Heidi Clemens: Moving Coastline Forward
For 20 years, Heidi Clemens has helped John Deere and Coastline adapt to changing technologies and optimize internal business systems. Now, she is Coastline’s Business Operations Analyst and continues to lead a seamless technology experience for our customers and employees. In our interview, she told us how she went from working at a Deere dealership by chance to a total Coastline success story.
1. Please describe your job and tell us a bit about what you do for Coastline and your history in the construction industry.
My role, Corporate Business Operations Analyst, is a unique one, created based on my experience working at John Deere dealers over 20 years. It’s primarily an internal support role to help Coastline teammates with business systems, processes, and meeting financial and operational objectives. My job ties together operational systems and optimal results.
I fell into the construction industry by accident. I started working at a Deere dealership in college as a service clerk, and later a sales administrator. At that time, the use of computers and business technology looked very different. We were just starting to roll out computers at full scale and look at new business systems. I took a role as IT administrator and gained exposure and experience that served as catalyst to my current position in technology optimization, which is really my passion. I became a change agent to help incorporate new John Deere software systems, and then realized I wanted to be closer to the business and customers and transferred to Product Support Operations Manager where I gained experience in equipment telemetry, proactive customer support, and customer maintenance solutions.
I’ve been with Coastline for three years now. My family moved to Idaho to get out of the rat race and spend more time together, and I recently started to work in sales and rental side of the business here. It’s still about optimizing business systems and training our employees.
2. What is your favorite thing about working in this field?
It comes down to the people. We’re working as a team, and with our customers. We see our customers every day; they build the roads we drive on, the houses we live in, and the infrastructure of how we live our lives. And the people at Coastline understand and appreciate that. You get close to what our customers do every day and pay more attention; it’s not noise in the background anymore.
3. In your opinion, why is it important for women to get involved and become leaders in the construction industry?
This is an interesting question because I didn’t intend to get into the industry. I feel that the limited number of women in this business actually gives us an advantage; we stand out in the crowd. There aren’t a lot of women in the core business, so we bring a new perspective to an old industry.
4. Have you encountered any challenges as a woman working in a male-dominated field? If so, how have you handled such challenges?
I haven’t personally encountered any, although I have seen them. The construction industry is something of a boys’ club, so it can be hard for women to get promoted, especially to leadership roles. When you go into a construction dealership and there’s a locker room, and it’s a men’s locker room. There hasn’t been a mindset of women in the industry which can make it challenge. I’ve learned speaking up is very important and you have to be confident. We earned the right to be here just like anyone else. If you speak up and be confident, other employees will be more accepting.
5. What advice do you have for women looking to build a career in construction? Or to career-women who don’t necessarily have the construction industry on their radar?
Like I said, speak up and be confident. It’s important for women who are looking to start in construction to know that like all businesses, the industry still needs accounting, marketing, and sales roles, in addition to machine experts. You don’t need to know everything about excavators and wheel loaders to get into the industry. I’ve operated some equipment and that’s super exciting, but I’m not a machine expert and I don’t need to be to succeed.
6. Tell us a bit about yourself when you’re not at work; what do you like to do in your free time?
My husband and I met at the first dealership I worked for, so construction is a big thing in our household. This year I’m celebrating 20 years with John Deere and 20 years of marriage. We have two kids, our six-year-old son Eric and nine-year-old daughter Abigail, and two 150-pound gladiator danes, our gentle giants. We love the outdoors and going swimming, especially in hot springs. We try to do that often, whether a natural hot spring or a developed one. We spend a lot of time together gardening, riding bikes, and camping.
We can’t wait to see what Heidi does next! In the meantime, we congratulate her on her double anniversary this year and thank her for all she’s done to advance Coastline’s mission.