USGNN Original StoryTom Harris Talks About his Career and Future Plans upon Departure from Oldcastle® Glass Engineered Products
October 9, 2009

After 34 years in the glass and glazing industry, Tom Harris announced his departure from Oldcastle Glass Engineered Products (previously known as Vistawall), in Terrell, Texas, on October 2. Over the course of his 34 years, the majority of his career has been with the same architectural metals company, though throughout that time it has had different owners including Butler Manufacturing, BlueScope Steel and most recently Oldcastle.

While his departure may be surprising to some, Harris says he made the decision simply because he felt as though he was ready for a change.

“Plus I think I’m young enough to do other things and I have a lot of experience that could also be helpful to others,” he told USGNN.com™ in an exclusive interview this afternoon. Harris took the time to share some thoughts on how the industry has changed and where he sees it going, as well as plans for the future.

Q. In 34 years, what are some changes you’ve seen happen within this industry?

A. A lot has happened and much has been within the past few years and a lot involves the speed at which we work. It doesn’t necessarily mean the project gets built any faster, but the time to execute our work has been reduced. Also, the complexity of the products has changed. Today there’s glass for hurricane, blast and seismic applications as well as glass to meet energy codes. It used to just be a decision of ¼-inch or 1-inch glass. This complexity, though, is great because the better our products are the better we as an industry get.

Q. What are some of the other differences you see today compared to when you started?

A. We’re moving to a point where the architectural community has to depend on the installers and the manufacturers for their expertise. Because of the complex products we have now, architects are not always fully aware of the materials. This is an opportunity for us to bring value to the entire building team.

Q. What are some of your concerns about the industry?

A. In the short term, I think this economy could be detrimental. Every business in any industry has to adjust their cost line to meet their top line. I’m also afraid that we may see a lot of our talent disappear because [it’s the people] that can really bring value to a business.

Q. What are some things you’d like to see happen in 2010 and beyond?

A. I’d like to see this industry step up in areas such as sustainability and energy and to really have a leadership role. We’ve got to get the message out that architectural window systems provide a great benefit to a project in terms of sustainability, daylighting, energy savings—we want to push that in a strong way. At some point I expect photovoltaics will also become a big asset to our industry.

Q. Is there anything you’d like the industry to know about your leaving?

A. I’ve enjoyed my 34 years and have had a wonderful career. I’ve particularly enjoyed the sales and marketing side and the activities of building relationships. And that’s one thing I missed as I began to advance in my career because it takes you away from it a bit. Looking forward, I’m open to opportunities outside of the industry, but I’m also not opposed to those inside the industry.

Q. What are your future plans, both personally and professionally?

A. Personally, I owe some things to my parents and my wife to take some trips. So we will take time to do those things, but have not made specific plans as of yet. For my next career step, when I came to this decision I had no idea of what the next step would be … I do know I would like to be in a sales-oriented position, but I’m also not ruling out a management role either.

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