Welcome to our third-annual spotlight of the young sign makers (thirty-five years old or younger) who we feel are making their mark in the industry—whether through sales, fabrication, management, or community involvement.
They will discuss a variety of topics ranging from the biggest challenges they’ve found since joining the industry, things they’ve learned about the art of sign making, their opinions on why the sign industry is an attractive career for younger people (and how shops can recruit them), and their outlook on how they’d like to see the industry evolve over the next few years.
Roxie Schwochert is Project Manger I, Lighting and Maintenance, for AGI, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based company specializing in immersive brand experiences. Roxie started in the sign industry in 2012, and she worked at two sign companies before landing at AGI, a company specializing in immersive brand experiences.
As a project manager, Roxie has been tasked to work well with local teams, maintain a budget, complete projects efficiently, maintain client relationships, and more. She also was part of a team that developed a centralized purchasing department that focused on quality control, spec consistency, cost reduction/value engineering, and working well with fabricators, estimators, suppliers, and freight company.
Over the last year-and-a-half at AGI, Roxie has spent time focusing on and learning about the lighting and maintenance side of the industry. She is a member of the 2017 ISA Elite class.
My career hasn’t been a straight line, and I love that. I see diversity as my biggest success. I was a temp hire looking to pay off my student loans; never in a million years was the sign industry my career choice, but I wouldn’t trade it. Diversity is my strength because it gives me a basis to appreciate every person that goes into making these projects happen. The diversity in my career has allowed me to be able to have educated conversations across multiple platforms and has made me appreciate all the nuances that go into this incredibly vast and underrated industry.
I was fortunate to start my career with a lot of people—from designers to management—that would stop and take the time out of their day to thoroughly educate me when I asked. My success is a testament to their passion; a huge thank you goes out to Kevin Horne, Tom Haviland, Mari Sheedlo, Paul Bowers, Dave Weichbrodt, Todd McCoy, Nick Mele, and Geoff Rosenbaum for all the knowledge they’ve shared.
That said, I’ve always been a “why” person. I wasn’t scared to be the stupid one in the room and asked a lot of questions. I asked to go to my local installs, as I was too young to rent a car. I asked to go to the shop for viewings/assembly, which was an hour away. I asked to have my company’s support in applying for ISA Elite. I asked my designers to show me how my signs were assembled and present advice for potential install issues. I asked for help, a lot, and still do in this ever-changing industry.
I’m incredibly excited to see our industry addressing mentorship and education in various ways. AGI is in the beginning stages of implementing their mentorship program within the Lighting and Maintenance Division. Dave Clower, Mark Podgorski, and Diane Largent have been developing various ways they can transfer knowledge and engage our staff. I’m very excited to look back a year from now and see how that has helped with our young professional engagement. ISA and its affiliates are a great resource! They have been putting out various programs at the trade shows: ISA Elite and Women Leading the Industry are two that I’ve participated in and they offer classes and seminars on a regular basis.
Over the last seven years, I’ve learned that branding is one of the most malleable, inclusive, “we got an app for that,” type of industries out there. I’ve seen the companies I’ve worked for go from, “We are a sign company,” to, “you need full exterior paint and electrical included? No problem.” With that, there’s a home for every personality type in this industry. Creative: Designer; Technical: Engineer; Detailed: Project Manager; Hands-On: Manufacturer/Installer; Personable: Sales; Numbers Cruncher: Accounting/Estimating; and Leader: Management/Owner.
I hope all companies take a fluid approach and allow their younger employees to find a position that suits them, because finding an employee that is passionate about their position will sell itself.