If you choose to continuously learn and grow, well, you’ll naturally find you DO belong in that industry and make your mark. If this is the industry you want to be in, don’t let anything stand in your way… It’s really all about putting in the work, and continuously learning.Desarai Mosher
*Despite her recent departure from Stark International, Desarai has stayed in the same industry.
Desarai, thank you so much for joining me today for this interview for our Women in Power Systems September feature. We really appreciate your participation.
Can you tell us, for a start, what is your position at Stark International and how did you come to this position?
Presently I am the Chief Commercial Officer for Stark International Inc, as well as TransFluid Services Inc, which is our US sister company. Both are privately, family-owned organizations, providing on-site substation and transformer repair and maintenance, vacuum and oil processing, testing, commissioning and decommissioning services across North America and the Caribbean. Both organizations have been operating since 1994, although have grown and expanded substantially over our nearly 30 years operating. I believe we currently operate North America’s largest privately-owned fleet of transformer vacuum/oil maintenance units, which puts us in an excellent position to meet demand for both planned and emergent outages in the regions we serve.
I have nearly 13 years invested with our companies in helping clients achieve confidence in their transformer fleets. When I joined the business, there were women in key leadership roles as well, which gave me someone to look up to and learn from. Seeing women in leadership roles gave me the confidence to believe I could get to where I am now. Women empowering women is so important to thrive in an industry not historically lead by women. I started out in a sales development type of role and moved laterally and vertically through the company from there; I was an Account Manager, Strategic Account Executive, Business Development Manager, Technical Sales Manager, and now Chief Commercial Officer. In this role, I work alongside our President and CEO, Scott MacEachern, and our executive management team. Although my role allows me to provide analysis strategy and support across multiple departments, core areas of focus for me are sales and business development, revenue analysis and strategy, and management, contract management and negotiation, and transformer technical support to internal and external clients and stakeholders. I continue to interface with our clients daily (the best parts of my workday!), placing emphasis on keeping transformer maintenance simple, and helping engineers and maintenance leaders avoid preventable disasters.
You are in a leading position at your company. And as far as I can tell, you’re not the only one. Stark is a women-led company. Could you tell us a little something about that?
The company is family-owned. Our president and CEO is Scott MacEachern. His two daughters, Emily and Danielle (graduates of the renowned St FX University), presently work within the company (his son, Vaughn, has also spent time working within the company during university). Emily leads our formal tendering department, and Danielle recently began training with our lab on the administrative side – with such involved young ladies expressing interest in the family business, these companies may be women-owned in the future. For right now, in terms of the executive team – in addition to myself we have Nancy Walsh as our Chief Administrative Officer – overseeing accounting, finance, insurance/bonding, human resources, health and safety, anything administrative or regulatory. We also have women in key operations, lab, project management, business development and accounting roles.
Do you also employ women in more technical roles, for example in production, in maintenance?
At the moment, we don’t have any women in the field. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a lot of interest from women to work in the field, but I also recognize that it’s a very small pool of candidates. That’s still something the industry can do better – encouraging women to pursue more technical roles. I hope we’ll see more of that to help bridge the gap between global demand for technical expertise and human resources. In terms of project management for our field teams, we have more women than men in that function.
Desarai with Danielle MacEachern (left), and Emily MacEachern (right)
Would you say that women are hesitant to join working on the field? What can we do to encourage them?
I think there remains an inherent opinion / feeling that it is a man’s job and that’s something that has impacted a lot of jobs and a lot of careers over the years, not just our industry. However, I do think that opinions are shifting, and we are seeing more women in these kinds of roles. I encounter a lot more women in engineering and technical positions than I did even 13 years ago, which is really great. I feel that one thing we as an industry can do is to partner up with colleges and high schools and emphasize on encouraging more young women to enter the industry – it doesn’t seem to be something that people are focusing on with any great time investment. We need more women in technical AND leadership positions reaching out to that specific diverse group and saying, hey, this could be you, you could be doing this job. And really getting young women excited about what this industry is and excited about the trades – I think that’s something that everyone in the industry can do a little better.
I think that’s where you and your colleagues actually come in to show that women can succeed in this industry. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal journey towards this position where you are now?
I didn’t come from this industry to begin with. My educational background is in international trade; I am a Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) with the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) – this is the globally recognized designation for practicing export/import and international commerce professionals. Prior to joining the team here, I focused on helping companies to expand / export into new markets, research new markets, things of that nature. For me, this was a natural progression because this was a company that was looking to grow and expand into other countries, and it gave me an opportunity to use those skills. Now, in doing so, I found a niche industry that I absolutely love. Since I joined the company, the family has expanded into the USA with the acquisition of TransFluid Services Inc, and clients in the Caribbean and Mexico.
I’ve become very adept at the technical side of things, having worked alongside some very knowledgeable technical folks in the transformer industry, and in the high voltage industry in general. For me, it was an intensive hands-on learning experience and just having an interest in it. I’ve always been the one to roll up my sleeves and figure things out. I said, okay, here I am. I’m in an industry that I didn’t come from, what can I do to be better at whatever I’m doing? What can I do to set an example? So, I am just continuously learning. I’m always drawing on the technical folks around us. I’m always consulting regularly with our field crews, our vendors, and industry network, to troubleshoot things for our clients. You need to immerse yourself and be ready to learn. Over time, it brought me to where I am now.
I think we bring a different perspective, maybe because of the traditional roles that we’ve been in as women – maybe an openness in communication style as well that is more natural to women than men… It’s encouraged everyone, I think, to take a step back and prioritize, spend more time focused on family and not being in ‘eat-sleep-breathe work’ mode. Work-life balance is more important than ever.Deserai Mosher
What would you say to young women who are hoping to join the industry, especially those who are facing significant challenges on their journey, especially regarding discrimination?
I would simply say don’t give up and don’t give into that pressure – that feeling that you maybe don’t belong in the industry. If you choose to continuously learn, and grow, well you’ll naturally find you DO belong in that industry and make your mark. If this is the industry you want to be in, don’t let anything stand in your way – no one is going to hand anything to you on a silver platter, so put the work in and make it known that you intend to reach for the stars. It’s really all about putting in the work, and continuously learning. I think it’s also important to constantly network and connect with people in the industry – it is said the smartest people know they aren’t the smartest in the room, and always surround themselves with people smarter than them – that’s how you keep learning. Personally, I never reject a connection request on LinkedIn, and regularly seek to connect with people in areas of interest for me – because I never know who I might be able to learn something from, or help, or whether someday they may have just the solution I need to a problem!
Stark has always been largely women-led, and I had an excellent mentor when I started here in Peggy Dennis, who was our VP of Technical Services at that time, and other female colleagues in technical sales roles. I am continuously encountering incredibly supportive and encouraging men in this industry too – which makes it that much easier for us as women to thrive in the industry. Networking is key!
Excellent advice. What would be some unique qualities that women bring specifically to the power systems industry?
I think we bring a different perspective, maybe because of the traditional roles that we’ve been in as women – maybe an openness in communication style as well that is more natural to women than men. I think we’re seeing some cultural shifts in the way that businesses are run and, in the work-life balance. A part of my feels this is because we’re a little more upfront when it comes to asking for those things and demanding those things in our careers and advocating for ourselves and others. I think that it’s not just helping women in the industry, I think it’s helping men in the industry too. It’s encouraged everyone, I think, to take a step back and prioritize, spend more time focused on family and not being in ‘eat-sleep-breathe work’ mode. Work life balance is more important than ever. Outside of the office, I am a busy Mom to a recent high school graduate who is also testing the waters in the power systems industry – he is working directly with me in business development currently, and a 6th grade girl who I can see has caught on to the fact women can choose any career they want, from watching me succeed in this space. My career perspective and approach changed with family and kids. My husband Brad and I met 21 years ago, he kept us going while I went to college, and he has been incredibly supportive of me in my career growth – he even took on full parental leave when our daughter was born, allowing me to return to work early, while still maintaining care for our family without outside help. My family is number one, but they are proud of what I do, and fully support and appreciate my passion for what I do in my career, which is wonderful.
My final question to you – as you work in the sales department, you have experience with different markets, Canada, US, and international markets. Can you share with us, is there a difference among those markets with regard to inclusion and representation of women?
In terms of the geographic markets, my focus has been in North America. I think the playing field is a lot more level than it has been in the past. We still have a lot of work to do, but I think we as women have a better place at the table than maybe we have in the not-so-distant past, and we’re feeling more welcomed and engaged. The statistics still tell us that it’s still primarily men dominating technical and leadership positions in this industry – but it’s not because women can’t do it. Instead, I believe it’s a numbers game, and there are simply fewer women jumping into the industry and looking at the types of education that bring you to this industry. I think it’s still visibly disproportionate wherever you go. But we’re getting there, and the change and evolution was and is still happening at a great pace.
We have to keep the positive attitude and also, like you, motivate and inspire others to join the industry, especially because you know there is a lack of workforce right now. Have you experienced that in your company?
I don’t think there is a company in this industry that has not been impacted by shortages in trades and trained people. I think that’s everyone right now. The pool is small and there are a lot of us looking. So again, I think that’s where it comes down to those of us in leadership roles in the industry making time to be connecting more with high schools, trades colleges and trades programs and ultimately encouraging young people, and especially young women, to consider trades and the industry in general as a potential career option.
Do you have any final thoughts to conclude this interview?
I want to say I have noticed there are couple of categories in this industry that seems to be doing really well at attracting more women to technical and leadership positions. Power generation and utilities, in particular. I see a lot more women joining the ranks in those companies. We need to look to some of these companies to find out what they’re doing that is making them (at least by all appearances) more successful in attracting women into these roles. Who are they partnering with to get the right message out? What types of marketing are they doing to their target future employees? What educational institutes are they working with? And what about these companies attracts women to seek employment there and choose to stay there? What events are they participating in to reach young women? Instead of recreating the wheel, we can start by learning from the people who are getting it right!