Looking Back – Looking Forward: A Guest Blog by Judy Johnston

Judy Johnston, Tolko Industries Ltd.

Industry People

It’s truly interesting to look back.  Working in the mill, forestry, logistics, sales, and then a Trader for 28 years – first Lumber, then OSB and now Plywood, selling into every State and Province during that time.  So, where to begin?

I moved to a small lumber town as a licensed insurance adjuster.  Needless to say, there were no jobs in that field.  So, I went to a job placement agency and took the first job they gave me – a receptionist at the local lumber company.  They said it was just temporary, that I would never move off this desk, that I was over qualified.  I took the job anyway.  Crown Zellerbach was the company name.  The company became Crown Forest, then Fletcher Challenge, then Riverside Forest Products and now Tolko Industries Ltd.  It was tough moving through the ranks.  Crown Forest would not entertain me as a trader at all.  During the Riverside Forest Products era, I had to have Human Resources help me.  The challenges were many, but eventually I made it to a Senior Lumber Trader with Riverside.

Tolko Marketing and Sales bought Riverside in 2005 and I moved into OSB (oriented strand board).  This change was great, but not without its challenges – commuting, new product, new computer system….a host of changes.  Time to make lemonade from lemons, right!?  Head down learning a whole new product / mill / logistics / computer system – from Senior Trader to rookie.  It took a while – but I did it!  Then, I put my hand up for the next move – from OSB to plywood.  This transition was quicker, I was more familiar with plywood, as we always had plywood plants with our stud mills.  I am still trading plywood and loving it, focusing mostly Canadian sales across the country!

Challenges have been many in the past.  Being discouraged to attempt new jobs, lack of encouragement, lack of team inclusion and lack of mentorship.  But, I was lucky enough to have a few advocates on my side.  One in particular took the time to teach me the intricate workings of the mill.  Another treated me as an equal, and shared customers freely.  And, last but not least, a Manager that trusted me completely with our product!

Being included was, and is still is, a problem.  I am encouraged by the young women I have met in the forest industry that are on the path to becoming a trader or are already traders or managers of traders.  I even met one Vice Presidents of Traders – inspiring!  Our industry is changing and I am very excited for the future.  Women are moving into more non-traditional roles, pressing for change and supporting one another along the way.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to remind the women in forestry that we have come a long way but have to keep up the momentum – own your career and lift each other up, change comes one person, one action at time.  I feel that, in some ways, I have paved the path for others.  I feel proud of my journey and look forward to watching and supporting other women as they make their mark.

Source: FPAC