Employee Spotlight: Kim Dang

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

In 1985 when she was only 10 years old, Kim Dang’s family moved from their home in Vietnam to start a new life in America. Speaking no English, she and her brother did their best to pick up the language quickly in school. But even with the help of tutors, it was a difficult and lonely time for Kim, who had to work twice as hard to overcome the language barrier. She persevered and graduated from Nicholls State University in 1999 with a degree in business administration, a testament to her hard work and dedication.

Kim worked as an assistant manager for Piccadilly Cafeterias in Houma, La., for several years until moving to Custom Abrasives as a dispatcher. She quickly rose through the ranks to become office manager and later sales manager, learning a great deal about the abrasives industry in the process.

In 2014, Kim joined Danos as a job cost clerk for the coatings service line. Thanks to her background in abrasives and her business education, she was a great fit for a position that handled the planning and financial details of coatings projects. After six months, when the company was preparing to move to its new office in Gray, Kim was asked to take on additional responsibilities on the personnel side of the business.

Not only did she have experience managing teams, but her fluency in Vietnamese came in handy. Half of Danos’ approximately 100 coatings crew members are Vietnamese, and many of them don’t speak English well. So Kim began working directly with the crews and their foremen as a personnel coordinator — while continuing to handle the job-cost financial side of projects as well. By 2018, she had proven to be so proficient at supporting the coatings crews and project managers that her financial responsibilities were reassigned to someone else. This allowed her to be even more engaged with the coatings team and its projects.

But just when she had settled into that role, a new opportunity appeared. In 2019, Kim was promoted to project manager for coatings. This meant that she would eventually be managing her own coatings jobs, responsible for every aspect of project success. Kim would now be one of a small group of team leaders in coatings. The news was exciting and a little nerve-wracking, she says.

“It definitely comes with more stress,” says Kim. “There are so many details to keep track of, and even if you plan a job perfectly, you always have to be prepared for the unexpected. Luckily, I’m part of a fantastic team that supports me and is helping me grow in this new role.”

Currently, Danos has a handful of project managers who each handle jobs for specific clients. Kim is working under the supervision of Danos’ Coatings Operations Manager Clay Carter, supporting him on a number of projects while she learns the position. She is in constant contact with her field foreman to make sure all aspects of the job are on track. If something comes up, she works directly with the foreman to develop a solution and secure the necessary parts or supplies. Her focus is on managing the labor, equipment and workflow for her projects and learning everything she can as quickly as possible.

She’s been to job sites to observe the coatings crews doing different kinds of work, like hand-and-row blasting and ultra-high-pressure blasting inside of tanks. She says seeing it in person gave her a better understanding of how difficult the work is. She has also been able to visit with coatings workers during crew change meetings, getting to know them individually and helping to address any issues that might arise. She sees how hard they work in sometimes very challenging environments, and it inspires her to work even harder to make sure every single worker comes home safely.

Thanks to her fluency in Vietnamese, Kim can communicate with all of the coatings personnel, a skill that came in handy when one of their crew members suffered a heart attack on the job site. The man spoke little English, and the team was unable to reach his emergency contact. Kim started calling his Vietnamese coworkers until she was able to finally reach his family. The man is now recovering, and Kim is proud to have been able to help during such a critical time.

“Danos has created a culture of family among its workers,” Kim notes. “Within coatings we also feel like a big family, and we always look out for each other and help each other however we can.”

This supportive environment has allowed Kim, a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated field, to feel comfortable growing and developing as a professional. She’s a big believer in the value of cross-training and finds that she and the foremen have been able to learn from each other. She has the financial knowledge, and they have the practical experience; by working together they can achieve even better outcomes for Danos and its clients.

Clay praises Kim’s dedication to continued growth: “She’s not scared of hard work or new challenges — she’s learned from every position she’s held and has become a very well-rounded project manager and a great asset to Danos.”

While she never set out to be where she is now, Kim hopes that more women will consider careers in oil and gas. Thanks to her background in business, managing personnel and knowledge of the industry, she was well equipped for success, given the right opportunity. She wants women to know that they shouldn’t be put off by outdated ideas of the oil and gas industry. More and more she is encountering women in every aspect of the business, from safety and engineering to HR and accounting.

“If you’re hard-working and willing to learn, there’s no limit to what you can achieve,” she says.