David Rekker’s official job title with Bluebeam is senior regional manager, Canada. But if you ask him to define what his role is at the construction technology company, one simple phrase emerges: relationship builder.
When talking to Rekker, it’s easy to see why he’s so good at building relationships – and why this skill has been so central to his success at Bluebeam over the past eight years.
A conversation with Rekker feels naturally at ease, a mix between staying on task and fun tangents to topics personal and timely. Sporting an always-on smile, as if there’s eternally something funny on his mind, and a fresh air of affability, it’s easy to get off topic with him.
But if you ask Rekker, there is no such thing as “off topic” when it comes to conversations he has with Bluebeam’s 35 enterprise customers across Canada – because, to him, any conversation is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a meaningful, lasting relationship.
And in the business of helping construction firms make process improvements with Bluebeam’s technology, having meaningful, long-term relationships is paramount.
“One of the things that I love about my job is that some of the people I work with I’ve been working with for now over five years,” Rekker said. “And I love when there’s an email exchange or a conversation and we haven’t talked about software. We’ve talked about a good vacation or vacation spot you should check out, or a golf game or how the Blue Jays did or what’s going on with hockey.”
Finding his way to construction
Rekker’s natural relatability in his role as a customer liaison for Bluebeam probably comes from his humble beginnings.
Rekker grew up in Bowmanville, Ontario: a small town on the outskirts of Toronto. He was brought up in a self-described “do-it-yourself” environment, with lots of manual labour and outdoor work. Rekker’s grandparents even had a local gardening store, Rekker Gardens, that still stands to this day under the same name, although the family no longer owns the business. By the age of 10, Rekker went to work at the store.
A childhood filled with manual labour led Rekker to seek a less physically demanding career in adulthood. He attended the University of Guelph, just an hour and a half south-west of Bowmanville on the other side of Toronto, and initially majored in engineering. After two months, however, Rekker said he’d experienced enough calculus; he decided to switch his concentration to science, a subject he said gave him more flexibility in his course choice despite its admittedly unclear career path.
“I had no aspirations or a picture of what I wanted to do,” Rekker said. “I just thought, ‘Let’s get this degree done and move on.’”
Rekker’s initial post-university life found him experimenting with several ostensibly odd jobs. But in hearing Rekker reflect on these early-career experiences, it’s clear that these roles helped shape his professional life today.
He first took a job with his alma mater, the University of Guelph, helping facilitate events. He then briefly became a school photographer with yearbook production company Jostens, a seasonal role that he complemented with jobs at wilderness camps and volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity.
Rekker’s job with Jostens eventually became more year-round, as he took on more of a manager role. Still, the gig was unfulfilling.
“At some point, I just decided to quit and I had no plan,” Rekker said. He initially decided to take the following summer off but eventually sought out a side gig to provide some income. A newspaper ad was looking for construction labourers. Rekker thought his experience with Habitat for Humanity was sufficient to apply. He got the job.
“I found these guys framing houses and they were super nice and always trying to do process improvement and get better at the job,” Rekker said, “and I ended up staying in home construction for seven or eight years and it turned into a career.”
Rekker’s home construction career eventually led him to start his own business, framing houses, finishing basements, building decks and replacing roofs, among other renovation projects. But despite his growing love for construction, Rekker was back doing the type of manual, hard labour he had hoped to move on from years earlier. With a growing family and a few injuries that made the work even more difficult, Rekker decided he needed to make a career pivot.
He found a job as a principal project manager with engineering firm MMM Group, which had him managing the delivery of several sustainable construction projects. Rekker’s time at MMM Group, which has since been acquired by WSP Canada, was notable not least because he spent 7 ½ years in the role, but because it was the job that led him to discover Bluebeam.
“It was amazing software,” Rekker remembered upon his initial experience with Revu, which included doing a lot of quantity estimations and design review workflows. A call for presentations for Bluebeam’s annual user conference, XCON, caught Rekker’s eye in 2013. He applied and was accepted to present, unaware at the time that the event would change his life.
“I had probably one of the best experiences of my life presenting at XCON,” Rekker said. “When I came back, I felt like that’s what I wanted to do next – I want to work at Bluebeam. I want to help more people get the efficiency gains and process improvement that I’ve seen other people achieve with the software. So after a couple years of kind of getting to know people at Bluebeam, in 2015 I was eventually hired into my current role and taking care of our enterprise customers in Canada.”
Building better together
Pasadena, California-based Bluebeam boasts customers all over the world. Started as a simple PDF editor and viewer for the construction, architecture and engineering industry in the early 2000s, Bluebeam’s global growth has become robust in the past five to seven years, with offices stretching as far as Australia to the Nordics as the company has enhanced its product portfolio.
When Rekker joined the company in 2015, Bluebeam’s nascent growth outside of the United States was just beginning to take shape in Canada, which, like the US, features a robust construction market. Rekker was hired as an account manager overseeing all Canadian customers.
What exactly an account manager was at the time was something even Rekker said he often pondered at first.
“It’s funny – whenever someone asked what my role was when I first started, I would ask that question right back: What is my role exactly?” he said. “I’m an account manager, but what do we do? And the person at the time said, ‘Oh, just be Bluebeam to Canada.’”
“So, I see my role as one of building long-term relationships with our enterprise accounts that are headquartered across Canada, with the goal of helping them become Bluebeam advocates,” Rekker continued. “And the way you help them become Bluebeam advocates is by helping them achieve their goals with our products.”
Such an all-encompassing role includes directly working with customers to ensure they’re getting the most efficient use out of Bluebeam, as well as consulting with them to strategise and expand their use of the software as their business needs shift. Rekker is also largely a salesman; he plays a large role in partnering with AEC firms to help them make the case for using Bluebeam to their leadership teams.
One of the reasons Rekker said he loves working for Bluebeam is the customer enthusiasm. Upon visiting customers in their offices or on jobsites, they’re almost always excited when they learn Rekker works for Bluebeam.
“If I’m walking by a desk or something, and I see someone using our software, I’ll try to be like, ‘Oh, hey – you’re using Bluebeam; I work for Bluebeam,’” Rekker said. “And they will be like, ‘No way! I love Bluebeam.’”
“I think one of the reasons that I’ve stayed at Bluebeam so long is because we’re clearly fulfilling a purpose,” Rekker added. “There is so much work to be done just to show people what they can accomplish with the software that, when they do see it, they realise we’ve built things that can help them. It doesn’t get old.”
Rekker is indefatigable in his commitment to helping customers, knowing how to delicately balance the line between being a partner and salesman, as well as properly identifying when to push solutions onto customers and when to pull back and allow them to come to their own conclusions.
He even spontaneously booked a 6 a.m. flight from Toronto to Edmonton one time in 2019 just to meet face-to-face with a customer to ease any last-minute concerns with implementing Bluebeam before closing the deal, returning home the same day, nearly 17 hours later. “It had to be done,” Rekker said of the spur-of-the-moment trip.
Rekker’s impact at Bluebeam isn’t just felt with customers, either. He is also an active employee at the company, often volunteering to help make Bluebeam’s internal culture more valuable to other employees. This internal ambassadorship was most recently on display when he and a few other employees volunteered to serve as master of ceremonies for Bluebeam’s Virtual Talent Show. It was a role other employees saw as fitting given Rekker’s penchant for injecting levity into his work.
Rekker said job seekers looking for their next opportunity will never be bored at Bluebeam. He points to the growth the company has undergone and continues to go through since he started in 2015 as part of what has made working there an enchanting journey.
“I think there were 200 people when I started, and now there’s close to 500,” he said. “Every year, we’re always changing, we’re always trying to innovate, trying to make things better and serve our customers better.”
For the foreseeable future, Rekker remains delighted in his role as “Bluebeam to Canada”. His advocacy for the company, both among customers and colleagues, personifies the values that Bluebeam aims to represent to the construction industry.
And the industry – and Bluebeam – is better off as a result.
“There’s no place I’d rather be,” Rekker said.