“I have always been a woman in construction and that’s a rarity. And it’s been a struggle. We need more women in the industry, and I’m an advocate of that.” – Debra Dotschkat
Debra Dotschkat is the General Manager and Co-Owner of Glass Canada, a premier glazing contractor in the Okanagan that specializes in commercial and residential glass installation. From Osoyoos to Salmon Arm they work with each client to achieve functional design solutions with customer satisfaction at the forefront of their approach.
Fun Fact – Glass Canada is responsible for much of the glass work at Interior Savings, including the front entrance at our Downtown Kelowna location and the glass whiteboards in our boardrooms and offices.
As mentioned above, Debra has been in the construction industry for the greater part of her career. And as a woman in an industry that has not always been accepting of women, it hasn’t always been easy. She recalls times when she has been dismissed (and worse) based on her gender but after spending just a few minutes with her, it’s evident that she isn’t the type to wither in the face of adversity.
Through some of the initial challenges, Debra celebrates the fact that she’s seeing significant improvement in the industry and women are not only being accepted, but thriving and rising to the top, as a new generation of young men and women are entering the workforce. She herself is a testament to the upward momentum. She started out getting coffee and is now both the general manager and co-owner of a successful 10 year old business and currently sits on two industry boards advocating for both general industry awareness as well as women in construction.
She’s passionate about providing impeccable service and is a die-hard Montreal Canadians fan – “Go Habs Go!”
Here’s what Debra has to say about being a woman in a historically male-dominated industry, running a business and working with Interior Savings.
What’s your name, title and the name of your business?
My name is Debra Dotshkat and I am the GM of Glass Canada. Glass Canada is a commercial glazier which means we manufacture and install custom glass storefronts for businesses.
Who or what inspires your business?
I have always been in construction and I’m a woman. It’s a rarity and it’s been a struggle. We need more women in the industry, and I’m an advocate of that. From the days back when I got coffee to being a co-owner of our company – I’ve just seen so much grow and change in our field and it’s so exciting.
What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome as an entrepreneur?
Sadly, I’m a woman in construction. I have had some people ignore me in meetings and talk down to me. I am the face of our company and do a lot of our networking events but some people will be dismissive and say “have one of the guys call me”. I just smile, and I understand the world that we live in and I say “I will have one of the guys call you”. But what amazes me is some of the younger owners, like the 30 year olds just starting out, they’ve been going to school with women and they see that we’re all equals. To see this new group coming through is so exciting for me. It’s just going to be a great thing for everyone in the industry, our clients and our communities. So as much as it’s been a hurdle, it’s getting better.
We would also love to expand our operations as there is a lot of work out there. But the workforce is limited. It’s almost impossible to add to our team. We’re at a comfortable place where we can, we have the knowledge and the ability – and with Interior Savings, the financial backing – to go bigger but we simply can’t find the physical laborers to do it. And I think that is probably a common problem for many in the construction business.
What’s one piece of advice you would give other entrepreneurs or those starting out in business for themselves?
You have to build a team of people, of experts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help from others. You’re not going to take everyone’s advice but it’s good to hear everyone’s opinions and stories. I joined a networking group that had a lot of older entrepreneurs and the advice I got from that was so valuable. If you have a good team behind you to help guide you – you’ll flourish. There’s times when you falter and times when you excel, but don’t beat yourself up. Even if you make a mistake, keep going, ask for more advice and from a whole range of people. I think you can be very successful if you’re willing to learn from other people.
Tell me about your experience working with Interior Savings.
I do the books and all the banking. So when we decided to open our business I wanted to go with who I was most comfortable with. I was already a member of Interior Savings and I’d had great service over the years, so I said, “that’s who I’m going with”. Some people said “that’s not a business bank”, but we’ve found as our company has grown, so has Interior Savings. They’ve brought on more and more products that have helped us in our business and then we were assigned a Small Business Manager. And I love that we are all a part of the same community. We did consider changing banks about 4 years in to our business. I looked at a couple other banks and they couldn’t come close to what Interior Savings was offering me in the way of service. The one-on-one service is what we need for our team and we find that with Interior Savings.
What aspect of your business or professional life are you most proud of?
Since we started I have been an advocate in the industry. At one point I was on six different boards. And the work that I’ve done – with my business partner supporting me – to bring awareness to the industry as a whole is the most important thing to me. Also being an advocate of women in the industry, I’m currently sitting on a committee out of Vancouver with that focus. So definitely my work with the Southern Interior Construction Association and the Glazing Association out of Vancouver to both bring the glazing industry as well as the construction industry as a whole to the forefront, are my proudest accomplishments. It’s a great industry to be in, we’re proud to be a part of it and I think that needs to be spoken.
It was a pleasure to meet you Debra, thanks for helping to pave the way for equality in your field and congratulations to Glass Canada on 10 years in business this year!