Steve McFarland Reflects on First Week at WindowDressers

New Program Manager Steve McFarland reflects on his first week at WindowDressers

It was a fun first week. 

For me, there’s always a nervousness about starting a new job. I shouldn’t be. I mean, everything I’ve done in my life is similar in many ways to the ‘work’ of this job. I know I’m a good fit… the jobs I’ve loved the most were the ones where I could see a tangible positive result, and it was clear I was helping others in some way. I like people. I love meeting new people. And I’ve had a helping mindset for all of my adult life… probably even before then. Still, there’s always that back of the mind questioning… Will I really fit in at this job? Will I be very good at it? Ultimately, will I help meet the mission of Window Dressers and contribute to advancing its vision, that “every community has access to affordably insulated windows?”

Monday, September 19. My first day. Seems so long ago. I met with Jessica via zoom first thing. We spent a very productive two hours walking through all the most important stuff… the WDAdmin database, a little bit about Salesforce (enough to know I have a LONG way to go with my learning there), and about the people that I’ll primarily be working with – the Community Leads – the volunteers who will lead almost 50 Community Builds this year all across northern New England. Later on Monday, I processed a few ‘requests’ into ‘orders,’ made a few mistakes (learning opportunities!) along the way, and felt like I was off to a good start. 

Tuesday, I launched right into processing requests. I enjoyed reading through the details of each request. I didn’t grow up in Vermont, but I’ve ridden my motorcycle through most parts, so I have a sense of where many of the people live, and what Community Build they’ll be a part of. For every reply to a customer, I cc:d the Local Coordinator of the build where I had just assigned someone. I started recognizing some of the names Jessica had mentioned the day before. I wasn’t ‘meeting’ people yet, but I was starting to remember who was managing which builds. Settling in. Feeling good.

On Wednesday, I attended our first ‘standing’ Program Managers meeting, and got to interact with both Jessica and Meaghan, my Program Manager counterpart covering all of the builds in Maine. She and Jessica interviewed me via zoom, so I had interacted with her before… but that was kinda formal. Everyone was on their ‘best behavior’ and staying within a well-defined/well refined professional role. You’ve been there… you know what I’m talking about.  At Wednesday’s meeting, we all ‘let our hair down’ just a bit. Had some good laughs together. Made some important plans for me to get settled into my new role… and help me learn a lot in a short period. I felt my brain working in ways in which it hadn’t for a while. It felt good. It felt very good.

Thursday was a full day at the shop. Now, please allow me to be overwhelmed for a minute.

I met Joee, our Production Manager. Joee was assured, confident, and very much aware of everything going on around her. She quietly explained the task ahead, what her goal was for the day, and demonstrated a clear command of the entire manufacturing process. I felt I was in good hands.

I met Dale. Dale’s ‘been there, done that’ in the manufacturing world. He showed his knowledge throughout the day of whatever task was in front of him, displayed his ‘go get em’ attitude, and emanated an energy that will have a very positive impact on his fellow Window Dressers Production Workers staff.

I met Chuck. Chuck, from my point of view, is a genius. Except for the amazing computerized saw – the only piece of automated, high tech equipment on the floor, and core reason Window Dressers can create the pieces that comprise the almost 10,000 custom insulating window inserts that we manufacture each year – Chuck had his hand in customizing every other piece of equipment we own. The jigs that make their way through the “Gear Cascade?” Chuck made those. The jigs that allow the drill press operators to quickly and gently slide two pieces at a time under the drill press for quick and easy processing? Chuck made those. The floor stands? Chuck made those too. Like I said, Chuck, from my point of view, is a genius… and an integral reason we can do all that we do.I met Zip. Zip’s a volunteer, and from what I can tell, a very dedicated, ‘share whatever skill, knowledge, gifts, ideas’ he can to make sure that we not only do what we do to make window inserts, but that we do it to the highest quality possible. I’ve met only one Zip in my life previously so I asked, “What’s your last name?” Kellogg. Oh. Same Zip! I worked at USM for about 13 years, and Zip was the Head Librarian for all of those years and many more both before and after my time there.

It was great meeting everyone, and seeing the relatively simple, yet amazing process we use to cut and prepare all the pieces that will eventually do so much good in the world.

After we had cranked out a bunch of pieces, I was looking at the racks filling up with finished product. I had ‘a moment.’ I thought about all the insulating window inserts that these pieces will become, every one of them to be put together by volunteers. It was overwhelming… like a big ocean wave… powerful, catching my complete attention, and leaving me with a feeling of awe as it wafted over me and through me. Jessica was coming over to chat with me just as the wave was passing, not knowing I was having ‘a moment.’ She was very gracious, allowed me to collect myself, and waited patiently through my near breathless stammering out something along the lines of, “The thought of these pieces becoming window inserts, keeping warmth in and cold out, and saving our customers hundreds of dollars each heating season… done almost exclusively with volunteers all across northern New England…is just overwhelming.”

I left the Karl Kehler manufacturing center at 3 pm on Thursday, so I could get back in time to go out to dinner with my two boys, Andrew and Sam, and my wife, Nancy to celebrate ‘Dad’s new job.’ It was a very special end to a very special day.

I’ll wrap up with a slightly edited version of an email I sent on Friday to the ‘other’ Steve, the IT magician who creates, monitors, maintains, and continually improves our computer systems…

“Thanks for your help getting me going this week Steve. It’s an extreme pleasure being part of Window Dressers. I’m overwhelmed in a good way at the amazing amount of goodness, caring and love that’s flowing through this organization. And I know I’m just scratching the surface so far…I’m just getting started.”

Yeah, I think this job is gonna work out.


  • Sam Saltonstall
    Posted October 19, 2022 3:45 pm 0Likes

    Hi Steve,
    I volunteered with WindowDressers for a decade and was Board President for three years. In June I realized it was time to smell the flowers a little more. I’m not rocking on the porch much, and instead am still working on climate change as a Citizens’ Climate Lobby Chapter leader here in Brunswick.
    You write beautifully. I was right there with you all week. And if WD ever hires a development director, you should apply. I hope I will meet you soon. If you find yourself in the Brunswick, give me a shout and we’ll have some coffee!

    • Steve
      Posted October 19, 2022 6:50 pm 0Likes

      I’ll make it a point to grab a cup of coffee with you soon Sam. Thanks for your past contributions to make WindowDressers what it has become, and your continued efforts to keep the planet alive. All very much appreciated.

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