CEStv Presents: Women in the Industry — CES District Manager of Nashville North Linda Mai

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To celebrate women in the electrical industry, City Electric Supply (CES) asked women in the field to share their journeys and give advice to anyone interested in pursuing a career in the same vein. In this special segment of CEStv, CEStv Presents: Women in the Industry, City Electric Supply sheds light on their stories of growth, empowerment, and achievement.

City Electric Supply (CES) District Manager of Nashville North Linda Mai had a dream to become her own boss. Determined to rise above from the beginning, Mai manages over 30 employees across seven branches today.

Taking Control of Her Future From the Start

Mai joined the electrical industry in 1977 as an accounts receivable clerk for an electrical supplier in Clarksville, Tennessee. However, she quickly faced old-fashioned perspectives that shaped her entire career — for the better.

“A former manager shared the opinion that I only belonged in the home raising children. This motivated me to educate myself so that I would know more than he did,” said Mai.

She went to several schools, taking every class she could to educate herself in the industry. 

“When I returned, I earned the respect of my coworkers. My manager even had to send customers to me to price transformers for him,” said Mai.

But she didn’t stop there. Soon after, Mai took on the role of branch manager.

“Opening my first branch was a real challenge and learning opportunity. You have to find the right people and location, and then, of course, you have to supply the branch,” said Mai.

She proved herself capable over the following years and again stepped up to become a regional manager.

“Then in 2011, after many, many years of Co-Chief Operating Officer John Gray asking me to come work for CES, I joined the CES family,” said Mai. “I have been with them for 11 years. Nine and a half as the branch manager and one and a half as the Nashville North district manager.”

And she said it was the right decision.

“CES lets you make your branch whatever you want to make it. You can stock your inventory how you want and come up with your own solutions on a daily basis. It’s just so flexible to work for them; it’s the best thing next to having your own company.”

And to thank John Gray for persuading her to join CES, she showed her appreciation uniquely and memorably.

“My fondest moment at CES was at a recent company event. I donated $500 to Make-A-Wish® so that I could dump ice water on Mr. Gray’s head,” Mai said with a smirk.

A Passion for People and Customer Service

“My favorite thing about the electrical industry is my customers and employees,” said Mai. “I can tell you who their children, wives, and husbands are. CES is a people business, and we care about our customers — they are not just an account number.”

Over the years, she learned the keys to great customer service: Always put the customer first, always listen, and always be honest. She also learned how to handle difficult situations.

“When COVID-19 hit, we had to go at our business at a different angle. Everyone was more isolated, and the supply chain has been a definite ongoing challenge. I just try to support my team however I can,” said Mai.

Fortunately, she learned her first and most important lesson from her mother.

“She taught me from a very young age that you give 110%. You don’t give 100; you give more. And the more you give, the further you go. And she really was like that,” said Mai.

Advice to the Next Generation of Women in the Industry

“I want to tell women joining the industry that knowledge is power. Always have a competitive spirit and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do what you want,” said Mai.

She currently employs six women across seven branches and wants to see more join the industry. But more importantly, she wants them to achieve big things.

“Have a dream, a big dream, and set a goal. Because if you don’t, you will be working hard for somebody that does,” said Mai.

We hope Linda Mai’s story interests and excites you to learn what you can bring to the electrical industry.

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