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Heather Gray's career grows through empathy and curiosity

By Lauren Watts

March 1, 2023

Heather Gray is a hunter, a cosmetics expert, and the human resources (HR) director for one of the fastest growing equipment rental companies in the country, Rental Equipment Investment Corp. (REIC), in Kalispell, Mont. What a difference five years makes.

“I was working in retail and had 100 direct employees,” Gray recalls. “I was the assistant manager on the operations side of the cosmetics counter and the human resources manager.”

One day in 2018, one of her employees shared a job opportunity with her in a completely different industry. Gray scoffed at first, happy in her role, but after a few weeks decided to apply. What could it hurt?

Gray was chosen for the job as the hiring committee picked from three stand-out candidates. After the interview process, she was told she was offered the job because they could see her passion for people and they knew that was crucial for an HR director in a growing company. As for the equipment part, she had some familiarity but dove in head first to ensure she was comfortable in the yard.

“I was raised around agricultural equipment so I knew more about tractors than skid steers,” she explains. “But I’ve always been the type of person who wanted to know more than just HR, I wanted to know what every single person did that added to the bigger picture of the company. The first thing I did was take the [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] OSHA 30 because I wanted to be more involved with safety. I came out with a new perspective and knew my job would be to create and promote a safety culture.”

To do that, she laid the foundation from the top down, developing a plan and getting support from her board, REIC executives and store managers alike.

“I knew that this change had to be sweeping across the company or even the best courses wouldn’t be retained,” she says.

It was through her desire to help her staff and offer the best training programs available that she discovered the American Rental Association (ARA).

“I kept seeing ARA signs all over the place and I wanted to know what they did besides offer insurance,” Gray says. “So I started looking and saw that there were volunteer state associations and boards. So I filled out the form and a few weeks later I went to my first state meeting.”

Now, just five years later, Gray is the president of the ARA of Montana, where she has already facilitated trainings for rental operators in her state with Department of Transportation (DOT) representatives, former Secretary of Interior and many more speakers. Gray’s most valuable skill as a human resources professional is helping her in her volunteer position.

“I just started listening to what people in Montana were saying,” she says. “Everyone is facing the same thing, big or small. We have employees leaving every day – one day you see them, the next day they’re gone. We all need drivers and help in the yard, so how can we all come together and educate ourselves and each other.”

Most recently, Gray coordinated a training event for ARA of Montana in January and was thrilled with the turnout. “I try to increase attendance at every event and we’re growing our engagement all the time with many exciting plans for 2023 – stay tuned,” she says with a smile.

You can listen to her full story here and watch her video right here.