If developing wide-ranging experience is the foundation of a successful career, Armando Garza is well on his way. He has loaded trucks, driven forklifts and learned how to operate every machine center in our lumber mill in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Now, as the mill's shipping clerk, he uses what he's learned along the way to help improve shipping efficiencies.
Armando also builds his skills through community service. He volunteers with the city of Cottage Grove and serves on the city budget committee - even though he doesn't have a finance background.
"I'm curious about how things work, so I've appreciated learning how decisions are made and seeing how this huge city budget is managed," he says.
In his free time, Armando also coaches youth sports.
"I believe sports lessons of work ethic, dedication, commitment and being a good teammate apply to life in general," he says. "Teamwork is such an important part of what I do at work. I know how hard it is to drive a forklift and load trucks, especially when it gets busy, so I know how important it is for us to work together to be efficient and safe."
Your title is shipping clerk. Tell us what you do.
I release lumber orders for shipment, managing our truck schedules and rail orders. I manage our finished inventory and make sure we're properly rotating stock so customers get the best product possible. I track and manage our Home Depot stock and shipments to our Stockton, Phoenix and Long Beach distribution centers. I handle bills of lading and other paperwork, and I coordinate the forklift drivers to get everything loaded safely and efficiently.
How long have you been with Weyerhaeuser?
I've been with the company for 16 years. When I started, I was working different jobs in the sawmill and planer mill. One of those jobs was sawmill handy, basically a relief person, which required me to know how to operate every machine center in the mill. I moved to forklift operator in 2013, then to my current role about two years ago.
What led you to choose this job?
I've always been interested in learning more about the business, and I wanted to diversify myself. I figured my experience in the mill and as a forklift driver would give me a better understanding for what I do now.
Tell us what your day is like.
I start each morning by checking the truck and rail schedules, then I release orders produced the previous night. Next, I review inventory to make sure we're rotating the oldest stock out, then I review our Home Depot stock to make sure that we've got enough to service their stores and our distribution centers.
I also coordinate truck shipments, which is kind of like being in air traffic control. We have four loading locations, but sometimes we have 10 or 12 trucks here at a time, so I need to figure out the best staging location for them to wait to be loaded. We have four loaders, two on rails and two on trucks, plus a couple of floaters, and I direct the resources we have available to the area with the biggest need. On average we ship between 1.5 and 2 million board feet a day out of our facility.
Who are your customers?
Both the people who buy our lumber and the truck drivers who deliver it. One of the perks of my job is that I've had the chance to form friendships with some drivers. I know that trucks are in short supply now, so I make sure I'm courteous. I want them to keep coming back to deliver for us. Cottage Grove has been, and continues to be, a preferred destination for truckers to pick up, and we do our best to keep it that way.
What does your work area look like?
Much of my work is done from my desk, though I do venture out into the shipping yard when needed! My office is in a central location of the yard. I have a computer with two 27-inch screens plus video monitors that allow me to oversee the yard and all the trucks out there.
What's your favorite part of your job?
I like that it keeps me busy. When we have 40 trucks going in and out and we're loading 16 rail cars, it can be quite challenging. And I like getting to see how big Weyerhaeuser is, since I work with so many people in other parts of the company. I enjoy being able to network and build relationships. When I worked in the mill, I got to know the team members internal to Cottage Grove, and now I've met so many others, from employees at our corporate office in Seattle to team members at other mill locations.
You must have some challenges. What are they?
Things can get very hectic, and sometimes I end up being the middleman between the finish and shipping drivers. It can be a challenge to just hear people out and make sure we're all working together. We are one big team, and it really does take all of us doing our part to keep Cottage Grove successful. Trying to balance our Home Depot stock and premium stock customers can be a challenge, too, but we always find a way to keep everyone stocked up and happy.
Tell us something about your job that might surprise people.
Some of the shipping team members tease me, saying they're surprised to learn I actually work. I'm the office guy, right? I'm not out there tying down the rail cars or loading the trucks. In all seriousness, I think the most surprising thing about my job is the amount of people across the company that I work with. Weyerhaeuser is a huge family, and I'm glad I've had an opportunity to meet and work with so many others in the last few years.
What advice would you give people who want a job like yours?
You've got to take pride in what you do and care about not only things that are going on here at our facility, but also what our product is going to look like after the shipment leaves. And you have to be able to multitask and problem solve in an ever-changing environment.
What are your career aspirations?
While I like where I'm at now, I have some interest in the forestry end of what we do. I'd like to tour our timberlands and see how things work there.
When you were young, what did you want to do?
I grew up watching "Perry Mason" on TV, so I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid. My mom always said I could make a case for anything. But once I figured out how much schooling was involved, I decided it wasn't for me!
Tell us about your other interests. What do you like to do when you're not at work?
I have three boys, and they're all active in sports. I've coached Little League baseball, football and basketball for about 16 years. I'm currently an assistant football coach at the high school, so we're very busy. My wife and I joke that we spend all our free time chasing the school bus. I also enjoy hunting and fishing when the opportunities present themselves.