We love highlighting the outstanding members of our team. This month, we are spotlighting Foreman John Brzozowski.
What is your role at AF Smith?
I'm a foreman, currently working on the Ruthven Building at the University of Michigan. I've been with the company a total of 24 years.
As a foreman, what is your job like?
Every day is different. First I get my crew started and make sure they don't need anything. Then I start my work, check my emails and head out to the job site. As a foreman, I do a lot of electrical work, plus the management aspect.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I like solving problems for people, helping them with what they're trying to get done. I enjoy teaching -- some journeymen still need a hand on figuring a few things out. And I like laying out work for the team, making sure they're busy for the day.
What led to your career at A.F. Smith Electric?
I got rotated to them during my fourth year of my apprenticeship. Through our apprenticeship they rotate you to a different contractor every year of the five year program. That way you're not only learning from one person. You learn from multiple people. So I rotated away, but then I was able to get back with them.
What do you wish people knew about A.F. Smith?
It's a very local shop, and it's family owned. They treat their employees, I feel, better than other contractors. You're just not a number, you're a person, and the owner seems to try to meet everybody that he's got working for him.
What got you interested in the electrical trade in the first place?
I was working with my dad as a house painter and wallpaper hanger, and I saw an ad in the paper for the electrical apprenticeship, and I applied. In the interview, they asked why I wanted to be an electrician, and I told them my dad thought it would be a good idea for me to get a journeyman's card. So they probably thought, "He doesn't really want to be an electrician. He's just doing what his dad wants."
The next year I interviewed, they asked me if I had talked to any electricians, and I hadn't. So the third year, after two years of not getting in, I figured the only way I could talk to electricians is to go see some electrical contractors. I live in Jackson, so I contacted a couple of contractors and said I'm not looking for a job, just want to talk to an electrician. I talked to three or four different contractors, and asked them various questions.
This time when they asked why I wanted to be an electrician, I told them I was married with a baby on the way, and a lot of jobs are being outsourced, but I don't think they'll ever outsource electricians to India. I think there'll always be a need for electricians, and that's what I want to do. I want to be able to provide for my family. And then they asked if I'd talked to any electricians, and I said yes and told them who. After I got accepted into the program, I found out that all the contractors I'd talked to were nonunion. I'd never even thought to ask. So between those two answers, they probably figured this guy really wants to be an electrician, and we better take him or he's going to go to a nonunion contractor.
Who have been your strongest influences in life?
My father. Definitely my father. And then, my first journeyman that I worked with. I would like to work with that man again someday to find out if he's as smart as I remember him as, or if it was just because I didn't know anything back then.
What are you most proud of accomplishing, either personally or professionally?
Personally, being married for 35 years to the same woman. We've been together for 40 years, and have two wonderful children, and a couple of wonderful grandchildren. Professionally, completing jobs under budget and ahead of schedule. One of the best ones is the Power Center for Performing Arts. It was a hard building to do because it was all concrete, and they didn't want to see any of the wiring. So we had to hide it as best we could. Even with the challenges, we brought that one in ahead of schedule and under budget.
Congrats on that! OK, last question: Describe A.F. Smith Electric in three words or less.