Moving Up: How Employees Have Advanced Their Careers at ECF

ECF has grown and changed a lot since 1977, and so have ECF employees. Steve Hulst, Kim Vollema, and Beau Shupe have all worked at ECF for years, and during that time, they’ve developed their professional skills, held all sorts of positions and job titles, and advanced their careers.

career advancement word cloud
Word cloud representing the commonly used words around career advancement at ECF.

Steve Hulst began his career at ECF in 1984, though at the time he thought it was just an after-school job. Steve’s father was ECF’s Maintenance Manager, and Steve started working part-time and summers in the maintenance department at the end of high school and throughout college. He was studying elementary education, but after graduating, realized that he wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in that field. He took on a full-time position with ECF in waste treatment, eventually moving to managing the brass line, working in the lab, managing the lab, EHS (Environmental Health and Safety), managing the lab and EHS, PPAP/Engineering, to his current position, Director of Quality and Technical Services.

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Steve Hulst in 1997, posing for a flyer on “Decorative Chrome Finishing.”

This career development wasn’t a linear, or even predictable progression, and Steve attributes that to his willingness to work wherever there was a need. This flexibility allowed Steve to make moves throughout the company, working in nearly every area of operations. While some of his position changes were seemingly lateral rather than upward moves, all contributed to his achievement of the management position that he currently holds. As someone who is not, as he says, “classically trained” in quality management, his experience in various capacities at ECF provided him with the knowledge he needed to succeed as a quality manager. When Steve felt he needed more training or was presented with a valuable learning opportunity, he took initiative to pursue that opportunity, with full support from ECF.

Like Steve, Kim Vollema began working for ECF in a seemingly temporary position. In 2002, she started in racking as a temporary worker through Addecco Staffing Agency. Kim was 19 at the time, and wasn’t planning out a career at ECF; she says, “at that point, I was just looking for a full-time job.” Soon after, she was hired in as the racking Team Leader. After her maternity leave, she returned to ECF as an inspection floater, and from there moved to buffing. Kim is interested in art in many forms, painting, drawing, and more, and found the buffing process to be an art form in its own right; she worked in buffing for nearly nine years. From buffing, she moved to her current position of Area Manager.

Kim likes ECF’s environment and the people she works with, and so she made the decision to forge a career for herself at ECF; her original goal was to become a supervisor. In pursuit of that goal, Kim faced many challenges, but she chose to view those struggles as opportunities for growth, and that has served her well. The first of these difficulties was her attendance, which she admits was not stellar when she first started. From there, she was challenged to “get trained on everything” and learn all of the departments in which she worked, which also proved to be rewarding, as she uses the knowledge that she acquired in her previous positions to help her understand departmental challenges, as well as to train and relate to her employees. She also finds that her current position has helped her grow; as someone who is not naturally an extrovert, supervising has helped her develop her people skills and prepare herself for new challenges.

She’s not the only one who has had to adapt to new challenges. Beau Shupe came to ECF in 2004, after five years with Steelcase as an assistant production supervisor. His father had retired from Steelcase, and Beau had planned on following in his footsteps, until layoffs claimed his position. Beau’s first position with ECF was as a second shift Cell Leader in the brass inspection area. At the time, production demands in that area were higher than they are now, with several high-volume programs from the major plumbing manufacturers Hansgrohe, Moen, and Kohler running through that line. The position evolved, and Beau took on responsibility for brass racking. From there he became the second shift Assistant Production Supervisor, and eventually the second shift Production Supervisor.

In 2008, when the business climate changed and demands slowed, second and third shifts at ECF were reduced, and Beau moved to first shift Assistant Production Supervisor. An opening arose for supervising the shipping and receiving department, and Beau accepted the challenge, which helped him develop have a more complete understanding of the interconnection of processes and how they come together to contribute to the finished product. A couple of years later, production picked up at Remico, and Beau became the Production Manager. He knew it would be a challenge, especially with the new product lines that ECF was taking on, and since he accepted the position in 2012, new responsibilities, changes, and challenges have emerged at ECF, including new markets, products, processes, and finish offerings.

For employees looking to advance, opportunity is present, even if it’s not immediately apparent. Steve, Kim, and Beau all worked their way through a variety of positions to get where they are today, and many of those job changes weren’t traditional, upward advancement; however, they were all valuable experiences that contributed to their career advancement. So, if you’d like to develop professionally and advance your career at ECF, what do you need to do?.

Steve’s advice for job mobility is simple: be proactive, be here all the time, and be willing to take on anything. It’s worked for him thus far.

Though she enjoys her current position, Kim is always looking to grow and change—she’d love to try something in Human Resources or Customer Service someday—which she cites as a reason for her career advancement. Good attendance, the ability to work within a team, and a positive attitude are also important factors for those looking to progress in their careers.

Beau is a firm believer in hard work. “My dad always told me that the cream rises to the top—meaning that if you show up, work hard, and do things right, you’ll be recognized for it.” He advises people to look for opportunities in expected and unexpected places and not to be afraid to take on challenges, even if you’re not sure you’re ready.

Change is constant in every industry and company, and in our individual lives. Those who strive for progress and seek to challenge and better themselves in their work lives will reap the benefits. Many ECF employees have made positive changes in their lives and careers at ECF with hard work, dedication, and a passion for learning new things. And they’re not finished yet.

If you’re interested in advancing your career, view current employment opportunities with ECF.

The preceding story was originally published in the Winter 2017 edition of Currently Speaking, the Electro Chemical Finishing newsletter.