Yesterday was the final day at Draper for residential market manager Amy Madden. After nearly two decades with us, family needs have led to her moving on. We’re all sorry to see her go, and on her last day, we asked her to share some thoughts on leaving the Draper family after all this time:

I sit here in a mostly empty office, devoid of 19 years of clutter and pictures. It’s surreal. Today is my last day at Draper. I started here a little over a month after graduating from Butler University after a whirlwind interview process, where people knew me even though I didn’t know them—the benefit of living and working in a small community. Three weeks on the job and I was traveling, calling on customers. My territory was the coveted Midwest (coveted only because I could drive everywhere). Luckily, I used a company vehicle because I wasn’t old enough to rent a car!  My company credit card hadn’t even arrived and I was off to Chicago. Nineteen years later and I’ve traveled through most of the United States and parts of Canada. I’ve traversed the Golden Gate Bridge, had a private tour of Fenway Park, cried at Pearl Harbor, gazed out at the Grand Canyon and so much more…all because of the opportunity Draper has given me.

Draper didn’t have cell phones when I first started. We had calling cards and lots of quarters for pay phones. I doubt that I could find a pay phone now. We didn’t have laptops either and I was the queen of laminated maps. My dad became impressed that I could find my way around any city considering that growing up I either slept or read during every car ride. I had no idea if I was going north or east, but after navigating Chicago and Los Angeles, I can get around anywhere.

Life on the road was a learning process. I wore a dress to an appointment shortly after starting at Draper. I had a dealer ask in jest if I was going to prom. I graduated to skirt suits, but then I had to get on a ladder to fix some shades. I made my dealer stand across the room so he didn’t get a show. Needless to say, trousers became my go-to. I’m still a horrible packer. After being able to drive my territory for ten years, over packing was easy. I’ve never adopted the carry-on philosophy. I’m an avid reader and was an early adapter of the Kindle. It’s saved me a lot of money (and back problems from carrying around the extra books). I’d read a book on my trip out and have to buy another one on my way back. Now I have fifty-plus at my beck and call. Oh, and I love audible books. Driving thru the Midwest before satellite radio was a challenge. I came back from central Illinois one time and the only thing I could find was the fishing channel. UGH! Cracker Barrel was my saving grace. I’d use their books on CDs to pass the time. Now, of course, I have an app for that.

We didn’t have part numbers in 1999 and it took six weeks to ship a manual Luma screen. Screen surfaces were cut by hand. You’d see our cutters with knee pads, up on the table, using scissors to cut large surfaces. Now we are making our own premium TecVision fabrics in a high-tech lab and are using machinery for precise and quality fabrication of all kinds. And we did it without laying anyone off!

My time here seems short compared to our 116-year history, but there’s been so much advancement in the last 19. I’m leaving after we’ve launched a new division, Custom Audiovisual Solutions, taking better advantage of our capabilities and leveraging our experience in this industry. Draper is great at staying relevant, and I’m not even touching on the advancement and growth in our shade business! So many remarkable things happening at Draper and yet I still must go.

Eliza, my daughter, told me that audiovisual sales consultant Carol Phelps wasn’t really my best friend because we didn’t hang out on weekends (oh, the thought process of a then 12-year-old). I told her that Carol and I didn’t need to hang out because we spent 40 hours a week together at work. That’s going to be the biggest change for me. Leaving co-workers that have become friends, family. We’ll have to work at our relationships now and we all know that life can get in the way. That’s why I’m moving on. With ailing parents and three daughters that need me (oh, and a husband who isn’t used to me being around much), it’s time to be more present at home. I had to put my family first. I couldn’t do that and give my position at Draper the energy and focus it deserved.

I’m excited for my new endeavor, taking over a local family business, but sad, yet proud of what I’m leaving behind. Draper took a gamble on a fresh-faced college kid and helped me grow into the person I am today. Thank you, John Pidgeon, for giving me a chance. Thank you, general sales manager Lee Denhart for hiring me and being a fantastic boss and mentor when I was a regional sales manager. Thank you, director of audiovisual markets Bob Mathes for moving me in to management, supporting me thru some rough personal times, and for helping me to mature as a leader. Thank you, director of audiovisual distribution Jim Hoodlebrink for being my “work husband.” We always laughed that we should get Jayson and Brenda together to commiserate our absences. Thank you, marketing manager Penny Sitler for being a role model in a male- dominated industry. Thank you, audiovisual sales consultant Todd Hiday for helping me launch new initiatives and keep my head on straight. Thank you, Carol Phelps, for being the best back-up and friend ever…period. And thank you Sandra, Diana, Kimberly, Lindsey, Marita, Beverly, Amy, Stacie, Curt, Brian, Eric, Dave, Roger, Chad, Nate, Jentry, Gretchen, and so many more for being my friends. And of course, thank you to John and Mike! I love you all dearly.