Lonnie Naylor’s Sawmill Experience Gives Him an Edge in Customer Service

Lonnie and some of his friends from our Grande Prairie lumber mill recently took a day trip together to Powder King Ski Resort in British Columbia. 'I’m quite close with many of my former coworkers at the mill, and I see them all the time,' he says.

For 16 years, Lonnie Naylor got up before dawn to carefully navigate often-frozen highways to reach our lumber mill in Grande Prairie, Alberta, where he was an equipment operator.

Today, things are a little different. Lonnie’s workspace is at home instead of at the mill precisely loading stacks of lumber, and he spends his days providing excellent customer service to our Wood Products customers as a member of the Northwest Wood Products sales team.

It’s not often that a loader operator transitions directly to a job as a customer service representative. But Lonnie’s found many ways his unusual career path has given him a leg up in his new role.

“I know firsthand what the manufacturing process looks like, from creating the product to shipping it to our customers,” he says. “I love sharing that knowledge with others, whether they’re my teammates or a customer.”

Image of Lonnie and his husband, Johnathan.

'This career move has been life-changing for me and my husband,' says Lonnie, pictured here with his husband Johnathan. 'It opened our eyes to the possibility of relocating, possibly to a larger city. Grande Prairie is a great town, but we’re starting to imagine what life could be like living farther south or west, maybe in British Columbia.'


Lonnie joined Weyerhaeuser right out of high school in 2007. He started in a planer outfeed position, transferring lumber from the planer mill into the lumberyard. In 2014, Lonnie then switched to a role in the shipping department, packing finished lumber products and loading them onto trucks and rail cars.

“I took every opportunity to talk to people — truck drivers, visitors, anyone who came along,” Lonnie says. “I love people, and my communication skills are one of my greatest assets. I realized joining the sales team would be a great way to put those skills to work, but I wasn’t sure how to make it happen.”

Most sales roles were located at our Seattle Headquarters, and Lonnie and his husband Johnathan didn’t want to leave Grande Prairie at the time.

“I knew I’d be staying with Weyerhaeuser because I love the passion and commitment behind the company’s values,” Lonnie says. “So I kept looking for other opportunities to grow.”

In 2016, Lonnie became the mill’s backup shipping coordinator, which gave him greater exposure to employees all around the company. As he built his network, he gained a new perspective on his career possibilities.

“I was talking to a sales rep in Seattle who mentioned job requirements had changed due to COVID,” Lonnie says. “Remote work was becoming more normalized, so candidates wouldn’t need to live in Seattle to get a job on her team. I realized I might actually have a shot.”

Image of Lonnie Naylor running in the Canadian Rockie Mountains.

'When I’m not working, I’m often running,' Lonnie says. 'I do 10-kilometer races and hikes whenever I can. I also love to ski, so living near the Rocky Mountains is definitely a benefit!'


So when Lonnie spotted a listing for a job opening in customer service last spring, he didn’t hesitate to apply.

“I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? I can accept that,’” he says. “It turns out, my background is really useful, despite how different this role is. The hiring managers seemed excited to bring me in.”

Lonnie’s new role means working with a faraway team, all located some 800 miles south of Grande Prairie. He embarked on remote training sessions and took two trips down to Seattle to meet everyone in person.

“It was hard to leave the team I worked with at the mill, but my new team is amazing, too,” Lonnie says. “Despite the physical distance, I never feel like I’m on an island. Everyone has been so helpful and patient while I figure out how to use the computer programs and learn about all the American products I’m not used to, like Douglas-fir lumber.”

Image of Lonnie and his Yorkie, Puzzle, at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan.

Lonnie and his Yorkie, Puzzle, visit Emma Lake, Saskatchewan.


As a customer service representative, Lonnie works the main helpline. He speaks directly to customers who call in with product orders, questions or problems that need a solution. He stays connected to his coworkers through email, video calls and messages through Microsoft Teams.

“Since I’m such a social person, my biggest hesitation about the role was working from home,” Lonnie says. “That transition was a little strange at first, but now I love it. I get to hang out with my Yorkie, Puzzle, and he’s really excited about that. My work-life balance is better than ever.”

Lonnie is looking forward to tackling some new projects this year, such as helping his team switch to a standardized order sheet for committed customers whose lumber orders are guaranteed each quarter. He’s eager to continue settling into his current role and learning everything he can, with a goal to one day move to a position in sales.

“Sales is a fast-paced, dynamic, high-energy job, which really fits who I am as a person,” Lonnie says. “I’m excited to talk to customers, learn more about the business and make my way toward my goal.”

Image of Lonnie and Johnathan at Red WIllow Falls in British Columbia.

Lonnie and Johnathan hike in Red Willow Falls, just over the provincial border in British Columbia.


  • Don’t be afraid of “no.” Maybe the timing just isn’t right. Keep working toward your goal until that “no” changes to a “yes.”
  • Get your foot in the door. Even if you don’t start out in your dream role, Weyerhaeuser offers a lot of support for growing your career and developing your skills, so you can chart your own course.
  • Stay open to change, so you’re ready to snatch opportunities when they come up. Don’t see change as a negative; see it as an opportunity.