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June 15, 2021

Jérémy Dagenais-CastonguayJean-François Gravel, territory manager at Leviton and head of Electro-Federation Canada’s Young Professionals Network for the Quebec region, introduced me to Jérémy Dagenais-Castonguay, a counter clerk at Lumen in Joliette. While we are constantly hearing about the various challenges related to workforce renewal, it is interesting to hear the perspective of the next generation. We often say that in the electrical product distribution channel, the career possibilities are endless and often start with internal sales at the counter or warehouse. Here are reflections from Jérémy Dagenais-Castonguay.

— Line Goyette

Tonight, after finishing my day at work, I had a flashback ...

I thought of myself four to five years ago coming out of high school with no particular idea of what I wanted to do for a profession. After studying three years at CEGEP I realized that school was not my forte. Not that I wasn’t good, I was average. Simply, sitting on school benches did not make me any better.

Following the completion of my studies, I started working in the restaurant industry full time. I started at the age of 16 as a dishwasher, to be promoted to the kitchen, to be a server assistant, to finally be a waiter. Having always been a worker by nature, I pushed myself to work six days weeks with double shifts. I knew it wasn’t what I was going to do all my life, but hey ... My mentality was rather “As long as you are in school and do not really know which field to work in, you might as well make money.” I realized pretty quickly that I loved the industry. Besides, I think that catering is one of the best schools to train a worker.

Being a waiter helped me develop my social skills at work — having to show up at strangers’ tables and offer a service in the same way I would like to be served. I learned how to sell a product, whether it was the daily specials or a Cabernet Sauvignon $15 more expensive than it should be. That influenced my approach as a professional. By focusing on organization, I learned to manage 25 clients simultaneously, to communicate well with my colleagues, and to always offer the best of my skills. At one point, I asked myself, “What has made me like this?” Which made me realize that what motivated me the most was undoubtedly the customer contact. This experience has brought me a lot.

Meanwhile, I had a good friend who sometimes told me about his work at Lumen. Just like me, a worker who did not necessarily want to pursue higher education. After almost two years of working in the restaurant industry, I made the career leap to Lumen, an electrical distributor, which meant new challenges: I had never been a warehouse handler and the electrical field might as well have been Chinese for me. “Do you have a 30 amp, 240 switch?” Sorry, in French please?

A year has passed. I learned how to manage an entire warehouse. Orders for goods, shipping, receiving, replenishment, returns of goods and especially a little more about the products sold. By asking questions of my colleagues, suppliers, and electricians, I managed to expand my knowledge in the field from 0 to 1000% and I’m not done. Today, I am a clerk working the counter … when I got back to my car after work, I realized how lucky I was … Lucky to do a job in a field that I enjoy, accompanied by supportive people willing to help and encourage me to climb the ladder.

During my time in the restaurant industry, I rose through the ranks starting out as a dishwasher. I found in the electrical industry the same opportunity to climb the ladder, an environment where career opportunities are more promising in the long term and in an industry that makes a difference.

Jérémy Dagenais-Castonguay