BPD Feb. 2020

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THINKING Ahead By Chris Knowles, Timber Products Co.

Get in where you fit in he building materials sector has so much to offer working professionals but, sometimes, figuring out where exactly you’re meant to be is half the journey. The key to finding your place is understanding that the first job you’re hired for in the industry probably isn’t going to be the one where you ultimately carve out your career. More than likely, what you thought you wanted you may turn out not to be what you want at all. At the same time, what you assumed would be a straight path to your dream work might just include some twists and turns along the way. And my experience is just one example.


Best-Laid Plans

The industry is filled with insiders who expected to stay only for the short term; but they fell in love with the business and the people, and now they’re here for the long haul. In my case, it was always part of the plan to make a living in wood products. Growing up, I thought I wanted a job that would allow me to work in the outdoors so, as an undergraduate student at Stephen F. Austin State University, I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in forest management. As I continued my education at the graduate level, those boyhood aspirations of laboring under the open sky began to evaporate. Don’t



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get me wrong—it’s still a dream job for many members of this industry— but I’d had an epiphany: I wanted to become a professor. I got the bug

About NAWLA North American Wholesale Lumber Association is the association that delivers unparalleled access to relationships and resources that improve business strategy and performance through sales growth, cost savings, and operational efficiencies for wholesalers and manufacturers of forest products and other building materials that conduct business in North America. Learn more about how NAWLA can help your business at nawla.org.

February 2020

while serving as a teaching assistant, and this newfound focus steered my academic route in a different direction. After obtaining a master’s degree from the same college, I enrolled in a PhD program at Oregon State University, which hired me on a few years later. I had the background and desire for the teaching position I’d worked so hard toward for years, but if you think that’s what my first position in the industry was, then you’d be wrong. When I finally got hired, it was in the role of “extension specialist,” which entailed helping people in the wood products industry solve problems. It would be two years before I actually got back in the classroom—this time as the instructor. I went from wanting to work