Management • Operations • Technician Tips • 56 minutes

From Secretary to Apprentice to GM in 3 Years: Samantha Salazar

October 5, 2021

Episode Overview

“Don’t judge a book by its resume.”

— Samantha Salazar

As a child, Samantha Salazar always wanted to work in a male-dominated field. Her ascension to general manager at Rice Plumbing & Heating in Boiceville, NY, was both unique and swift. 

On “Toolbox for the Trades,” Salazar talks about being a female leader in the trades, creating a safe and secure job environment, and summoning the courage to break barriers.

Here are Samantha Salazar’s top pieces of advice for creating an even playing field and setting up any company for success in the home-service industry:

The trades are not just a man’s world.

In less than four years, Salazar went from part-time secretary to apprentice, field tech, and then general manager of her company’s expansion office. 

“I’m a hands-on learner, and the trades are totally open to those kinds of folks,” she says. “After I got the job as a secretary, I asked if I could go out on a ride-along. That worked out, so my boss let me start working in the field. And when the company opened a second location, he trusted me to put me in charge.”

A key to opening a second location: Prioritize your time.

Time management is critical when you’re juggling responsibilities at your first job location and trying to manage a second one. 

“I was doing the office work and the field work, too, in my own truck,” Salazar says. “Emergency service is half our business. So, with those calls, they took precedence over non-emergency calls. 

“The key is to balance that all out.”

The public, by and large, supports women in the industry. 

Response by customers to her being in the position of power has been overwhelmingly supportive, Salazar says. 

“They love (seeing a woman) doing the job,” she says. “I’ll show up at a house and the customer will say, ‘Are you Samantha who I spoke to on the phone?’ And they’re happy that I am.” 

Unfortunately, Salazar has been called “darling” and been whistled at. Besides those isolated incidents, “the feedback is really good,” she says.

How to create a safe and secure work environment. 

Salazar credits company owner Aaron Rice with cultivating a working environment that is both safe and secure. 

“Aaron is completely family-oriented, and he will always be the first person to defend anybody in the company,” she says. “He will give anybody an opportunity if they have an idea and good backing for that idea. 

“If you show him commitment and show him evidence or proof of what you want to do, he’ll do it.”

Small-business settings vs. big corporations. 

A big part of Salazar getting a shot at general manager, she believes, is due to the environment set at Rice Plumbing & Heating. 

“You can make a career working for Rice Plumbing,” she says. “That’s what I like about small business versus corporate. I work for someone who cares about my wellbeing.

“There’s no stonewalling. No maximum you get up to. This is a whole other ballgame and it’s just a good environment.”

Advice for other women considering the trades. 

“Just do it,” Salazar says to other women contemplating a career in the home-service trades. 

“If you try it, you might love it,” she says. “Yes, women have to work harder just to be at the same level, or same respect level, as men. But as long as you have the ambition and can look deep down inside yourself and know you can handle the patronizing … take a shot. 

“What’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out, try another field.”

How companies should recruit—both women and men. 

Salazar says you don’t have to write in your ad, “Hey, women, apply here.” Rather, she says a job listing should encourage people who want to try a trade and possibly start as an apprentice. 

“Half of our guys didn’t have great resumes, great experience or experience anything near the trades,” she says. “People that don’t have a great resume but have a great personality and want to learn are great to interview. 

“Don’t judge a book by its resume.”

Pet peeve: Don’t call an apprentice a “helper.” 

Salazar hates when people call apprentices “helpers.” 

“If you want to become a technician, you become an apprentice,” Salazar says. “Those apprentices are there to learn the trade from a technician. 

“A helper is someone who fetches tools for you. An apprentice is there to train to do a job. We should all try to give apprentices the respect they deserve. 

“They’re giving their time and they want to learn something from you. That’s special.”

Recommended research and reading

Home Service Millionaire by Tommy Mello

The 7-Power Contractor by Al Levi

The Complete Suite by Ellen Rohr

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About the Show

Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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