10 Minutes With LaFleur Project Manager Becky Zobl
Becky Zobl joined the LaFleur team in mid-2018 as a project and account manager. A West Michigan native and graduate of the communications program at Grand Valley State University, Becky journeyed to Los Angeles and worked in the fashion industry after college. She then spent time at a law firm in Chicago before coming full circle and settling back in Grand Rapids with her husband and two young children.
As a natural problem-solver and agent of order, Becky loves to break down problems and come up with creative strategies that sweep them to the wayside. We recently sat down with Becky to get her take on L.A. life, the importance of humor in the workplace, and the gratification of helping others do their best work.
LaFleur: I know you lived in Los Angeles, and I’ve known quite a few people who have moved out there over the years. I feel like it’s very much a love-it-or-hate-it type of city. Do you think that’s true, and do you fall into one of those camps?
Becky Zobl: I would definitely say that is true. [My now-husband and I] were not there for very long, and now it seems like a long time ago. I think it was fun for the time of life I was in, but I definitely knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to be out there long-term or raise a family out there.
LF: That makes sense. I feel like knowing it’s temporary might help you keep your sanity in a city like L.A. What did you like most about it while you were there?
BZ: Well, you can pretty much wear the same thing every day since it’s always high-70s and sunny and it barely ever even rains. I was in my young twenties at the time, and I was a female working in the fashion industry with a lot of other women who were in the same phase of life, so that part was very fun. And it’s enjoyable just to explore different neighborhoods and areas. I mean, within just a short distance from L.A., you can go to San Diego or Las Vegas or anywhere along the coast and see so many different things.
LF: Yeah. I was there staying with some friends recently in San Francisco, and one morning they took me whale-watching. We drove like an hour and a half from San Francisco and worked our way along the coast and saw a ton of active whales. That kind of blew me away.
BZ: Yeah. Like in our neighborhood, we had this beautiful mountain canyon that was literally one block away. It’s pretty amazing. But L.A. also is definitely a case of urban sprawl where everything is so spread out. When you talk about traveling in the city, you don’t say how many miles away, because that means nothing. You just refer to how long it’s going to take you, which is unrelated to the distance.
LF: So living in Los Angeles, working in the fashion industry — that sounds like a dream fulfilled for a lot of people. Was it like that for you?
BZ: Not exactly. It definitely wasn’t somewhere I had planned to be. My husband got a job offer out there and we had both just graduated, and we said, “Whoever gets the first job, that’s where we’ll go,” and it ended up being L.A. And through some contacts I ended up getting connected with a retailer in the fashion industry out there.
While I was there, I got to see some inner workings of the business and started doing some of the things that I do in project management now: helping to make things more efficient, solving problems. Then I shifted my focus more into the marketing side and got experience working on things like competitor analyses and strategic marketing plans. That was really my favorite part about the work I did there.
LF: It sounds like it was love at first sight between you and project management. What do you like about it?
BZ: I like the aspect of sort of bringing order to chaos. I’m very much a “get-things-done type of person,” a “list crosser-offer,” so it just feels like a natural fit for me. As a project manager, I feel like I can check things off and make sure everyone is happy, has what they need, and can move forward knowing someone has their back if they encounter a problem.
LF: After Los Angeles, you moved to Chicago for a few years, right? If you had just lived in New York, you could have completed the big-city trifecta.
BZ: We almost did live in New York, actually. But yeah, we were in Chicago for about three and a half years. We thought about settling there, but it seemed like only the suburbs made sense, and from that point, it’s like, “Well, if we’re going to live in the suburbs, we might as well move back to where we’re from.”
LF: How did you end up at LaFleur from there?
BZ: I was looking for something to come back to full-time because I had been home with my two little kids for a while. I saw a job posting for LaFleur, and it aligned with my experience and what I was looking for. Once I interviewed, I was very much drawn to the culture and the team here.
LF: What’s your favorite thing about working here so far?
BZ: I really love our team, and honestly, I love the work we do. Everyone is so creative and everyone brings something different to the table, comes up with their own ideas for projects and directions we can take things — both for LaFleur and our clients.
LF: Personally, I enjoy the wry sense of humor you bring to the mix. I feel like you like to be amused and to amuse other people, but you’re not easily amused, if that makes sense. I don’t know if that sounds like a compliment, but it is in my book.
BZ: Yeah, I think that just kind of seeps out — not always intentionally. I also don’t like to take things too seriously. It’s so easy to get stressed out about client work and be like, “Oh, this is life or death,” but let’s be real, it’s not. And you know, I’ve worked part-time for Gilda’s Club here in Grand Rapids, which involves working with cancer and grief, and even there, you learn that there’s always room to be light-hearted and enjoy life.
LF: So, maybe this is kind of a silly question for a young working mom with two young children, but what do you like to do when you find free time?
BZ: Yeah, you’re not wrong. At the stage I’m in with two small kids, there’s not a whole left of me at the end of the day. But in theory, I like to hang out with my friends, sit outside and drink wine, do yoga, and I also like to sew, which I feel is almost a metaphor for project management. I like to see all these little pieces come together into a greater whole, and to take an original plan or pattern and turn it into something unique.
LF: What was the last sewing project you finished?
BZ: I made some fun masks for my son. They were a tiger, a robot, a dragon, and Catboy from PJ Masks.
LF: Even your hobby time revolves around your kids.
BZ: Welcome to parenting.
LF: What about the sitting outside and drinking wine? I feel like that has to be something that’s got a “just-for-you” component.
BZ: Yeah, just like everyone here in Michigan, as soon as it’s nice, I want to be outside. I have found time to go to some different wine festivals, and it’s fun to learn about wines, try different things, and just enjoy that scene with friends.
LF: Do you have a go-to wine to pair with the great outdoors?
BZ: I really like viognier. It’s a good one, but it’s not one you find at a lot of places.
LF: I’ll keep my eyes peeled.