Being open to lifelong learning builds career

February 4, 2014

Dale E. Gronhovd ’97, Carpentry - Fabricators Unlimited

I’ve always known I wanted to work with my hands. After high school, I went into the work force for a few years before going back to school at age 25.  I think this put me in a position to really appreciate my education and understand the value of my degree. It also helped me understand the value of learning.

I worked with Brenny Cabinets during my schooling and after graduating from St. Cloud Technical College with a degree in Carpentry, I stayed on with them. Mark Brenny gave me a promotion to oversee production. Although this was a huge career step, it was not received well by my colleagues as I was younger than most of them. For me, this was a difficult lesson to learn.

I left and went to work as a carpenter but quickly learned I was looking for more variety in the type of work I was doing because at the time it seemed like all we were doing was shingling jobs. 

Tops Plus hired me on as a manager, overseeing staff and growing sales. I worked beside the general manager for 4 years and learned through valuable experiences in operations and creating efficiencies.  

In 2004, I had the opportunity to go to Alpine Cabinetry to develop their Countertop Division. This was a startup division.  Even though I didn’t have a management degree, I relied on my experience and my faith and worked hard to learn what I didn’t already know. During this time, I learned a lot about self-motivation and the value of confidence. 

In August of 2010, I was laid off. This could’ve been a huge blow to my career . . . and my ego. However, my wife was battling breast cancer, and I’d been praying for ways I could take care of her during her treatments. Being laid off was actually a blessing, and I had three months to focus on her. After a long 18-month fight, the cancer took her in 2011.

While I was at Alpine, I’d been prospected for a job with Fabricators Unlimited. After 3 months of time where I was able to just take care of my wife, I needed to stabilize our income and health insurance. I called Fabricators Unlimited and left a message that if they were still looking I was interested. Not more than 5 minutes later I got a call from the owner who invited me to come on board. I have been with them since December 2010, and even though I was originally hired as a sales representative for 12 big-box stores in Minnesota and North Dakota, I am often called upon to fix client issues and have quickly become a client relationship manager of sorts.  I bring new products, training, customer service, and problem solving to the table. I act as a liaison between our distribution partners, their customers and Fabricator’s Unlimited in warranty situations. I also train installation teams and templators, mentoring younger staff to help them grow in their career and increase productivity of the company. 

I have great variety in my work and really enjoy working with customers on a daily basis.  

My degree from St. Cloud Technical & Community College may be in Carpentry, but if you’re willing to always be learning and growing in experience there will be no limit to the type of work you can do.  

Taking on new responsibilities, saying yes to opportunities, and knowing that God has a plan for my life has led me to this point in my career. And, that works for me.

Kate Wallace
Posted in Alumni