By Karen Edwards, RCS Editor.
At RoofersCoffeeShop.com we love learning more about our visitors and couldn’t wait to learn more about Lee Lipniskis. Lee is a founding member of National Women in Roofing and currently the finance manager at Core Contractors Roofing Systems in Denver, Colorado. Her journey, like so many others, was interesting and inspiring to hear and we hope it resonates with you too.
Lee grew up in a tight-knit Italian family in Indiana where she attended Ball State University earning a degree in insurance and risk management. She calls herself an insurance nerd so it was no surprise when she applied for a job with Farmers Insurance to become a field adjuster. The surprise, for her family at least, was that the job was in Denver. Lee says she was interviewed and hired the same day and two weeks later had packed up and moved across the country, not knowing anyone in Denver.
Her introduction to roofing: As an adjuster, Lee spent a lot of time on the roof, looking for wind and hail damage. She learned how to estimate. Then she made a change and began working for Travelers where she learned a little about commercial roofs. Armed with the knowledge she had learned, she decided to become an independent adjuster, working with a firm based in North Carolina. She began traveling around the country to adjust claims.
It was while she was an adjuster that she met her current boss on a roof – a full two years before she began working for him. “I was the adjuster on the claim and he was the roofer,” explained Lee. “I saw how he talked to the homeowner and to me with such respect. The company really stood out to me. They had such good integrity and really cared about the homeowner."
Lee was happy in her job as an independent adjust until an incident on a wood shake roof in Parker, Colorado caused her to re-evaluate. “I was on the second story of the roof when I stepped on a bee hive that cause me to fall from the second story down to the first,” explained Lee. “My keys were still up on the second story so I had to crawl back up there to get them. I learned I was allergic to bees that day too.”
Lee said that after that incident she felt like she was done. Anytime after that when she was on a roof and anything would fly around her – a fly, a gnat or even a butterfly, it would freak her out. She decided a change was needed and she looked up Andrew, one of the owners at Core Contractors who she had met on that roof two years earlier.
“I said you’re going to hire me, I’m going to do estimates for you and I’ll start in August,” she said to Andrew. He didn’t think he could afford her but when they talked numbers they were able to work it out and she’s been there ever since. She started doing estimates, then moved into production scheduling and material ordering.
She moved on to manage the supplementing team, then became operations manager, and now is the finance manager. She says she is the now the right person in the right seat and loves her role in the company. She oversees accounts payable, accounts receivables, she handles human resources and safety, leading weekly safety meetings for the company.
Lee has been the only female on the leadership team and couldn’t ask for a better team. “They really listen to what I have to say and they back me and have confidence in what I do,” she explained.
Her advice to women getting into this industry? “I would say that one of the best pieces of advice is to talk to a woman in the industry and get their thoughts and insights,” Lee said. “I would happily talk to anyone interested. I love this industry and women bring a different skill set to it. We have that passion and organization skill set that is different than men. We bring a different thought process to the industry.”
What is one of the greatest experiences of her life? Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. “I figured since I am in the roofing industry, why not climb the roof of Africa?” explained Lee. She raised $3,000 for a nonprofit that she is involved in and teamed up a few other people to make the trip. The group spent 14 days in Tanzania and trekked for six days from 5,000 feet to 19,300 feet to summit the mountain. “It was the craziest, hardest, most mind-blowing experience of my life. I learned that your mind is a lot stronger than you think it is. You just have to tell yourself to keep walking, even when your body doesn’t want to.”
What is the best piece of advice she ever received? Lee says the best piece of advice she ever received ties into her Italian heritage. “We are a family full of very strong Italian successful women including my mother who was very inspiring to me. When I was young she always said to stay true to myself and honor who I am.”
How does she balance work and life? “It is hard sometimes, I really truly believe that there is an ebb and flow in everyone’s lives and sometimes I do well, sometimes I fail,” she explained. “I am trying to truly be present in whatever I am doing. I practice and focus and hope that it will become natural.” Lee says that if you are present during your workday, you will probably be more focused and can get more done; but when you go home, be present with your family and don’t forget to make time for yourself too.
Lee has a long-term boyfriend, Daniel, who also works in construction. She just bought her first house last year and volunteers at a puppy rescue where she found her Australian shepherd border collie named Vito. She named him Vito because in Italian it means life giver. “I gave him his life by rescuing him and then he gave me mine by opening up my heart,” she explained.