“…You can’t always have good days, but it’s a lot easier with a lot of great people on the team, and our team knows how to get great things done.”
Doug began working at SIGMADESIGN in 2000
What was your youth like?
Oh Boy, it was so long ago… My dad was in the military, so we moved a lot. We lived on the east coast, the west coast, and in Bolivia for three years. I’ve always been interested in history, which probably stems from some of the places my family lived when I was growing up. We lived at Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, which is an old 1812 fort. We lived at West Point while my dad was teaching there.
I had a metal detector, and I took it to historic sites to see what I could find. Maybe it’s not surprising given that these were sites of historic battles, but I found cannons (some of which are still on display), live ammunition on military bases, grenades, cannonballs, lots of stuff. I was in contact with the bomb squad pretty regularly. I still enjoy doing things like that, under more controlled circumstances, with archaeological groups for example. Even now, occasionally someone will call to tell me there is something buried in their yard, and ask if I can find it for them.
College for me was more about feeling like I needed to get a degree, rather than a path to a career. I was selling real estate to put myself through college, so there wasn’t really a sense of urgency to finish quickly. I took classes that I enjoyed and continued my interest in history. Eventually I realized I had completed enough history classes to graduate, and so that’s what I did.
It wasn’t long after graduating that I decided I should go for a more marketable degree (in fact, it may have been the same day that I completed my history requirements), so that’s when I signed up for physics. I had taken a number of physics and math classes already and physics looked like the easiest way out of college with a science degree. In reality it was fairly difficult and took several more years of school. In other words, I went to school for a long time…
What was your path to SIGMADESIGN? What drew you to your line of work?
After obtaining my physics degree, I applied to various tech companies. Most of the positions I was offered didn’t pay well compared to real estate, so I continued to work in real estate, even though I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing long-term. After moving into managing real estate offices for a while, it didn’t feel challenging anymore, so I quit with nothing in mind for the future. Retired at 35.
After about ten months, three or four of which I spent in Costa Rica, and another few months traveling through New England (I was essentially on vacation for most of that year), I got a call from Bill Huseby, who had recently married my sister. He said, “You’ve got sales experience and a physics degree, why don’t you come be my business development guy at SIGMADESIGN?” There was a small window for that opportunity, and I decided that 10 months was about all I could stand of retirement at that point, so I took the job.
I’ve now worked at SIGMADESIGN for twenty years, and it’s been an amazing ride. We were a very small team in the beginning, so we all took on other roles as needs arose. When we started getting busy I began doing project work. That included purchasing, shipping and receiving, answering phones, IT, assembly lab work, machining parts, just about everything… In those early days, we worked a lot, and we stayed late. There was even a cot in the office to accommodate overnight stays. Thankfully we don’t have to do that anymore. Later, I took on more of a project manager role as well as business development, and then moved towards operations. I had a hand in the development and upbringing of a lot of departments.
What are your interests outside of work?
I never really lost the history bug – I like all things regarding history. My wife likes to say I like to study dead things. I spend a lot of time studying history, geology, archaeology and paleontology. My wife and I also spend lots of time outdoors enjoying those activities. We do a lot of hiking and exploring in the Pacific NW. Additionally, we do a lot of volunteer work with the Forest Service and BLM on archaeological projects, Stewardship programs, and restoration projects.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I really enjoy the variety – not only the variety of projects, but also the range of challenges at SIGMADESIGN; there are so many things that we are into. There’s always something new to manage, whether it’s finding and remodeling a building, entering a new market, or developing new capabilities. Bill’s been very receptive to experimenting and taking on challenges, and it’s just frankly a lot of fun.
My favorite thing about working at SIGMADESIGN is being part of a winning team – a very successful, growing organization. You might pour your heart into something, you take some risks and make some recommendations, but things don’t always work out as planned. Yet at Sigma, we win more than we lose, and that’s the name of the game. On-site Staffing is an example of something that was a departure from our core business that has ended up working out really well. There’s always been a demand for our engineering staff to work on-site at a clients’ facilities. In the past we’ve had upwards of 120 engineers on-site. Making staffing an official service that we offer and market is an example of the willingness to experiment and incorporate new capabilities into the overall direction of the company.
What do you enjoy about working at SIGMADESIGN?
The culture is my favorite part. Culture means nothing without the people – we have a really good team of talented, fun people, and that makes every day worth it. Of course you can’t always have good days, but it’s a lot easier with a lot of great people on the team, and our team knows how to get great things done. The other things I enjoy are some of the projects that aren’t always customer-facing; things like getting a big project into a wing of the building, or how to reorganize a department to make best use of the skills, or finding a big manufacturing facility in Vancouver – overcoming objections and problem solving. I appreciate and enjoy those types of challenges.
Do the Core Values influence your work?
Oh, of course. It’s amazing how many times someone brings up the core values in a week or in a month. Certainly Take Time to Laugh is one of my favorites. But if you’re talking about personnel issues, or talking about customers, so often it comes down to things like, “Well we need to do it this way so we can exceed customer’s expectations,” or “How can we approach this in a way so we respect each other?” It’s everywhere in the culture. It’s super important and it’s what makes us SIGMADESIGN.
What are you, or would you be really excited to work on?
Every year we do a company-wide SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, and the goals that come out of that, what we call our Strategic Initiatives for the year, are the most interesting projects to me. We’re always looking at other areas to expand into, or new capabilities that we don’t currently have. In 2020 one of our Strategic Initiatives was focusing on Manufacturing, and we’ve been able to make that a reality. In some aspects it’s still a new thing for us, and we have more work to do to get it stabilized, but as the company grows, I expect that initiative will grow as well. We’ve already grown because of it, and not only in terms of head count, but revenue as well – up and to the right!