fact, right when she started she was deemed the nicest girl in the office after covering Greg on the lotto pool. While we didn’t win the 654 Million, we sure won when Athena accepted the position at SDLA!

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

AR: When one door closes another one opens. I was laid off from an alarm company and looking for new opportunities. My old co-worker had experience in the lighting industry, so that’s where she went looking when we left the alarm company. Once she was established, she was able to help me get a job at Crescent as a quotes coordinator. It was my first position in lighting and every day I was learning something new. I’m really thankful that’s where I ended up because I was able to get insight into so many different components of the lighting industry. And of course, because that opportunity led me here.

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

 AR: Quotes is fast moving, so when I come in the morning I know I have to be ready to work and make quick decisions for clients. I start the day by gathering all the jobs I have been assigned and double check that I have everything covered for each project. Whenever I have questions or challenging specifications to meet, my go-to guys are Crockett and Dan; I can rely on them for their help. Everyone here has been extremely helpful and supportive. There is nothing better than quoting a project from start to finish while learning something new in the process.

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

AR: The first week I was here I landed a job. Granted, it was a small job, but Danny went out of his way to come out of his office and acknowledge that it was the first job I landed for the company. He had everyone give me a round of applause and that was really rewarding to feel, so early on, that I was helping contribute to the team. SDLA took a chance on me and I’m excited to be a part of their success.

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

AR: In my first month here, the time flew by. Everyone was so helpful in getting me trained and up to speed. It didn’t take long for me to see that this company is like one giant family. The way everyone treats one another shows that the principals value a family-oriented place.

Meet The Team: Stephanie Zamora

Life can be a lot like a complicated puzzle, trying to make all the pieces fit together. For Stephanie Zamora joining the SDLA team was just another piece to the puzzle, and we’re glad she’s such a great fit. Organization is a part of Stephanie’s DNA so she loves making sure the office is in tip-top shape. When she’s not greeting guests or helping with events, Stephanie is her son’s number one fan on the baseball field, and she enjoys sharing her love for Mexico and road trips with him. Working at SDLA for Stephanie is like visiting a whole new world. There is so much to learn and she’s excited to explore the industry. While Stephanie hits the books on lighting, are you ready to study up on our newest administrative assistant?

Q: What attracted you to SDLA?

SZ: When I heard about the opening within SDLA, a friend of mine who works for CED- a local electrical distributor- spoke very highly of the company and encouraged me to apply. He knew I was looking for a new start with growth opportunity, which made me excited to interview for the position. What really sold me on SDLA was how comfortable and natural the interview process was with Kristin. I felt welcomed and that I could talk to her openly about my experiences which echoed with the rest of the company.

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

SZ: Within the day-to-day operations, there are a lot of moving parts. This position really speaks to the strengths of my personality because I’m naturally very organized and I enjoy being orderly and detail-oriented, which comes in handy when opening the office each day and ensuring events go off without a hitch! Throughout the week I help coordinate product trainings and sales meetings, order and stock all supplies and sample materials, keep the warehouse organized, complete submittal packages, as well as manage incoming and outgoing shipments.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job and what has been the most rewarding thus far?

SZ: My favorite part about my job is how there is so much to still learn, and now when I am out walking around, the first thing I notice is the light fixtures- something I wouldn’t have noticed before being in this industry. What has been rewarding for me so far is how grateful everyone is. If I set up a lunch and learn for a visiting manufacturer, they are sure to give their thanks for having everything handled for them. The sales team appreciates anything I can do to help them and how quickly I try to work. I also work closely with the quotes team in order to send off submittal requests to our distributors; it’s rewarding to help them wherever I can.

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

SZ: I’ve experienced a wide variety of jobs, looking for one that would be the right fit. SDLA has been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, and the culture here contributes a lot to that reasoning. From day one, I’ve felt very welcomed and a part of the team. Everyone knows when to rally around a problem and when to celebrate someone’s accomplishment which creates a unique workplace. Since I’m so new to the lighting industry, I feel fortunate to have coworkers that are helpful and willing to teach at any moment; there is so much to learn, and I have great leaders helping me along the way.

Meet the Team: Jason Sprenger

At SDLA when we meet a great candidate, we don’t hesitate to make them an offer to join our team, even if we don’t know exactly what their title will be! When Jason Sprenger joined the team, we knew he’d be a great addition, but we didn’t quite know where to put him because his 23 years of industry experience qualified him for multiple positions here at SDLA. After spending about a week in quotes we decided to turn him over to the layouts team! When Jason is not working with the layouts team he likes to keep things low key. Born in Ohio but raised in Orange County, Jason loves the beach. On the weekends you can find him hanging with friends or taking his best pal to the dog park. Ready to kick back for our next meet the team?

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

JS: I’ve always been intrigued by lighting and ever since I was a little kid I was fascinated with the industry. I got my start in the industry when I was pretty young, working in the lighting department at Home Depot then I went on to be a sales representative for Light Bulbs Unlimited. I was working for a distributor that SDLA was representing when I inquired about the job. I met with Kristin and Danny and was excited to accept an offer shortly after the interview. While I’ve been in the industry for 23 years now, this place has a been a breath of fresh air.

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

 JS: The lighting industry and lighting technology are always changing and innovating, so our job never stays the same. We always have new software to utilize or new solutions to offer clients. My day starts with a quote and the chance to create a layout for a project. Each project is different, so I could turn a layout around in a couple of hours or I could be working on the project for three weeks. Our team has an ASAP mindset so whenever we receive a project, we put our heads down and get started.

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

JS: When I first started I got to work on a really rewarding project, right out of the gate. The San Diego Community College project was detailed and complicated. It was exciting to be utilizing new software that I wasn’t familiar with to lay out everything from the classrooms to garage lighting. When a college goes under a complete campus remodel it requires a lot of brain power and teamwork. It was very rewarding for our team to look back at the completed project because we all worked closely together to deliver the best solution for the job.

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

 JS: What initially attracted me to SDLA was their reputation in the industry. The company culture is known to be unique and I’ve been lucky to experience the welcoming nature of this team. From day one everyone has been friendly and helpful. We are lucky to be led by principals who value learning opportunities and who never turn their back on the chance to help out their employees. I’ve worked for a lot of companies where they had this “sink or swim” mentality, SDLA could not be more opposite of that. The principals’ act as team fix it, they know there is always a solution and they won’t rest until they help you find it.

Meet The Team: Will Laws

Submarine Veteran, newlywed, and now SDLA controls technician, Will Laws has a whirlwind story to tell! After growing up in the desert of San Diego and doing “desert things” like off-roading and motorcycling, Will is a hometown boy who loves everything San Diego has to offer. After getting married, Will landed a job with Acuity Brands, traveling throughout the West Coast, the airlines being his commute. For SDLA, Will has limited his region back to his hometown, traveling to different job sites, are you ready to meet the man behind the wheel?

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

WL: I also came from the mothership, Acuity Brands. I had a background in network security management and started working with Acuity in October. I got my foot in the door because their manager was a former Navy Submariner like myself. I was working in region one, flying up and down the coast and I was on a project for Acuity when I met Danny. After receiving a great impression of SDLA from that project, I was excited to join the team when they offered me a job back in March 2018.

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

 WL: The job involves a lot of hands-on troubleshooting and that’s my favorite part. When walking through a site you have to go through the process and trust it. I work most closely with the electrical contractors and Foreman on the job so there is a lot of important relationship building in my day-to-day. Whenever I’m on the site I’m positive, productive and helpful. If there is an opportunity to train the foreman/lineman or share my insight, I jump at the opportunity because it keeps SDLA in their mind for future projects.

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

WL: I had the chance to work on the Kaiser Permanente project when they were having trouble with their backnet and LCD system. I was able to go in and solve the problem and leave that day with the system working to its full potential. Another rewarding project was with Zara, the clothing store. Their store lights had failed, and they had to close up shop, which meant that they were losing money as each minute passed. I came in late on a Friday and had the lights back up soon after. Their team was very appreciative. It’s always a great feeling to be the guy with the answers or solution, providing clients with the best product never gets old.

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

 WL: SDLA may have the appearance of a stale corporate environment, with the cubicles and white walls but the people really add a ton of color to this company. The environment is very relaxed and welcoming and there is a ton of comradery. We have three principals, Kristin, Brian and Danny, who have an open door policy. I’ve never been timid to walk into one of their offices and ask a question or seek help. There is so much knowledge at SDLA and it’s always flowing.

Meet the Team: Alyssa Molby

Alyssa Molby is settling into her new role as project manager and embracing her problem-solving side… just call her Miss Fix-It! Alyssa was born and raised in San Diego but has friends and family all over the world that she loves to visit! After moving to Alaska for college, and needing a whole new wardrobe, Alyssa fell in love with the state that’s the extreme opposite of San Diego. However, Alyssa moved back to the sunny state to finish school and join her sister at SDLA. Alyssa loves to rock climb at Vertical Hold in San Diego and she’s looking forward to climbing the ladder in the lighting industry as well as she kicks off her career at SDLA. Ready to meet the friendliest face at SDLA?

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

AM: My sister, Amanda Ivko, raved about the company and encouraged me to apply when they were looking for her replacement. While I’m just a small wheel in the massive machine of SDLA, I love knowing that my contribution makes a difference and helps to keep things running smooth. It’s exciting to continue to find my place and create goals for myself with the company because it is just the beginning for me.

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

AM: There’s a lot of problem-solving and delivering accuracy to clients in the role of project manager. I start my day by fielding orders and needs from our distributors and turning around orders as quickly as possible. When things aren’t delivered, or something goes wrong on the job site, the distributor will reach out to me to fix it, so I like to be quick on my feet with solutions. Internally, I work closely with the other project managers and the quick quotes team whenever I have questions or need something for a client.

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

AM: Lighting is like a different language and there is a ton to learn, so I’ve really enjoyed just navigating the basics. When I first started, it was a bit overwhelming but now things are beginning to click. It’s fun to be out and about and notice a fixture or lighting system that we put in place. I’m really excited to see the results of my first big project, the Marriott in Coronado. This project was challenging but a great way to start my new position – it’s given me the opportunity to learn so much!

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

AM: I love that everyone has their person. Everyone here has their office best friend or real-life best friend working beside them every day and that creates a really unique environment. It’s fun to come to work when you get to collaborate with a team that cares about each other.

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!