FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Julie Pithers
September 17, 2013
Early on in her career at DIRTT (DIRTT Environmental Solutions Inc.) she found herself saying “what have I done? Nobody yelled at me that way at Haworth”. This is not the whole story of life with Mogens Smed, but the pace is pretty intense. I first met Julie Pithers about ten years ago when she set up a meeting for me to meet and interview Calgary’s infamous entrepreneur.
One day, while working at CBC, she overheard a reporter saying they had turned down a writing contract offer from SMED. A call to Jennifer Alford got her an interview and she was hired, not on contract, but as a full time employee. That was in 2000, about the time SMED was sold to Haworth. In 2005 she joined the team at DIRTT.
She doesn’t have a title – they don’t have them – but think public relations, think writing, think marketing, think passion, think commitment, think ‘those who are empowered by Mogens!
Julie Pithers is the quintessential “born and bred Calgarian”.
Three jobs in life so far.
Does that define a career?
On-air talent at CBC, she was a voice of on the 6 O’clock News.
Before that, production work behind the camera.
Before that, graduated from SAIT. In a world where people move jobs and cities often – finding someone who starts in one place and never strays far is rare. She may not have gone far, but she’s come far!
Before that - let me start at the beginning – her parents came to Calgary from Northern Ireland in 1959 – started life here in Lakeview, and later moved to rural Calgary - what is now Signal Hill – where grades 1-12 at Springbank School prepared her for the CRSR Arts Program at SAIT.
She and her husband Ross Alber, a guitar teacher, met when they were both reporters at CBC are DINKS (double-income, no kids). Travel is an important part of their lives.
I asked Julie how she sees the market for her products – for her industry - over the next 90 day?
… we are doing very well in Calgary. North American wide - for example, making our products part of new hospital developments – our customers are telling our story and we are at a tipping point.
Over the next 5 years?
The construction industry is so slow to change – slowest to jump on new innovations. Competitors keep bringing our name up as a negative in their selling (a good thing!) – because we are so radically different. Our software will continue to be the game changer – much like a 3-D video game, each time you change one thing – everything changes (dimensions, components, costs) so what we build meets the designer’s needs, keeps costs down . . .
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… people who readily admit their weaknesses. Why they are doing what they are doing is important to me.
What distinguishes you as a marketer – the public face of DIRTT, the messenger for your company, that causes users and their designers to choose you and what you are selling over your competitors?
… maybe because I am a terrible salesperson. I never feel like I’m making a sales call. Our products and our thinking isn’t for everyone or for every project. We believe the time is now for DIRTT, for bringing construction to manufacturing. We are interested in making buildings and cities more livable, dynamic – and we are excited to be on the cutting edge of these changes.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… I’m not worry free. I worry if we are getting our message across. The recycling mentality has taken hold, but not enough emphasis on reduce and re-use. Keeping what we have. The greenest building is an existing building.
How do you view BOMA Green vs. LEED?
… LEED is about ‘before you build’ and isn’t always living up to its promised potential. There is no LEED credit for using less real estate. BOMA Green is about how you deal day-to-day with what you have.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… Mogens Smed. And, traveling around Europe by myself when I was 20-21, I had some scary experiences!
Work life balance?
… travel, tennis, movies. Work. I have been doing the website writing for Screamfest for several years. I write about Zombies!
What are you reading?
… book club choices, lots of work related books on sustainable development – lots on my iPAD, Todd Hirsch’s ‘The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline’, Jeff Rubin’s ‘The End of Growth’
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