Meet The Team: Greg Cresto

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with Greg Cresto, or as we call him here at SDLA, ‘Craig Fresco’.  Greg is one of our awesome programming and controls technicians. If you’re looking for someone with a keen understanding of technology and programming, Greg is your guy. When he isn’t mastering programs and controls in the San Diego area, you can find him in the outdoors or spending time with his niece and nephew. Let’s get to know more about Craig… ehem errr, I mean GREG!

 Q: How did you get started in the industry?

GC: Originally, I’m from California but I moved around quite a bit. I graduated with a degree in computer information systems, but it wasn’t until I was living in Texas when I had a family friend who knew I was looking for a change.  He connected me with Danny Cortez and we just hit it off from there. I moved back to California and have been working with SDLA for almost three years now.

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

 GC: Here, we work with a young, fun group, which makes coming to work really awesome.  I often get in trouble for being a little too much of a “social butterfly” or as Danny calls me a “time stealer” because whenever I come into the office I walk around and talk to everyone, usually not work-related.  We all get along well and do a lot together outside of work, like go to happy hours and play on a softball team. Like any family, we have our moments, but at the end of the day we are all really close, and that what helps us deliver impeccable service to our clients.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

 GC: The best part about my job is being able to go out to different sites and see the projects we do from start to finish. I get to meet with different contractors to go over the project, make sure they understand what’s required and then once everything is installed, I go back and program it. I recently received my CALCTP/ATT certification, so now I can both program and certify jobs for Title 24. The concept of watching everything come full-circle is incredibly rewarding!

 Q:  What’s your most memorable project? Alpine

 GC: Definitely the Alpine Library project. There was a lot of time that went into making sure we got this right.  Not only was it a county project but it was going to be the first Net Zero building in San Diego County. The other thing that made it unique was that we were integrating it with BACnet/ip, which is the latest in data communication protocols for building automation. It was refreshing to do some things a little different, but also challenging at the same time. Even though Danny and I made A LOT of trips to Alpine, it was all worth it and was a great learning experience that has helped us tremendously in many jobs since.

Meet The Team: Jeret Carr

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with Jeret Carr, our master of specifications controls. Raised in sunny San Diego, Jeret is the ultimate SD super-fan and an SDLA specifications control genius. When Jeret isn’t at home chasing after his two young children, he’s mastering control techniques in his favorite city he calls home. Ready to meet him?

Q: How did you end up at SDLA?

JC: Well, it’s kind of a funny story. Growing up, I actually wanted to be a pediatrician. But then I found myself in the lighting industry and it just kind of kicked off from there. Before working with SDLA, I worked for a contractor and it wasn’t until long after that when I was referred to SDLA by Jason Bash (as you probably know as businessman Jason, BMJ ). Three and a half years down the road and I’m literally bringing quality lighting controls solutions to the city I love.

 Q: What do you like best about your job?

JC: What I love most about being on the team is working with the design community to create compliant and efficient controls systems in San Diego. As you know, I am a San Diego enthusiast. I’ve lived and breathed this city for my entire life, so having the opportunity to work towards creating better environments is an incredibly rewarding aspect of the job. In addition, it gives me the freedom to think creatively with others who are passionate about design.

Q: What is unique about the culture at SDLA?

JC: What sets us apart from others is the unique leadership we have here. At SDLA, the support and training have been so strong from day one. Our leaders are deeply involved in our work and lives. It really makes it feel like a family here. Everyone is so encouraging, and we support each other’s ideas by taking everything and everyone into consideration.

Q:  What’s your most memorable project? Illumina I3 campus

JC: Without a doubt, my favorite project was the Illumina I3 campus. Here, the concept was so interesting as it was a three-building, three-story campus. I provided the photometric design layout per the Basis of Design(BOD), and also worked on the Title 24 compliant controls strategy based on the engineered plans. I enjoyed working with the engineer and electrical contractor to create a compliant lighting and controls design. But to me, the most exciting aspect of this project was my involvement from beginning to end. When you get to see an entire project come full-circle – that’s the real payoff.

Q: What trends do you see in the future?

JC: Coming up, we are seeing a unification of building controls to create smart buildings and Zero Energy Buildings(ZEB). This is going to change the way control systems interact and increase the functionality and efficiency of our buildings. Instead of separate systems, we will be bringing lighting, HVAC and building control systems into one cohesive, convenient platform.

Meet The Team: Maronee Rodenberger

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with our Maronee Rodenberger, the queen of specification sales at SDLA. She’s a real firecracker and one of the most passionate people you’ll ever meet. We like to call her Fired Up Fran on her “feisty” days. When she’s not at her son’s baseball games keeping score for the team, or playing on her co-ed softball league, Maronee is dishing out the best lighting specs out there. She’s even helped our specifications department grow significantly in just a few months – adding three new staff members to the team. Ready to talk shop with Maronee?

Q: What is your background? How did you get started in the industry?

MR: I have been in the industry for 10 years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with SDLA for the past 4 years. In 2008, I began working in distribution and SDLA was one of my suppliers. I was a lighting project manager who helped open my former company’s branch in San Diego. I always had the career goal of moving up to work as a manufacturer’s rep. The fit with SDLA was perfect. In 2013, I made the shift to working in specification sales for SDLA – and I love what I do.

Q: What do you like best about working at SDLA?

MR: One of the things I really pride myself on is when I came to SDLA, I took on a whole new role for myself. While it was in the same industry, it was also completely different. It was scary, I was nervous, and it was so different. But now that’s all changed, and it changed fast. I really feel that shift happened so quickly because of the environment I work in. I absolutely adore all of my coworkers. We are like a family. Kristin, Danny & now Brian too, are the best mentors. With their utmost support, I was able to learn a new role, a new position and inspired and encouraged to take on the job. Plus, I’ve learned from the industry’s best.

Q: What’s your most memorable project?

MR: Hand down, my very first project at SDLA. It was the Poway Library. The engineer gave me full control over the fixture selection, so I worked hard, got creative and when it came to life, it was so rewarding. One particular aspect of the project I was very passionate about was the children’s reading area. I was concerned about the look and feel of the lighting, as well as the practical functionality of the lighting for the reading space. We used some really fun shapes – and one of my favorite fixtures – the Arq from Barbican – to bring the space to life.

Q: Any trends you’re seeing in specification?

MR: With the demand of California energy code requirements, LEDs are the way everything is specified. This is really nice because we can also specify both fun and functional fixtures with LEDs. And, the controllability of the fixtures lets us create a really nice environment in the space.

Meet The Team: Brian Rhea

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with our newest team member – a veteran in the lighting biz, Brian Rhea. With nearly two decades of experience in the industry, Brian joins the SDLA family as one of the agency’s principals. His range of experience from specification lighting sales to new product development make him an invaluable asset to our team. Ready to get to know this SDLA newcomer?

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

BR: After growing up in Ohio, I decided that after college it was time to venture to warmer weather. I graduated from Miami University of Ohio and took a job at what is now Acuity Brands in Atlanta. I quickly found myself immersed in the lighting industry – and loving every minute of it. I was eventually transferred to California (still in lighting), and I have never looked back.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

BR: Being the point of contact for the design community is my favorite part. I love helping clients solve challenges. I pride myself on being resourceful and providing top-notch service in order to solve any and every challenge.  Equally as exciting is having the opportunity to lead a team of extremely talented specification professionals.  I am a coach and teacher at heart and am looking forward to mentoring them while also learning from them as well.  We are a perfect yin and yang team of 4 (and growing!)

Q: What brought you to SDLA?

 BR: Both the people and the opportunity. Danny Cortez and I had worked together in the past, and our work really complimented each other. When we conducted joint presentations, we just fed off each other’s energy.  I also have been working with Kristin Miller since 2006, and really respect the ambition and inspiration these two possess – could not ask for better business partners! Moreover, this agency is cutting edge! They are well established in the market and are experts in the traditional business, but also have the foresight into the future. SDLA has been recognized in the market as a leader in technological expertise.  From general illumination recessed lighting, to IoT and BMS unification solutions, and everything in between, our goal is to utilize all of the tools and knowledge we collectively possess and share it with our entire client base to ensure their design meets the clients’ goals – no matter how simple or complex!  So when the opportunity arose to join SDLA, I knew this was not an opportunity I could pass up.

Q: What is unique about SDLA?

 BR: SDLA is reinvigorated organization and despite the incredible success this agency has experienced, we are never satisfied with status quo. It’s a close-knit, family-oriented workplace composed of driven employees who all want to succeed and most importantly genuinely care about the total satisfaction of our customers. That same drive has led to tremendous growth in the past year… we doubled in size and are truly the premier lighting agency in San Diego. We all have our own areas of expertise, which as a whole makes us the perfect one-stop shop for all our customer’s needs.

Meet The Team: Jason Bash

This month’s Meet the Team Q&A is with our third longest tenured employee – sales team rock star Jason Bash – known in the office as “BMJ” (aka Business Man Jason). BMJ earned his nickname because of his tendency to work constantly. Sometimes he even needs a reminder to stop being BMJ during lunch hour. BMJ has contributed substantially to the agency’s growth. And that’s why this month we’re interviewing the one, the only, the real BMJ…

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

 BMJ: Right after I finished college, my friend was opening a branch of Walters Wholesale Electric in San Diego and I became the first employee. I did several jobs within that company, but in my last couple years with them, I got into lighting quotation, which started my love for the industry. That responsibility lead me to SDLA.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment at SDLA?

BMJ: I feel like the growth that we have experienced since I started here is a huge accomplishment. We have more than doubled in size and now have three application engineers and two field techs. Back when I started, Danny and I were wearing multiple hats… some days even literally up on ladder getting our hands dirty. But since our growth, we have truly been able to focus on and dedicate our time to outside sales. It’s been incredible.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job?

 BMJ: Every day is my favorite part. I love talking to customers and I have met some great friends that way. I absolutely love working with people and finding solutions to any problems that arise.

Q: What is unique about the culture at SDLA?

BMJ: We are like one big family at SDLA. We have so much fun together doing things outside of work, like playing on a softball team. I work with a great group of people and everyone genuinely enjoys coming to work… the morale is awesome, which makes our quality of work, and commitment to our customers even more awesome.

Meet The Team: Daniel Cortez

Every month we’ll be sharing a Q&A with a team member from SDLA. This month’s profile is an interview with one of SDLA’s principals, Daniel Cortez. Known as Danny to many, his background is Lighting Controls and nicknamed by some of his customers as the “GURU” of T24.

Daniel CortezQ: How did you get started in the lighting industry?

Cortez: I started in our industry working for Graybar Electric, starting in the warehouse in the shipping department. I had no idea what the Electrical Industry was or even if there was an opportunity for a career. After two years in the warehouse, I moved to counter sales and in just six months, moved up from there where I eventually became a project manager. I was handling jobs that cost up to $5 million.

Q: How did this start shape your career?

Cortez: Building my career from the ground up has really given me a good perspective on all aspects of the industry. I always say to my self-stay humble, talk with everyone the same from the guy driving the forklift or the PM giving you a job worth $1.5 million. Always lead by example, if you want your team to be at a job at 6 am, then you better be willing and able to do the same. Understanding everyone’s role gives me the ability to understand a bigger picture and helps me come up with the right solutions for our customers.

 Q: What lead you to outside sales?

Cortez: Graybar gave me a great insight on outside sales, the ability to build a relationship with a customer, come up with a solution and see the project get designed and built was exactly what attracted me to sales. I took a job at Lighting Controls & Design (LC&D) as a District Sales Manager covering Southern California. That company grew and was acquired by Acuity Brands, who then hired me during the acquisition and expanded my territory for Acuity Controls and promoted me to a Controls Sales Manager. My focus there was to become the “Subject Matter Expert” in California’s T24.

Q: What is your role at SDLA?

Cortez: When I was approached about becoming a principal at SDLA, I was excited about taking on the challenge of helping an organization grow. I knew SDLA had a great foundation and always heard great things about Ed Musbach, the founder of SDLA. I felt I could reinforce the agency’s vision that he had on service to our customers comes first above all else. That’s true from the products we represent and recommend, to the guidance we provide in the planning and installation process, to the training we design and deliver for our customers. We make it our personal agenda to ensure they understand the state of the industry, the technology, and the practical application of products in their own spaces. My role at SDLA is to guide this strategy and create value for our customers in SDLA solutions.

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

Cortez: Helping the EC in the field, being challenged with a problem and coming up with the most cost-effective solution. Let’s not forget teaching, whether it’s teaching one on one or presenting to 50+ attendees on T24. I actually learn more and it always gives me insight on the new curriculum we need for our customers.