Going Beyond the Ladder

by Don Browne

New VSI-Certified Installer Carves Her Own Unique Path to a Successful Career in Vinyl Siding

Daun Williamson is the latest example of how the Vinyl Siding Institute’s (VSI’s) Career Ladder to Success Model can provide professionals with exciting career opportunities in the trades. And in her case, these opportunities include unique directions not included in the Ladder!

After fulfilling careers in the U.S. Navy and her state’s youth correctional system, Williamson has reinvented herself as a full-time student at the Pennsylvania College of Technology (Penn College), majoring in Building Construction Technology. She will complete her degree in the spring and has already achieved the following VSI certifications:

  • Installer Trainee, Certificate of Achievement
  • Certified Installer
  • Certified Installer Trainer

"Daun is the only person who holds all three certifications,” said Rob Balfanz, VSI’s Director of Workforce Development, who invited Williamson to Sidney, Ohio, to participate in the installer trainer training program after meeting her at a special ceremony last September to honor Penn College’s “inaugural” class.

An impressive 29 students, including Williamson, completed this program – the first offering in a new partnership between VSI and Penn College.

“I was very impressed with her passion for vinyl siding and the fact that we have very similar backgrounds, having grown up in the trades,” Balfanz explained.

Williamson is a full-time student now (taking full advantage of her GI Bill), but her education in construction began many years ago when she worked for her father – a highly-respected contractor.

“My dad was in business for 54 years,” she explained proudly. “I hung vinyl siding for him years ago, and my instructor, Bob Gresko, worked with him 40 years ago. Cliff Jones, another professor at Penn College, also worked with my Dad back in the 70s and 80s. My whole family grew up around construction. I also have a cousin who teaches an award-winning construction program at our high school.”

While Williamson is qualified and willing to train aspiring vinyl siding installers to become certified, she is also interested in becoming an instructor at her college or possibly another good technical school. “We don’t have any female instructors in the department (here at my college),” she said. “All the male teachers are great, but they will be retiring soon.”

With a strong foundation in construction, Williamson felt that vinyl siding was the perfect catalyst for her to go back to school for Building and Construction. Professor Gresko had a strong background in vinyl siding and encouraged her to pursue the certifications offered.

“I enjoy the vinyl siding aspect of construction because it gives me so much versatility for using it. It is one of the more accessible degrees to pick up that enables a clear-cut entry into the construction industry. I want to teach it because Mr. Gresko is retiring.”

In addition to teaching, Williamson sees her multiple certifications as marketable assets for contractors, home builders and other stakeholders who could benefit from using vinyl siding for their projects.

“There are companies here that sell vinyl siding, and some contractors will use vinyl siding for occasional projects, but there are no companies that specialize in installing vinyl siding,” she noted. “That’s something I could do while I’m also teaching. My ultimate dream – along with teaching is to perform vinyl siding installation and installation training, as well as doing custom carpentry, cabinetry and furniture.”

Journey Along the Ladder

After becoming a certified trainer, Williamson came back from Ohio and started analyzing all the homes in her community. She says she’s excited by the possibilities of one day installing vinyl siding on some of these properties or teaching others in the trade on how to ensure a quality installation.

“I’ll be driving along and wondering why these homeowners didn’t use vinyl siding given the variety of benefits,” she said. “It’s cost-effective, and it doesn’t dent. It’s recyclable and environmentally friendly. It can be insulated or non-insulated. If you’re putting in insulated vinyl siding, you’re adding more R-value to your home.”

Williamson recalled how upset she was when the local Grange where she and her son are members had their facility painted as part of a project to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The project manager, who knew about her vinyl siding experience, confessed that he didn’t know about the product’s advantages and made a plan to meet up with her in five years to explore a possible installation when the paint starts to wear out.

Like the project manager, Williamson said she had no idea that vinyl siding included these features until she took the required coursework. “During our training, we were shown how to close up a corner, cut it a certain way and how to rivet it so no animals or insects can get inside,” she explained. “There is not one corner on my house that’s closed like that. And I see so many other homes with the same problem.”

A Bright Future

Having grown up in the trades with the “family business,” Williamson does not view herself as someone breaking gender barriers when she completed her teacher training certification. But she does acknowledge that there are so many women in the trades – or who want to get into the trades – that could be inspired by what she has done (as well as non-traditional students like herself looking to start new careers).

“For me, teaching vinyl siding is a great way to create my own unique career path and eventually teach other areas of construction. I see myself becoming a greater asset to my community,” she said proudly.


Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.