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We spoke with Jeff Long — director of global marketing for SharkBite — about how he got his start, his thoughts on technological advances, and 'top tips' for being successful in this industry.
Danielle Galian: What’s your background?
Jeff Long: I graduated from Bradley University in 2008 with a B.S. in Organizational Communication and minors in both Business Management & Sociology. It’s no secret the financial crisis was having a huge impact on the job market at that time, especially for new graduates. So like most prospecting students, I attended a job fair in the spring of ’08 and applied for a number of different positions (some in my field and some not).
Hedging my bets, I wandered over to the University of Illinois at Springfield’s table and looked at their Communication program, which was the first time I had considered furthering my education. There was a program called Graduate Public Service Internship (GPSI) that I ended up applying for. As it turned out I was accepted into the program late that summer and began studying at UIS. As part of the GPSI program I wound up working as a communications associate for the state government. For the next 24 months, I assisted the Department of Healthcare & Family Services, Child Support Enforcement Division with various communication initiatives. Upon graduation the job market in Illinois still hadn’t improved much (unemployment was at 10.5 percent) so I moved to Pittsburgh, which was marginally better and took my first post-grad position as a sales and marketing manager for a small start-up media company called JVH Media Group. For the next year and a half I sold advertising for various print publications and worked part-time serving tables to make ends meet. In the summer of 2011, I was recruited by Reliance Worldwide Corp. (RWC) and started my first position with the company as a sales coordinator.
DG: Have you always had an interest in this industry?
JL: I’ve always been fascinated with the manufacturing process, creating something from raw materials to a finished product holds a certain appeal to me on a few levels. Tangibly seeing those results is gratifying and truly believing in what you’re doing and making that happen, is satisfying on a much deeper level. Being apart of that process, especially with a product like SharkBite is something quite unique and special. However, it wasn’t before I joined RWC that I was exposed to that and my interest really piqued.
DG: How did you become global marketing director at Reliance Worldwide Corporation?
JL: A little bit of luck I guess, being in the right place at the right time. When I started with the business there was no formal Global Marketing Department, but as it was formed I was given the opportunity to join the team. Since then I’ve been very fortunate to have some fabulous mentors in my time with RWC, which has invested time, energy and hard–earned wisdom on me.
DG: As millennials, we’re driven by purpose. What purpose drives you in your role?
JL: I realize my answer is going to be culturally biased (as I’m a product of my environment), but I would have say successful disruption of the plumbing market. I’m fond of saying I’ve professionally matured with RWC, but what comes with that is an inherent belief we’re going to succeed in growing our category through disrupting traditional plumbing practices and challenging preconceived notions with new product innovations, plumbing contractor education and continuing to deliver the high-quality products that we’re known for.
DG: What technological and/or culture shifts do you wish to see in the future for the industry?
JL: I hope that the industry continues to shift towards more smart home and technology-based solutions. I believe there’s some real consumer appeal and value in those product developments, and selfishly I think they would be a whole lot of fun to work with.
DG: What other qualities set us as millennials apart in the workplace?
JL: A common trait I’ve observed with almost all millennials is a complete disregard for the old adage “Work isn’t supposed to be fun, otherwise it wouldn’t be called work.” Challenging this belief that we can’t enjoy what we do for a living or have fun while succeeding has become something of the past. I’m a firm believer that if you love what you do and have fun while doing it, you’ll be more successful at it.
DG: How do you cultivate relationships in a relationship industry?
JL: Today I think it’s much easier to network than it was five or 10 years ago, so the landscape of relationship building has changed a bit in that regard. It’s easier to bridge some of those gaps with distance and time than it used to be. But I would argue it’s more difficult to maintain those relationships on a meaningful level because of the amount of access to information and people we have today (it’s easier to get distracted). Having the ability and time doesn’t necessarily translate into action, so being considerate of that and making an effort to do so more frequently and on a personal level is much more effective in my opinion.
DG: Do you have a go-to motto or phrase?
JL: “There’s nothing more powerful than the right person, doing the right thing at the right time, for the right reason.”
DG: Top tip for someone just starting out in this industry?
JL: Take some extra time to get outside of your comfort zone. Spend time in the field, familiarize yourself with key players and products in the industry or your category and although it sounds a little cliché ask as many questions as you can from seasoned industry professionals. You might be surprised at what they tell you and what you’ll learn.
For more information of Jeff Long and SharkBite, visit www.sharkbite.com.