Josh Lapacz, former Davey intern and now crew leader at Davey's North Minneapolis office, and Sierra McCoy, intern at the same office, talk about how they found their way to jobs in arboriculture and what internships are like at Davey.
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Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each episode showcases one of Davey's certified arborists sharing advice with everyone about caring for your trees and landscapes. We'll talk about everything from introduced pests, seasonal trees care, deer damage, how to make your trees thrive, and much, much more.
Tune in every Thursday to learn more because here at the Talking Trees Podcast, we know trees are the answer. Well, today we got a very special show. It's National Intern Day. We're talking to Josh Lapacz and Sierra McCoy. John Josh was an intern with the Davey Tree Expert Company. Sierra is a current intern with the Davey Tree Expert Company out of Minneapolis. We're going to talk all about this internship and finding your way to arboriculture. Josh, how did you work your way into working with trees?
Josh Lapacz: Growing up, my dad was a city forester for our hometown, so I was introduced to that from a kid. I always watched him when I was younger and climbed trees and did all that stuff, got in trouble doing that. Then I went to school. I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something with the environment, but didn't know exactly where to go.
I ended up going to point in at Mid-State Tech and find the forestry program there and did my first internship. I met Justin who was a manager of the shop here at the time, did my first internship in Minnesota, and I just fell in love with it. It just had everything that I wanted and a job and more. From there, I just kept going and signed full-time and here I am now.
Doug: Now you're a crew leader, right?
Josh: Correct. Yes.
Doug: All right. Sierra, what about you, how did you find your way to working with trees?
Sierra McCoy: Well, I am currently studying forestry and animal ecology at Iowa State University. To be honest, when I was looking for a summer job, I wasn't exactly looking for urban forestry. I was looking more generally in natural resources, something with the DNR, but because of COVID, there weren't many options. I figured that with this job, I'd still get basic skills and experiences that I would need anywhere else. I do not regret it at all.
Doug: Tell me a little bit about what an internship doing a job like this is like, either one of you.
Josh: It's pretty awesome. David does a really good job and this shop has always done a really good job at forming the internship experience because it gets you involved in-- you get all aspects of it. Couple days or a week or two, you do some plant healthcare, arborgreen pros, and see that side of things. You do the tree surgery side of things. They try to do a variety where you get on some planting jobs, some air spading, eventually hopefully climbing, doing some climbing, some chainsaw work on the ground.
Some cabling, bucketing. Honestly, you try to get the full experience of, here's everything we have to offer and there's still more, and then it lets you decide of what you like the most, and decide from there because we do have DRG and stuff. Maybe people like it here, but not quite the physical part and more of the science part. Then there's the DRG side of things or some people fall in love with the plant healthcare.
We even ride with the salesman and the manager for a couple of days, too, which is really cool to see that side of it and be like, "Oh, okay." You do the jobs and you see the beds and the work orders and all that, but then you get to see how they go about doing that and the customer relations. It's cool to see that side of things and where you can work up to.
Doug: When I hear all that, the thing that scares me the most is learning how to climb.
Sierra: Oh, yes.
Josh: Talks a little nerve-wracking at first.
Doug: Yes. Talk a little bit about that. I know all the safety precautions you have to take, but whenever I talk to an arborist or I see an arborist, Davey comes here to my property all the time to work on the trees and to see them up there. Sierra, how about you for climbing?
Sierra: Well, I've actually only gone up once so far. I didn't do anything while I was up there, but it was a great experience just getting me used to the motion, which it is a lot harder than they make it look [laughs], but it was great. I hope to do more soon. I'm sure more opportunities will be coming up.
Doug: Josh, I assume you had experience doing this or at least watching this growing up, and having a feel for it.
Josh: Yes. A little bit growing up, I was more of the ground worker for my dad. When I had my first internship, when the salesman went out of his way to really get me involved in the climbing aspect, he would set me up on his jobs so I could get the experience to climb and try to make it the best I can or he can for me.
Thankfully, I could just keep building on that. I did two internships. I did my first year and then I had a semester left after my second internship. I couldn't start full-time officially. I just did the second internship until I could start full-time and it was nice because I just came back here and I hit the ground running, just kept improving on my skillset that I already started on in the first internship. That was pretty fun.
Doug: Sierra, early on when you're looking at all these different aspects of being an arborist, when do you think you'll decide which one of these things is for you or how do you make that decision?
Sierra: That is an excellent question. Well, I will say that before coming in here, I was planning on going into more ecosystem conservation and restoration but my experience here is really making me question things. I'm not sure when I'll figure it out, but each day just makes me think about it more and more. I do think it's mostly because of the great guys here. They're great. They're helping me a lot and really making this experience a great one.
Doug: Well, that's why you do an internship, is to figure things out. We've all been through it, depending on whatever we do end up doing for a job is that figuring out part that's just, how it goes. How did you end up at this office, though?
Sierra: Oh, well this is just my hometown, so I chose the closest one to me.
Doug: Was it nerve-wracking for you beforehand or did you come and meet people first? How does it work?
Sierra: I came in and met Tyler the day before my first day, walked around the shop, figured things out, however, it was completely empty. There was nobody here, no trucks were here. When I came in on my first day, and it was just full of huge vehicles and all sorts of things, actually, I almost cried. It was a lot, but clearly, doing a lot better now.
Doug: Josh, you were an intern. Are you supervising interns now at the shop?
Josh: Yes. I work with Sierra let's say couple of day is out of the week or so at least.
Sierra: My first two weeks you were there a lot yes, so a lot of the beginning stuff I learned from him.
Josh: There's always a lot to-- because I could understand where the feeling of a little nervous, a little overwhelmed, maybe intimidated by how much there is to learn because there's just a lot of little things and then there's a lot of big things and safety is a huge thing. There's a lot of safety things that go into it and have to make sure that for sure, just keep getting those safety basics down at least. Then working from there to do how to run rope, how to set up Porter app, tie knots, using a chainsaw, and you can start advancing from there. Yes, it can get a little intimidating at first, especially with new people, a whole shop of new people that all know you each other and you're just throwing it in there and like, "Here's the intern." I feel like our shop has been very good at being open-
Josh: -and going out of their way to talk to people and meet them where they don't feel-- Our whole shop is a team,so we like to build on that. Each person that we add to the crew is just another team member. We don't want anyone to feel left out or not wanted, because everyone's always wanted and everyone just helps each other out.
Doug: Sierra, talk a little bit about that process of coming in as the new person, and now how long have you been there?
Sierra: Oh, two months, about, I think.
Doug: Talk about that process of finally getting comfortable. I don't know if there is a bigger issue than safety, especially starting out in a job like this going through all that technical learning of this is what you have to do, you can't-- this is important. This is about being careful and coming home every day.
Sierra: Yes, I feel that I got most comfortable after meeting everybody and starting to repeat on crews and after I was taught safety and the basics because until then, I just would stand around and ask, "Oh, what can I do? How can I be helpful?" I still do that a lot.
Doug: That's good.
Sierra: [laughs] I just had no idea what the process was, or what the order of things were, and really being taught those basic skills like pruning cuts, or even just clean up, it helped me a lot. It just helped me feel like I belong there and that I could be helpful.
Doug: Josh, you had a comment there when Sierra says she's always asking, "What can I do to help?" You just said, "Oh, that's good." [laughs]
Josh: Yes, it's awesome when you have anyone that can ask questions on how they can help or what they can do or even just, why are we doing this, or what's going on with this? Any questions are always great. It's when you don't have the questions that it gets a little nervous, because then--
Sierra: Just assume people know.
Josh: Right, assuming in this industry can be not good at all. It's great. She's been really great at asking questions. That'd be a huge thing for any intern that's working in the field, or any field is just ask questions. Don't be scared. No one's going to yell at you for asking a question, and even if you got to ask it three times, because there's a lot. [laughs]
Doug: Talk a little bit about the fun stuff. What's fun about the job for you guys?
Josh: For me, it's climbing for sure. [chuckles] The climbing aspect is definitely my favorite. I do like Ayers root pruning, because it mixes a science and tree biology in there. You can actually save the tree by air spading and root pruning, where a lot of the homeowners-- You can educate the homeowners on why their tree is dying and show them physically you--
Sierra: Root cause [laughs].
Josh: Yes, actually, the root cause that's good.
Doug: Sierra, you're a natural.
Sierra: Oh, thank you [laughs].
Josh: It's cool being able to educate the homeowners on why we're doing things and, for the most part, they always seem to enjoy that because they're like, "Whoa, you never would have thought of that." It's like, "Just that one little root was causing this whole tree to die," and stuff like that. It's really fun being able to educate as well as have fun doing
Doug: Sierra, were you aware of how much they deal with customers when you came in, did you know that was going to be part of this?
Sierra: I knew some part of it would be involved, I didn't realize how much.
Doug: When I when I talk to arborists, I hear that a lot. I hear that part of the satisfaction of the job is educating, teaching the homeowner, but also helping the homeowner. You guys know from being out in the field how important these trees are to people, right?
Josh: Right, easily. Some of the trees you get to work on are just amazing trees, the big bur oaks that are just 300 years old or so. You're working on some pretty cool properties. It's pretty cool to be able to leave your stamp on that and help that tree and that homeowner to make those trees last as long as possible.
Doug: Sierra, what are you thinking for the future, what's going to be next for you, any idea?
Sierra: Well, unfortunately, I am too planned out and I have plans for next summer. If those fall through, I definitely want to come back. It's a great experience, great job, great people. Hopefully, I can figure out how to squeeze in another internship or something like that.
Josh: There's always time.
Doug: Josh, what do you think's next for you?
Josh: I want to keep advancing my skills in the field, maybe if I ever want to go into sales, maybe we move up there, but [laughs] right now I'm happy climbing, so
I'm just doing that.
Doug: At some point, though, you're going to have to quit climbing right or not?
Josh: Yes, eventually I don't know.
Sierra: You want to think about that.
Josh: I don't know how long. [laughs] I know riding around the salesman, I know they seem like they have a cushy job but it's a lot more to it than just driving around all day and grabbing [unintelligible 00:16:29]
Doug: All right, guys. Thanks so much. That was great information and thanks for sharing your stories.
Josh: Thanks for having us.
Doug: Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees Podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I'm your host Doug Ghoster. Next week, we've got a great show for you all about how trees support butterflies and other pollinators. As always, we like to remind you I'm the Talking Trees Podcast trees are the answer.
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