NWP Employee Spotlight: Sarah Strem
NWP Employee Spotlight Series:
Illuminating Stories from the People of Northwest Pipe
At Northwest Pipe Company, our team members are the foundation of our success, and we take pride in our diverse and talented workforce. This series shares the inspiring stories and career journeys of employees from different departments and locations. In each installment, we interview one of our team members and delve into their experiences, challenges, and accomplishments, and discover why they choose to build their career with Northwest Pipe Company.
Spotlight on: Sarah Strem
Dry Cast Lead / Manhole Machine Operator | St. George, UT
Sarah started with Geneva Pipe and Precast, a Northwest Pipe Company, just over two years ago. With an ambitious spirit and a lot of hard work, she has since risen the ranks to become a lead in the dry cast department. In her current role, Sarah is charged with the important task of running the St. George plant’s manhole machine, producing a wide range of high-quality precast products, from catch basin risers to manhole sections and cones, as well as elliptical concrete pipe.
Tell us about your career experience – how did you find your way to your current role?
Previously, I worked in retail as a department manager for Walmart as well as a sales manager for a call center. I was a crew leader for a tile company just before I joined the Geneva pipe family.
Pretty early on in my career with Geneva Pipe, I knew I wanted to advance with the Company. I took every opportunity that presented itself to learn what I could, so when a position opened up, I would be the first choice. I started as a finisher in the dry cast area. I went from finisher to crane operator to lead to manhole machine operator/lead. Although all my positions have been primarily in dry cast, I have had the opportunity to learn some of what our invert and wet cast departments do as well. The most exciting part of my job is that it really doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it, there is always more to learn and room to grow.
Looking back at when you first applied, what made you want to join Geneva Pipe?
When I applied, I knew nothing about this line of work. To me, that was exciting—the opportunity to learn something completely different from anything I’d done before.
Two years in, what makes you want to stay?
Honestly, it’s like a family away from home. The people I get to work next to and for are amazing, hard-working, crazy-smart people, and I love working with them.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
It starts with stretching and a meeting with my team to discuss what our tasks are for the day. Then we will usually jump into tip out, which is where we remove the pallet the product sits on. We tip out products that were manufactured the day prior after they have had time to cure overnight. These products are then taken to the yard. After that, I’ll head up our change over, which involves switching out the forms (or, if a complete change over is needed, the forms and cores) to match the manhole sizes we are producing that day. Once the equipment is set, we will start running our scheduled products, and after that, it’s just clean up.
What do you look forward to each day at work – what keeps you coming back?
A lot of it is the people I get to work with. They make every day interesting and fun. Also, being able to look at what we made or what we did that day and having a sense of pride in what we are able to accomplish.
Describe a favorite project you’ve worked on so far.
I have to say the lean and 5S* project that we did in dry cast was my favorite. It’s made a night and day difference not just in how the department looks, but how it functions. We redid the office, getting rid of things that were no longer used in the area; built a wall to organize tools such as shovels, sledgehammers, and floor scrapers to reduce time spent looking for the right tools; and installed a rack to hold all our regularly used forms, which freed up a lot of space for production while making the area cleaner and much more organized. We also installed new lighting above ground as well as in our pit under the manhole table. Honestly, we’ve implemented so many improvements it seems like a whole new department. (*5S = Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain)
Which of the Northwest Pipe Company ACT Values (Accountability, Commitment, Teamwork) resonates most for you in your role?
Commitment is the one that tends to mean the most to me, although all three of these values are required for success. I believe that commitment is the foundation for strong teamwork, and when you have a committed team, they will inevitably hold themselves and others accountable.
What stands out to you about the culture at Geneva Pipe / Northwest Pipe Company?
It’s a Company that truly cares about its people and its people’s safety.
What advice do you have for someone starting a career in your field?
Ask questions, learn all you can, and make being safe your number one priority.
Is there someone at Geneva Pipe who has inspired or motivated you along your career journey?
I’m very lucky to say I have a few people who inspire and motivate me in my career. My production manager, Larry, and my safety manager, Jeff, are just incredible people—I know I can count on them no matter what. They believe in me and are always so helpful. Also, Ethan Decker—he is the hardest working guy I know, a very smart and skilled problem solver. I honestly aspire to be a little like all three of these individuals.
Name one thing that always brightens your day outside of work.
My family. My spouse and I have been together for just shy of seven years and we have five incredible grandbabies. They are my everything and nothing brightens my day like they do.
What do you like to do for fun, and how does working at Geneva Pipe help you maintain a work-life balance?
I really love the outdoors. Anything outside—camping, fishing, kayaking, or just taking my dogs to the park. Being able to have the weekends off gives me a lot of opportunities to do those things.