During National Women in Construction Week, Levelset likes to recognize hard-working women in construction with accomplishments in their position or their career. I got the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Siegfried,Manager of Accounts Payable and Billing with Lumbermens Merchandising Corporation (LMC). Jennifer discusses her 23-year career at LMC, how she got to be a manager, diligently pursuing goals, and discovering the importance of communication and active listening skills.
Lori: Do you want to tell everybody how your career brought you to where you are now?
Jennifer: I’ve been with LMC for 23 years. I started in the accounts receivable department as an AR representative back in 1999. I moved forward as a co-supervisor when they had some changes within the department. I was completely involved in the transition in that department. Then, I was transitioned into the claims, corrections, and credit department for about five years.
After that, I took on the accounts payable department, and in 2017, I was promoted to Manager of Accounts Payable and Billing, which was a team of 13. And that is my current position today.
How did you learn the skills to get your current job?
When I came to LMC in 1999, I had just a little bit of college under my belt. I had taken a break to start a family, and I returned to school in 2014 to get my Bachelor’s in Business Administration.
LMC is a unique company — our accounting software and accounting criteria are very unique. So most of the accounting terms that I’ve learned over the years were hands-on — working through systems, changing the systems. I continued my education through December of 2021 with my Bachelor’s of Science in Organizational Leadership.
What did that teach you that people wouldn’t expect?
People. It’s an understanding of people. The degree is from Penn State University, and it actually falls under their human resources area, but it was more about leadership—how to lead different people and understand that not everyone’s the same. Different styles, different needs are useful in different situations. And I learned a lot about myself as a manager through these classes. Also, I really actually have to say: I enjoyed going back to school.
So what does a typical day look like for you when you come into the office?
Day-to-day life is tackling problems. That’s the majority of our work in my two areas.
My billing team consists of five people. Their daily routine is to process invoices. We wanna make sure we hit our forecast and budget numbers. At LMC, 93% of our invoices come in electronically and go back out of the building without a human being touching them. The average invoice count for the five team members I have on the billing side is between 19,000 and 21,000 invoices a month. So it’s definitely a high-pace volume on that side.
Our AP team is completely different than a normal accounts payable. My billing team enters an invoice, but payables doesn’t see an invoice until there’s a problem — invoice is late, discount is lost, there’s a claim filed, check’s lost in the mail, etc. It’s a lot of problem resolution throughout the day and situations that have to be handled. Putting out fires.
What skills have you found that have been essential?
Communication. Communication is really important — whether it’s somebody within my own team or in a different division, communication is key. If you don’t understand what the other person’s asking or trying to resolve, it’s just gonna make it more difficult and complicated.
Being able to listen to others. You know, if you’re not listening, you’re not gonna see what the problem is. It’s gonna just implode on you.
Also, the ability to have strong problem-solving skills and be able to be flexible and work with others under pressure.
If you can have those, you can work through just about any problem that’s in front of you.
Understandable. What is the main challenge in your role?
Right now it has to be personnel. We’re seeing it as much as everybody else is with staff shortages. I’m looking for an opening that’s been open since August, and I’ve only seen three resumes. I had somebody I thought accepted the position, and then she changed her mind [a few days later].
But the personnel issues just don’t stop there: You have situations with FMLA, short-term disability, or people that are afraid to come back to the office because of COVID. So I think being able to handle personnel issues is a big challenge right now — in just about any position, not just mine.
Are you a member of any professional groups or industry groups with mentorship or training?
Not really. Upon graduation, I did join the Penn State Lion, which is a mentoring group, but that was just recent. And I also recently joined a Facebook group, “The Women of Lumber,” and they have some really great webinars out there. So I was really happy to connect with those ladies.
So what do you think about the next few years? I mean, we know the industry has been changing a lot. Do you see any trends or changes, and how will you respond to those changes?
I think with the pandemic, in the construction industry, we were forced to figure out a way to actually be remote — whether it was stopping construction and figuring out how we could have everybody on sites, how we were going to get deliveries. For LMC, the challenge was having an office that in 85 years had never worked remotely, not even one day. And we had to figure out in 10 days how we were gonna get a company offsite.
We’re back in the office, and I think we need it for collaboration and to be able to work as teams. But I think the construction industry’s gonna have to figure out a way to remain flexible once we get back to whatever normal is. There are plenty of new generations that are going to be looking for that flexibility that may not be available — but in order to keep the industry moving, we’re gonna have to find that flexibility.
Have you noticed any big challenges being a woman in construction?
Over the years, I think a struggle, you know, construction is always seen as a man’s job.
When I started in 1999, there were a handful of women in purchasing. Most of your females were in the accounting or the support teams. And that’s changed over the years, you know, more and more women are getting into the industry. You know, we have more knowledge of construction.
I guess over the years I have possibly felt overlooked because I was female, but I do see that in the past 8–10 years, that started to change for the better for women.
That’s awesome. Do you have any advice for any other women that are just getting started in construction — or currently work in construction?
Don’t give up. It’s a matter of you just keep pushing. I kept pushing from the beginning. I wanted to be a supervisor, well, I didn’t have the experience, but I could do it. You just have to be able to prove it and you have to get somebody that’s gonna support you — somebody that’s going to back you who believes you can do it. If you can get somebody to support you and back you, it won’t be a problem.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. To see the full version, watch the video above.