Josh Thompson, purchasing manager for Waste Industries, got his start in the waste and recycling industry right after graduating from college. Since joining Waste Industries, Thompson has held various roles, including working with CNG fueling station development, capital purchasing and data and fleet analytics.
“I have worked with Josh for several years, and he continuously demonstrates professionalism in the way he represents himself and his company,” says Chip Taylor, a distributor for Heil and Galbreath. “I have been in the sales side of the waste industry for 48 years, and it’s great knowing that people like Josh will represent us going forward.”
Earlier this year, Thompson earned himself a Waste360 40 Under 40 award for his strong contributions to the waste and recycling industry. We recently sat down with Thompson to discuss Waste Industries’ goals for 2017, his proudest career moment thus far and where he thinks the industry is heading.
Waste360: How did you begin your waste and recycling career?
Josh Thompson: Being a part of the waste and recycling industry has really been the only career that I have had since graduating college. I attended North Carolina State University, and Waste Industries has always been a big supporter of the university. I knew a number of people that the company hired from the school, and they recommended Waste Industries to me. I applied for a position, and I have been with Waste Industries since.
In college, I actually studied literature, mainly for the sole purpose of never being in a job that required me to do math. And ironically, my job now is 75 percent math, but I get to tackle different projects and challenges that require creative responses. I believe that my liberal arts degree is actually very effective in that sense because every situation that I am faced with is different and having critical thinking skills to tackle complex problems is certainly an advantage.
Waste360: What does your role as purchasing manager entail?
Josh Thompson: In my role, I oversee all of the capital purchasing that relates to equipment and the expense items that we use on a daily basis. Also, I oversee our CNG and alternative fuel initiatives. One of my main focuses is evaluating new technologies for our equipment and the building of our CNG stations. Additionally, I take on special projects as they come up, and I work to make sure that our supply chain is as efficient as possible so that we can make the right strategic decisions with the assets that we are buying.
Waste360: How have you seen the waste and recycling industry change throughout your career and where do you see the industry heading in the future?
Josh Thompson: The main impact that I have seen is how people use data analytics to drive better business decisions. Now more than ever, members of the industry are more competent to know which data they need to manage their business and, more importantly, how to utilize that data. Overall, I would say there is more modernization and discipline in how industry members make business decisions. In saying that, it’s important to note that my mentors in the business did always have the data, but they just collected and accessed in a different way.
During a recent meeting, Jim Perry brought up that he used to require everyone to wear a watch with a second hand so they could time each route stop precisely. He said the second hand was a required technology for everyone. That’s a great example in where the industry is headed because one of the challenges ahead is keeping in mind that while we are constantly improving, we can’t lose what we learned in the past: the customer is always right and the garbage gets picked up every day.
Waste360: What goals is Waste Industries working toward for 2017?
Josh Thompson: Waste Industries has been a great place to grow my career because every year brings new challenges and chances to work on new projects. Obviously, we’ll be focusing efforts on continued alternative fuel transition and several neat supply chain initiatives. Also, we look forward to hosting the National Waste and Recycling Association’s FILA event in fall 2017, which is a training and networking event for industry leaders under 45, and something we are proud to be a part of.
Waste360: What is the proudest moment in your career thus far?
Josh Thompson: There are two things that I think about here. One, I have a tremendous respect for the leadership and people I have worked around at Waste Industries. Many of them have taken time out of their schedules to invest in my professional development and also entrust me with increasing responsibilities that have challenged me and helped me grow. I have always been honored by their trust and support. Also, I have been proud that my team has continued to grow and develop. It’s a great joy to watch the people around you gain knowledge and confidence in their careers.
Waste360: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the waste and recycling industry?
Josh Thompson: There are really good opportunities to grow a career in a sector that has a huge impact on our country. The waste and recycling industry is often overlooked as a career choice, but the work you do every day is multiplied in benefits. For example, you get to help keep the cities clean and people healthy. Also, have a little bit of patience and open-mindedness because those qualities can help you be proud of what you do on a day-to-day basis.