When I Was Hired

As BIG KAISER celebrates 30 years, Inside Sales Manager Andrea Distelhorst reveals how she got her start at the company. 

When I was hired, I never thought I would be here today, involved in manufacturing (which I knew nothing about), working at the same company since college graduation.

First, I would like to thank Chris Kaiser and Jack Burley for the wonderful opportunities offered to me and my growing career here, and to all the fabulous people I have met along the way.

In May 2000, I graduated from the University of Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes, in the ever-bustling, super fun and artsy, college football town in Iowa City, IA—also my parents’ alma mater—with a Bachelor of Arts degree in German and minors in chemistry and biology. It took me 5 years to accomplish this goal and I truly enjoyed every single moment and wouldn’t change it for the world—college loans and all. In fact, I still go back with my family and friends to pay homage.

At the time, many of my friends were in the working world, moving to downtown Chicago, meeting significant others, and enjoying life in the big city, aka Wrigleyville. So, against my parents’ will to get another degree, I decided to join my friends. 

My mom kept asking me what I was going to do with this major and said I better start looking for a job, especially if I wanted to move to the city. Just before graduation, she started to send me the Daily Herald newspaper from home. For you Millennials, this was just before the Internet truly came out and we had to look in the help wanted section of the newspaper for jobs.

I could not believe it, but right in front of my eyes, there it was like the bright, blinking marquis at Wrigley Field when the Cubs won the World Series in 2016:

German speaking individual needed for small manufacturing company located in Elk Grove Village, IL.

I put together my resume as quickly as possible. Since I was a fresh graduate with minimal work history--except for a tanning salon where I managed to turn purple and Honey Baked Hams over the holidays--I asked my doctor, whom I worked for in the University Pharmacology Lab, to write a letter of recommendation. Bam, it worked!

Fast forward a week, I moved home and was celebrating my graduation with friends. I decided to sleep at a friend’s house that Friday night since I knew we would be out late. When I came home Saturday morning, not feeling all that great from the night before, my mom started following me around the house telling me to call back this nice Swiss man, whom she had just gotten off the phone with. They had a nice conversation, and he wanted to meet me.

I kept thinking, what did they talk about, what did she say, and, most of all, I hope she did not embarrass me. My first response, “Mom, it’s Saturday; I am NOT calling him today, but I will do it Monday.” That man was Chris Kaiser. Thanks, Mom, for breaking the ice.

As they say, the rest is history. I was hired on the spot by Chris and Jack. On June 1, 2000, I started as the engineering administrative assistant.

My first major task was to translate German engineering documents and drawings from BIG KAISER in Switzerland into English. This was great, except that they did not teach manufacturing terminology in any of my German classes at Iowa. For those who don’t know, Swiss German is totally different from what they teach in schools, which is known as High German. Because of this, I was never able to be Chris’s executive assistant, which I am OK with (LOL). I did my best, however, and learned a lot about the Engineering and TMS departments, the people and their functions.  

In 2003, I took a position in the Inside Sales Department. I focused even more on our internal and external processes, learned more about the different departments and their duties that make this organization run, including our products, sales reps and, most of all, our wonderful customers.  

Soon thereafter, the company decided to take on the BIG DAISHOWA line of products. In part of our speedy growth, I would soon take on a new role as Inside Sales Assistant Manager.  After moving to Hoffman Estates, our current residence, I became Inside Sales Manager, and the first woman manager, at the company. I am happy to say, I am still learning about the people, the products and this life I choose.

I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization, surrounded by talented people and leaders, a fabulous product line; and, most importantly, I am thankful for our loyal customers, new and old.