The PVF Roundtable’s provides opportunities for individuals in the industry to network, build channel partnerships and raise monies for scholarships – to help make a healthy future for the PVF industry and its distribution channel. Last month in The Wholesaler Magazine, we featured an article on the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for scholarships by the organization. This month we showcase a recipient of a scholarship, funded in part by the monies raised by the PVF Roundtable, and awarded to colleges and trades schools, that provide PVF and industrial distribution education.
We bring you the story of Amber Vrabel, a recipient of a scholarship made possible by the donations to Texas A&M University (TAMU) from the PVF Roundtable. She graduated from the university with a focus on industrial distribution and is now an employee within the channel. We hope that by showcasing the personal side to the dollars donated, we shine a light on how the scholarship efforts of the PVF Roundtable, and the dollars you contribute, make a difference in the lives of others as well as the industry’s health.
I met Amber late last year at a PVF Roundtable networking event, and immediately she strikes you as an individual who will excel in industrial distribution. She is engaging, intelligent and spirited, and personifies the enthusiasm and energy of one starting on their career path. Amber graduated from Texas A & M in December 2017 and works for DistributionNOW (NYSE: DNOW), where she is participating in its Supply Chain Management Program.
DistributionNOW, an energy and industrial distributor of pipe, valves and valve automation, fittings, pumps and MRO supplies has more than 250 locations in more than 20 countries, serving the upstream, midstream and downstream energy and industrial markets. It has several employee development and recruiting programs, which help to strengthen the vitality and health of the channel.
I asked Jim Owsley, vice president, supply chain at DistributionNOW, about the Supply Chain Management Program, Amber and the PVF Roundtable. His response about Amber was the same as mine: “When I interviewed Amber, I was impressed with her desire and enthusiasm to start her career.” He discussed how a few years ago, DNOW participated in a program with TAMU on a project in China, and how the university continues its association with the Chinese university.
“Amber’s first trip overseas was to China in connection with the Chinese exchange program that TAMU continues to develop,” he notes. “She was part of the TAMU program for those students to see how other parts of the world work.”
Owsley is very familiar with the PVF Roundtable and its networking opportunities and benefits. “I was on the board of the PVF Roundtable and had been a part of the process that established which universities would receive funds for their scholarship programs,” he explains. “We signed up Texas A & M and University of Houston back when it was started. The PVF roundtable has done a great job in not only continuing this worthwhile cause but expanding it far beyond what any of us thought back in the day.”
So, let’s now hear about an amazing young woman who has started her career in industrial distribution with help from individuals whose generosity in fundraising and scholarships have made her road a little easier. Here is her story.
Ruth Mitchell: Where did you grow up? Tell me about your background and hobbies.
Amber Vrabel: I grew up in Taylor, Texas, a small town outside of Austin, with a population of approximately 15,000 people. I attended Taylor High School, where I was actively involved in many sports: track, cross country, soccer and volleyball. Sports taught me about leadership and community. I was the class vice president and in National Honor Society, where I learned the importance of knowledge and respecting others. I participated in 4H/FFA where I raised lambs and goats for the county livestock show. This hobby showed me the importance of hard work, consistency and maximizing my effort if I wanted a good fortune in return.
But the most important thing is family. I have two younger sisters (ages 16 and 20) with whom I am very close. My parents raised us always to put family and faith first — which is something I practice to this day.
RM: You enrolled and graduated from Texas A&M University. What drew you to the school and what was your area of focus?
AV: My mom works at the University of Texas in the Engineering Department, so I spent a few summers working there and attending camps that drew me to STEM-based disciplines. When it came time to apply to college, I wanted a change in scenery but still strong in engineering — a place I could call my home. I attended Texas A&M Aggieland Saturday, an annual campus-wide open house for prospective students and their families, where I learned of its traditions, core values and academics.
Wanting to branch out, I flipped to the other end of the spectrum and applied to Texas A&M University. I was accepted and received several scholarships — and I was hooked! I became involved in many student organizations, enjoyed participating in the traditions and being a member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Network.
RM: What drew you to industrial distribution? How did you learn about it and why did you want to pursue this avenue?
AV: I started in mechanical engineering. After a few semesters, I realized it wasn’t my calling. After looking at other disciplines in the College of Engineering, I found industrial distribution (ID). It clicked. ID allowed me to learn the basics of engineering, capitalize on my communication skills and work in team environments that challenged me to do creative problem-solving. I developed a foundation of knowledge with a plethora of transferable skills; this major gave me more of an opportunity to influence others by going into project management, operations or re-engineering within the supply chain.
RM: How did you get introduced to the PVF Roundtable? How has the scholarship helped you?
AV: The PVF Roundtable raises money for its scholarship fund, which in turns donates to several industry colleges and trades schools, funding their scholarship programs. The PVF Roundtable has a partnership with the Industrial Distribution program at Texas A&M. Being in the ID program, it allowed me the opportunity to connect with the PVF Roundtable and build a network for my future.
My parents encouraged me to be independent and to help where I can. While in college, I had a part-time job working 20 hours a week at the Texas Transportation Institute on campus. That, along with the scholarship monies, went a long way toward the costs of tuition and classes. I am very grateful for being awarded scholarships, and for how much the PVF Roundtable is a cornerstone in my career path.
RM: How did you land at the doorstep of DistributionNOW?
AV: My journey started at the Texas A&M PAID (Professional Association of Industrial Distribution) career fair. Each semester the ID program at Texas A&M hosts a student-run career fair for its students. The event has anywhere from 75 to 90 companies attend — industries range from pharmaceutical sales to oil and gas field work. Each company attends with the hopes of hiring ID talent for internships and fulltime positions.
I talked to the recruiters at DNOW for internship opportunities in the past, but they were only hiring for full-time positions. Lucky enough, I was able to secure a full-time interview spot where the recruiters explained more about the Supply Chain Management Development Program — and its perks. Less than a month after graduation from the university, I was packing my things and heading to Shreveport, La., for my first rotation.
RM: Please tell our audience about the Supply Chain Management Development Program (SCMDP) at DNOW.
AV: The SCMDP is an experience like no other. The program follows an outline but is tailored for each individual. It typically takes 12 months to complete. While in the program, I worked with several of our branches, the distribution center as well as the corporate office. The rotation allows you to discover what areas that you like, identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as exercise opportunity outside your comfort zone to experience new aspects of the business.
I was fortunate to visit two pipe manufacturing facilities, earn my lift certifications and rebuild part of our main distribution center to optimize the space. The program is really what you make of it. My best advice for young adults wanting to get into the oil and energy realm is to be flexible, take good notes, learn something from everybody and constantly build your network along the way as you never know where the future might take you!
RM: How has what you have learned in school applied to your day-to-day position?
AV: My professors taught me to stick to my values and never settle for being mediocre. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but there are always opportunities for improvement. I had the experience of taking classes in distribution logistics, sales engineering, power transmission and communications. Having such a diverse background has helped me in finding a common pathway of understanding when interacting with diverse personalities.
RM: What intrigues you about the industry now, as you are actively applying your college experience and knowledge base to your job?
AV: The industrial distribution industry/energy supply chain/PVF industry intrigues me because there is always an opportunity for improvement in a place that’s constantly changing. With new tariffs, processes and projects rolling out, working at DNOW has allowed me extensive industry exposure and experience. I’m fully immersed and love being able to professionally develop throughout this year by traveling to different branches, networking with suppliers and gathering an understanding of how this business works.
RM: What do you want to contribute and accomplish on your career path?
AV: With my career in industrial distribution, I want to be an example for other young women to go after their dreams and know they can achieve them. Regardless of gender, our world is changing, and we need to instill in young women they can be whatever they want to be if they’re willing to develop confidence, a work ethic and creativity to think outside the box. I grew up always telling my parents I wanted to build a career where I could wear a hard hat and afford cute shoes. I didn’t know the name of it then, but I’d say now I’m living the dream!
RM: Where do you want to be in five years?
AV: In five years I will have my student loans paid off, own a house and be promoted at least twice.
When you make goals present tense, it flips a trigger in your mind to know these goals are non-negotiable. When we talk about goals as in “I want to…,” this allows wiggle room for your brain to think it’s OK if this goal doesn’t happen. Part of being in today’s society allows an infinite amount of time for white noise, comparison to others and complacency. I believe if you’re not living, you’re dying. Make your own choices on where you want to be and formulate a plan to get there. Find good in every day because tomorrow is never guaranteed. •
For more information on the PVF Roundtable and its mission, visit www.pvf.org.