Life is truly unpredictable, and for those of us who just “fell into roofing” (myself included) it’s a crazy ride. When Stephanie Haigh started working, she was on a completely different path. After graduating college, Stephanie worked in finance for a while before landing a position with a major engineering firm. She enjoyed the work, but was restless sitting at a desk, surrounded by project managers that had opportunities to travel and do amazing work.
It wasn’t long before she realized she wanted to be a part of that world. For just under two years she studied at various levels to obtain her professional certification in Project Management. After gaining some experience through independent studies she gathered the courage to take the certification exam and succeeded.
“It paid off. I passed on my first try, and I still find the occasional flash card stuck in the couch cushions or floating around under a bookshelf.”
Little did she know that this certification would be the confidence boost she needed to enter into construction and ultimately start her own business. Stephanie knew she wanted to be a part of the construction industry, but landing on the rooftop was a surprise.
“Why roofing? By accident really,” Stephanie said,“My degree is in Business Management with a minor in Marketing. So after getting my PMP Certification, I started applying for every marketing & project management position posted by construction companies in my area. I got lucky and was hired as the Sales and Marketing Manager for a roofing company just up the street from me. They had no idea what they were getting into.”
Haigh fell in love with nearly every aspect of roofing. She had learned more in 6 months at the company, than she had in all 5 years of college. With her applied drive she was soon overseeing their inside sales department, building their social media presence, heading up a brand new IT Development department, and onboarding/training new roof inspectors.
“I will never forget the first roof I ever climbed. We were in South Carolina, and the only access to the roof involved setting the ladder up on the other side of the fence, not the home, and to scurry straight up the middle of the roof plane. I thought they were going to have to call the fire department to get me down. I never would have made it without my team. They stayed with me until I got comfortable in my Cougar Paws, taught me how to safely navigate a steep roof and walked with me back down to the ladder. I didn’t realize it then, but each one of them put their life in danger to help me be a better climber. I can’t thank them enough.”
Stephanie was experiencing the camaraderie that many of us lucky ones feel in the roofing business. It takes a special person to participate in roofing and all that comes with it. So when companies find a good hire, a person willing to push past their fears and grow, they do what they can to keep them. Feeling valued as a worker is always important and can be better recognized from the outside looking in.So, I was curious– what did she experience on the inside being a woman in the industry at this local company?
Prior to Stephanie’s arrival, members of the office had set a bad precedent for those coming in behind them. She says “Overcoming stereotypes can be difficult when your predecessors set the bar so high. I eventually ended up leaving the company due to management’s reaction to an incident that occurred between myself and another male employee.”
I am interested in what advantage participating in stereotypical behaviors gives women in the workplace. Stephanie wasn’t invited to the deep sea fishing trips with “the fellas”, though she admits she likes to fish. She was not part of the “in crowd” where roofing talent waited to be poached and recruited.
In an industry where there are so many risks, criticisms, codes and standards it seems nonsensical that women have these additional burdens and judgments preventing them from succeeding. To promote any growth within something so profitable and necessary to society seems like a no-brainer.
Stephanie loved so many things about roofing, but she still faced criticism from her male counterparts. When she won projects she was told it was a handout due to her gender. When she offered others tips and tricks to win their own projects they balked at her contributions and told her she didn’t know what she was talking about. Fed up and tired, Stephanie became the change she wanted to see in this world.
“I knew the things that I would’ve liked to change were possible. I just needed to approach them from a different position. So I started ComfortEagle.”
Haigh opened her own roofing company intending to change the culture of the roofing industry, revamp its reputation, create safe places for women to work in construction, and to never again allow anyone to make her feel the way she did when she left her previous employer.
Did change happen for all women overnight? No. But Stephanie saw an opportunity for a happier and more fulfilling life in the exact same industry that told her she didn’t fit in. Now she makes commission, setting her own salary truly based on her performance. She meets new people and learns more every day. The work is difficult, but by setting up a fluid schedule, she can balance work and home life as needed. Stephanie enjoys offering a service to better her community, showing off ComfortEagle’s product on social media, going to the mat with insurance companies on behalf of her homeowners, and investigating leaks and providing resolutions.
I’ve personally seen that within trade work it’s common to have role models, and though Stephanie on her own is a tour de force, I had to ask her if she had any influencers that kept her going.
“Andy Rothschild. He was one of the three owners of the roofing company I previously worked for. Andy is the most patient, knowledgeable man I have ever had the privilege of working with. His moral compass always points North.”
Receiving that influence is an indication that she is right where she’s supposed to be. And aside from money, independence, and respect, Stephanie was able to identify the most rewarding aspect overall in her journey thus far: “Showing my kids that anything is possible.”
Stephanie is just the role model that NWIR loves to showcase.
ComfortEagle LLC is a roofing and gutter contractor operating out of North Metro Atlanta, GA. They are versed in shingle new construction, repairs, reroofs, and inspections. Their flexible scheduling provides homeowner consultations and appointments at the click of a mouse. www.comforteagleroofing.com
By Rachel Pauly