Sheila Johnson is an IT Technical Project Manager at Simpson Strong-Tie. For Veteran’s Day we’re proud to present her Navy story and how she arrived at Simpson Strong-Tie.
Values, principles, pride, commitment, honor, courage, trust, family and friends, goals, respect, success, opportunities and fun. My life and Navy service share these words. Most of these also appear in Barclay Simpson’s nine principles of doing business.
As a teenager approaching adulthood, I realized that I didn’t spend quite enough time preparing for a career. I went to a high school career fair and all branches of the military were there looking for folks like me. By the end of the week, I was testing, processing and convincing my mom to sign the age waiver so I could leave shortly after graduating high school. Reality set in when I had to wait a few months to ship off to basic training because in the 1980s there were far less opportunities for Navy women than for our male counterparts.
My active-duty time was only four and a half years. After basic training and school to become an Ocean Systems Analyst, I was off to Wales, UK. It was supposed to be for two years, but I extended twice to spend four years in one of the coolest places I had ever been. Living in another country was an amazing way to learn how to become an adult. When I wasn’t at work doing classified Hunt for Red October sound analysis stuff, I got to pub crawl, spend time travelling the UK and mainland Europe and grow up. I met my husband, and we had our son there. I chose to leave active duty to make it easier on our young family, but stayed on as a reservist for fourteen years.
As a navy spouse and reservist, I lived with my family at both ends of Virginia, in Newfoundland, Canada, and eventually in the UK one more time, all on shore duty. This time in England, I was stationed in Cornwall. While there, we continued our quest to take advantage of our situation to travel and see everything we could.
We eventually settled in Jacksonville FL. I continued to be a reservist and joined an inshore warfare/harbor defense unit. This was quite different than my usual intelligence analysis, since we wore camo, threw grenades and shot a lot of weapons. Everything was fun until our world changed. Within a short time after 9-11, my unit was activated, and I was away from my family on missions or training in the US and Spain for a year and a half. This was the family’s first time being separated due to military obligations. After being released from active duty, I returned to my employer to learn that they were only obligated to re-employ me in a “similar” position. I didn’t like my “similar” position, so I went on a job search.
After a short while and another job, Simpson Strong-Tie offered me a position in the Jacksonville warehouse. After deployments, I wasn’t intimidated to be the only female in the shop for eleven years. While there, I shipped endless orders, processed returns, facilitated the exports and anything else that needed done. They were supportive of me being a Navy reservist. At the end of my enlistment, I had to choose what path to take. I decided to leave the Navy and concentrate on my civilian career. I wanted to do more with Simpson, but 2008 and the economic recession put a damper on changes until the building industry recovered. There was an opportunity to join the company internal ISO audit team. This allowed me to learn about many departments, visit facilities and get to know many people.
Sales was not on my initial radar. Living in Texas certainly never entered my mind. But when an opportunity came along, I didn’t want to pass it up. So, we sold the house and moved to Houston. After all, we had already been in Jacksonville longer than we’d ever been in one place before, so moving to a new place was exciting. Having a dealer sales territory in Houston was a super-rewarding career move with Simpson. I loved my customers, believed in the product and enjoyed selling. One of the best parts was that I knew everyone in our company has the same opportunities if they really try.
My current position is as a project manager for one of the newer departments, E-Commerce. Even though I am in a different Simpson “house”, it’s still part of the same extended family. The principles are still the same: Focus on the customer, focus on people, have a long-range vision, dignify contributions and take risks. I’ve had a few bus stops along the way, but my Simpson tenure is about to surpass my length of time in the military. And best of all, I’m still having fun.