Women in Waste: Linda Weatherbie
District Operations Manager Linda Weatherbie still meets people who are shocked that she runs GFL’s solid waste site in Moncton, NB.
“They will ask to speak to the manager,” she said. “Still feeling the need to prove myself, even after over twenty years in the business, is one of the biggest challenges I face.”
And she’s faced it head on, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. Now the manager of nine staff – eight of whom are men – Linda has had to navigate a rapidly-evolving, technologically-complex and male-dominated waste industry to get where she is today.
“I believe this industry is still a man’s world,” she said. “As a woman, I’ve had to come to the table with knowledge, perseverance and a strong work ethic to gain respect in the business.”
It all began in 1997, when Linda took a job as a favour to a friend.
A young mother at the time, Linda was working as a therapists’ assistant in the burn victim unit of Moncton Hospital, and in the process of applying to nursing school. Out of the blue, she received a call from a friend who worked for BFI, a large North American waste management company.
“He explained that the business urgently needed someone to come in and help with administrative work, mainly accounting and customer service,” she said.
Linda agreed to take the job, intending to help out short-term before returning to the health industry. She never imagined it would turn into a highly-successful management career in one of the most competitive businesses around.
“When I started, I didn’t know anything about waste and had no idea what it took to make an industry like this work,” she said. “I remember asking ‘what do all these trucks do?’”.
The years quickly passed, and Linda didn’t return to nursing. She loved the people she worked with, and the fast pace of the waste industry. She found it better suited her goals of a stable career, advancement and the chance to spend precious free time with her family.
Over time, Linda worked hard to prove herself as a leader. As a woman, she dealt with challenges that for the most part came naturally to her male counterparts, such as managing an all-male team, and understanding the mechanics of equipment.
When another waste management giant acquired BFI, cutbacks left the site short-staffed. But Linda knew the business, had a strong work ethic, and had built meaningful relationships with customers, so within a few months, she was running the site by herself.
Fast forward to 2014, and soon after GFL purchased the site, Linda was promoted to General Manager.
“I’d worked so hard to get where I was, so being recognized was fantastic,” she said.
Linda’s incredible dedication, hard work and perseverance had paid off. She’d reached her management goal, but not without personal heartache. In 2013, her husband was diagnosed with larynx cancer, and all of a sudden Linda found herself juggling the needs of her family with the demands of her job.
“To come to work every day, with that on your mind and stay positive was difficult,” she said, “especially while managing the staff and getting my job done.”
In spite of challenges professional and personal, Linda has excelled as a manager. She’s gained the support and respect of her team by being firm but fair, making tough decisions when necessary, and sticking to her principles.
Her Moncton site offers a friendly and welcoming environment for both employees and customers. She prides herself on keeping it in great condition with her ‘woman’s touch’, and ensures that no special occasion goes uncelebrated.
Linda credits much of her success over the last twenty-two years to guidance from her waste industry ‘family’.
For the last 14 years she’s worked closely with Kirby Nevers, who was initially a colleague before his promotion to Senior District Manager for New Brunswick. He’s been a tremendous source of help and support to Linda throughout her career, and as her manager, is still someone she regularly calls on for advice.
She’s also grateful for the mentorship of Timothy White, Director of GFL’s solid waste operations in Eastern Canada.
“He’s been able to transform the way I look at the business,” she said. “Thanks to him, I’ve built a great deal of knowledge in areas such as finance, risk, and capitalizing on opportunities.”
Two decades after first joining the waste industry, Linda knows her decision to stay was the right one.
“I love the challenges, I work with a great group of people, and I enjoy going to work every day,” she said. “To this day, I don’t regret the decision to stay.”
And her advice to other women in the business? “Don’t be intimidated – the waste industry supports the hardworking,” she said. “If you have the work ethic and are dedicated you will be a success. Just don’t take any garbage!”