Nine years ago, Anthony Mak was working at a banquet hall and wanted to try something new. He saw Chalet, based in Wilmette, Illinois, had an opening for an integrated pest management spray technician.
“Though I had no experience, Chalet was willing to provide training and this became the start of my new career,” Mak says.
Since joining the company, Mak has held the role of spray technician, auto mower installer and maintenance seasonal color scheduler.
“I was very excited, especially when I realized ‘landscaping’ was not just cutting grass,” Mak says. “Design, hardscape, sales, seasonal container, etcetera are different aspects that opened up a completely new world for me; one in which I would not be just sitting behind a desk. I love being outside.”
He says industry veterans Edgar Lopez and Luis Mata with Chalet and Jose Jasso with Blue Grass Land Works have all been mentors to him. He says his biggest challenge so far has been the language barrier.
“Initially, I experienced a language barrier with my Spanish-speaking co-workers, but I came to realize it was also a cultural barrier,” Mak says. “Aspects such as body language, personal space, greetings, respect of personal time, and ambition are different when comparing non-first generation American co-workers to visiting or first-generation Latino co-workers. I am very respectful of these cultural differences and I strive to lessen the cultural barrier.”
Mak says he’d like to see the industry have more employee diversity on all levels.
He is currently a production coordinator and supervises maintenance crews and signature crews. The signature crews focus on custom containers and ornamental/flowering plants for seasonal color.
Some of his typical tasks include instructing crews on proper maintenance policies and procedures and improving crew efficiency in both hours and material use. He oversees all aspects of maintenance job sites, including keeping accurate and updated site information, developing job schedules, approving time tickets, monitoring the productivity of assigned crews, checking tools and/or equipment, and inspecting maintenance and/or seasonal flower work quality.
Mak says he wishes the general public understood the passion and hard work it takes to make properties look pristine.
Aside from getting to work outside, Mak also enjoys learning more about plants, such as how different bugs and fungi affect plants. He says he likes meeting others in the industry and doing something different every day.
“I love when we are done with a job and can reflect on the before and after,” Mak says.
As for where he sees himself in the next five years, Mak says landscape design and client relationship management are just a couple of the many avenues open to him.
This article was published in the Sept/Oct issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Edge magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.