Linda Mai: A Female Leader in the Electrical Supply Industry
When Linda Mai started her career in the electrical supply industry, a colleague told her, “I don’t know why you’re here.”
What he meant was that he could not understand why Linda Mai, a woman, would bother with a job in such a male-dominated field.
“Once he said that, it only pushed me. I said, ‘I’m fixing to show you,’” said Mai.
And she did.
Working Her Way Up
“I went to every class offered,” said Mai. “I could build switch gears he didn’t even know existed. By the time I left, he’d grown to respect me.”
That was only the beginning for Linda Mai. In 1981, she became the first female Branch Manager at Braid Electric. In 2010, she became a Regional Manager for Rexel Electric, which had acquired Braid Electric.
She thrived in her position and even caught the attention of City Electric Supply Co-Chief Operating Officer John Gray.
“I first met Linda in 2008 and was so convinced she was the right person to open our Clarksville branch that when she turned me down, I changed plans and decided not to open Clarksville until I could convince her to join us,” said Gray.
It took him five years.
Moving to CES
“I just didn’t know if I wanted to change. I was scared to try something different,” explained Mai. “But I eventually decided to move to CES because I’m an independent person, and at CES, your branch is your branch. They give you the opportunity to take care of your store the way you need to take care of it.”
And after moving to City Electric Supply, she proved she knew how to take care of it. She helped grow sales, which are expected to be about five times higher this year than when she first started, and was promoted to her current position as Nashville North District Manager.
After 43 years in the industry, she’s happy with where her journey has taken her.
“A lot of people can’t really say they enjoy their jobs,” said Mai. “I like mine — going to work every day and learning new things, meeting people, helping people; I like the challenge of trying to figure out how to be the best branch we can be. It feels good getting that done for customers.”
And there’s something else worth noting that she does for customers.
Adding the Linda Touch
“Here’s one thing you need to know about Linda that sums her up very well,” started City Electric Supply Regional Manager Stephen Baker. “When we were planning her branch, she wanted to make sure she had an oven. My reaction was, ‘You want a what?’ But she wanted it because she makes cookies every morning for people who come to the counter. As busy and successful as that branch is, her focus is always taking care of her customers. She makes them feel like they’re coming into a place they want to be every morning. I bet there’s not another supply house in the world that smells like chocolate chip cookies.”
“She’s a humble, hard-working person. She’s not just a role model for women in the industry — she’s a role model for everyone at every level of this business,” added Gray.
When asked if she had any advice for people interested in joining the electrical supply industry, Linda responded, “Always give it your best. Learn everything you can. Set goals and chase after them with everything you’ve got.”
And with a successful career that’s still going strong after 43 years, one thing is abundantly clear — she takes her own advice.