After 40 years of striving off customer interactions and working for the same company, Penny Culp from Graham Engineering is retiring.
In 1979 Culp joined Graham Engineering working on the bottle line, packing bottles and making boxes. Culp knew she didn't want to be in this position for long, and in 1981 a custodial position opened up for the company and Culp applied. She was working in the filing room and pulling parts for machines.
During her two years in the custodial position, Culp drove the company car and picked up customers. Making those connections paid off later when she moved into a customer service role.
Culp did leave the company for one seven-year stretch to work at a flower shop. She was happy to be called back to Graham in 1995.
"I got a call [asking] if I wanted to come back and I was very happy to come back because I didn't want to really leave to begin with," Culp said.
Culp knew she wanted a job that included a hands-on aspect as well as a chance to interact with people. The manual labor experience early in her career allowed her to work her way up into a position she had a passion for.
"Helping the customers: That was my calling," Culp said. "When you get somebody that has a complaint or something like that, I always told myself, 'well, he's never going to complain again because I'm going to take care of it.'"
Coming back in 1995, was the biggest challenge Culp experienced during her time at Graham. She felt excited to be back but there were some technical advancements within the company that she had to learn about. She also had to relearn operating systems as well as work with new employees.
Culp was with the company during many big industry changes. She saw the company go from focusing on smaller machines to bigger rotary machines with 24 cavities and also moving into accumulator heads and additional production lines.
During the years as a customer service employee, Culp had to learn with the company as it began to develop new machines or new products and when new companies started to work with Graham.
"You pretty much had to learn something new every time something came out.," Culp said.
She said the company was employee-oriented throughout her years working at Graham. Even during the height of the pandemic, the employees were able to adapt and work as a team despite the different work environment.
Culp did notice a spike in customer service interaction during COVID-19, due to companies needing to keep their machines running to produce antiseptic wipe containers and hand sanitizer containers that were in high demand.
Culp has enjoyed her time as a customer service employee because of how she feels she's been able to impact people through it and support them along the way.
"I got to meet so many people. I have friends all over the world and I talked to people all the time," Culp said. "I met so many people while working here. I've seen people come and go and there were opportunities for me. I'm very proud of myself and I'm proud of what I was able to do with the help of the Graham companies."