AEC Groundbreaking Growth

Charting Your Career Path in the AEC Industry

March 04, 2024 Stambaugh Ness Season 1 Episode 15
Charting Your Career Path in the AEC Industry
AEC Groundbreaking Growth
More Info
AEC Groundbreaking Growth
Charting Your Career Path in the AEC Industry
Mar 04, 2024 Season 1 Episode 15
Stambaugh Ness

Frustrated with a limited AEC career progression? Feeling like your unique skills aren't fully used? Unlock your leadership potential and craft your dream career with our next episode of AEC Groundbreaking Growth!

Join Emily and Jen as they chat with Rachel Ribich, Strategic Growth Manager at Nunn Construction. Rachel's impressive journey, marked by passion, strategic decision-making, and unique strengths, offers a wealth of inspiration and actionable advice for emerging leaders like YOU.

Discover how Rachel built a powerful career portfolio by collecting diverse experiences and skills. Learn her secrets to advocating for yourself and confidently pursuing your dream opportunities.

Want to know how Rachel leveraged her marketing skills to land a leadership role in construction? Tune in for exclusive insights and actionable strategies you can implement TODAY!

Emerging leaders in the AEC industry, don't miss this! Listen now and start building your successful future!

🔔 Don't miss out! Subscribe to Groundbreaking Growth on your favorite podcast platform. Let's ignite growth, shape the future of the AEC industry, and redefine what's possible. Are you ready for some groundbreaking growth? Let's dive in! 🚀💼

Show Notes Transcript

Frustrated with a limited AEC career progression? Feeling like your unique skills aren't fully used? Unlock your leadership potential and craft your dream career with our next episode of AEC Groundbreaking Growth!

Join Emily and Jen as they chat with Rachel Ribich, Strategic Growth Manager at Nunn Construction. Rachel's impressive journey, marked by passion, strategic decision-making, and unique strengths, offers a wealth of inspiration and actionable advice for emerging leaders like YOU.

Discover how Rachel built a powerful career portfolio by collecting diverse experiences and skills. Learn her secrets to advocating for yourself and confidently pursuing your dream opportunities.

Want to know how Rachel leveraged her marketing skills to land a leadership role in construction? Tune in for exclusive insights and actionable strategies you can implement TODAY!

Emerging leaders in the AEC industry, don't miss this! Listen now and start building your successful future!

🔔 Don't miss out! Subscribe to Groundbreaking Growth on your favorite podcast platform. Let's ignite growth, shape the future of the AEC industry, and redefine what's possible. Are you ready for some groundbreaking growth? Let's dive in! 🚀💼

Emily Lawrence: Welcome to the AEC Groundbreaking Growth Podcast.

Jen Knox: Hosted by Stambaugh Ness.

[Opening Credits]

Emily Lawrence: Welcome to Groundbreaking Growth with your hosts, Emily and Jen.

Jen Knox: Hello, everyone. We're thrilled to continue the conversation today and build off the last episode, where we touched on personal mastery and learning & development. We're kind of teeing it up to bring it full circle here with some great insights in our next guest.

Emily Lawrence: Yeah, so we're excited today to introduce Rachel Ribich, Strategic Growth Manager at Nunn Construction. Welcome, Rachel. Rachel's impressive journey in AEC industry has been marked really by her passion, a strategic approach to her career, and some unique strengths that she brings to work. And it's inspiring. It's been something that's inspired me as we've become friends and come through the industry together. So, Rachel, we'd love to dive in and hear about your career path and some of the lessons that you've learned along the way.

Rachel Ribich: Thank you so much for having me. It is an honor to share 13 years of my journey. It's hard to boil down, but I will give it my best shot. Yeah, I started back in 2011 with an interior architecture degree, interior design degree, out of Southern Illinois University, and that was my dream from a young age to be an interior designer. So, I saw that to fruition. But coming out of school, you know, that's a big leap, it's like, what's next? When you come out of college, there are so many paths that you can take. And I just hit it head-on. I was like, let's go. So, within a few months of graduating, I was on my way in my career with a job at a commercial furniture dealership in Chicago. So, a lot of space planning and design work in that realm.

While I was at that company, I had an opportunity that arose, or I had a great boss at the time who gave us all an option of something like, "What else would you want to do in the company?" At the time, we had just hired a marketing person who was going to rebrand the company and make us all new marketing materials and a new website, something I had yet to learn about. I didn't come out of marketing school or anything, but it intrigued me, that more creative brain side. So when my boss offered up an opportunity, I said I'd love to work with Jenny, and I set the parameters of 70% in the design realm and 30% in the marketing side. And that launched me on a different path, a different career path of this mix of design and marketing in the industry.

So, from there, the company merged, and at that time, another opportunity arose. I will always remember this on the whiteboard: they wrote Marketing Coordinator in the center, and I had never heard of that role before. And they had all these arrows pointing out to different people in the company, such as business development, sales, and our design team. And they said, "This is you, Rachel, we want this to be you. We want you to be the quarterback of our teams, gather all the information, make it concise, and help us win projects." And so, I analyzed the opportunity, and I ultimately accepted the challenge. It was something I just said yes to, not knowing if it would work or be something that would be very valuable to me.

But I took the opportunity and the risk, and it ended up working out really well for me. From there, I wanted to move to Colorado, so that was eight years ago. From there, I moved my way from design into construction and from the more design architecture side into the construction side, where I landed at Nunn Construction; where I'm at this day, I've been with them for about seven or eight years in various capacities.

I started in a marketing role and built upon that marketing journey that I had begun and just started to collect lots of different skill sets and worked well with my boss or the President here of the company to see some other opportunities and projects along the way. I was about ten years into my career a little bit over when I decided that I needed a break this time to take a pause.

I didn't get to do that out of college. I went straight into my career, hit it head on, and so, ten years in, it was just time to take a rest and give myself that time to explore some other passions and projects that I had always wanted to participate in. So I went and lived in Europe for a while and backpacked around, lived on a farm, and is what I now call a strategic pause. Everyone should take that time in their life. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a seven, eight-month, year-long break. It can be figuring out a way to take a small sabbatical or even just take that long vacation that you need or whatever it is to pause to let our brains just slow down.

And during that time, I just learned so much about myself and how to work better. I was a very stressed-out person in the past. Before that pause in that break, I didn't know how to regulate myself, my workload, my stress load, and all of that. I came back much clearer-headed and focused, with a different approach to my life and career. And so when I came back, I kept in conversation with my boss here, the President of Nunn Construction; we figured out how to leverage some of my talents, skills, and strengths to create a previously nonexistent position at the company, which is my title of Strategic Growth Manager.

So it's been a long and winding, fun, exciting journey, not without hardships and some struggles along the way, but it has been fun, and I'm excited about where I'm at in my life and my career and in my mid-thirties, just feeling in a very strong place right now.

Emily Lawrence: That's amazing. One of the things that resonates with me as you describe and talk about your career, Rachel, is advocating for yourself, voicing your interests, and saying, "Hey, I'm interested in this thing. Is that a possibility for me to go for it? And would that be a place here at this company?" Or it could have sparked something else for you, and you saw your next step. So now you tell us a little bit about that. That's so, so interesting.

Rachel Ribich: Thank you. I attribute that to awareness or self-awareness and recognizing when an opportunity could be seized, sometimes seeing gaps in places. Or it's like this person's working hard, they need help, and I'm interested in that. And sometimes, it's not waiting around for someone to give you an opportunity. It's creating the opportunity yourself in certain instances.

That's one approach.

Also, recognize that when someone sees value in you and asks you to step into something, they trust you. They feel you have the capacity, the talent, and the strength to take on this opportunity. And so assessing that is important. I realized when I was younger, I didn't know my strengths yet. So, I took some of the opportunities sort of blindly. I was going to go for this and see what happens. As you develop in your career and understand more about yourself and your strengths, some of those decisions are more difficult to make because now, you clearly know where you want to head and your passions. But that's also valuable as you figure out how to assess those situations and when to say yes because you don't always want to say yes; they might not always be in your best interest, those opportunities that arise.

So those are my main takeaways with opportunities along the way or following some passions.

I always had an idea of a path I wanted to go down. Marketing was a strategic decision because I realized I didn't want to stay in design in a large city, and I scoped that out through internships and things. I realized that wasn't my path. And so, marketing broadened my opportunities for the future. And that is ultimately why I went more in that direction than staying in the design and interior design realm and that opportunity opening for me.

Jen Knox: Yeah, and your story is so interesting because coming out of school, I may have felt like this is the path I will take. Progressing through a technical role into people management, etc., but as you learned your strengths and understood yourself better, allowed for the flexibility and fluidity of what your career could be by leveraging those strengths. Emerging leaders need to build muscle around being open and fluid to what their career could be because I often think, as a younger individual in an organization, you think the path is linear, where it can be fluid and flexible.

Rachel Ribich: And the opportunity, I mean, even in the situation that I'm in today with being able to develop a role that didn't exist before, and that has happened multiple times during my career path, just starting something from scratch that never existed before.

That kind of opportunity exists out there. And, you're right, just because there's this and that and the other role in the company that you think is the traditional path, there are opportunities for creativity. The big point here is recognizing when you're at a company with those opportunities or leadership that allows you to explore, be creative, and focus on your strengths. You know, if you are one of these emerging leaders that has the knack to find more and grow more, that growth mindset recognizing when you're at a company that might not offer you those opportunities, I think, is a big piece as you grow in your career.

Emily Lawrence: And it sounds like that advice would be if you see something, you're at a company, and you're not necessarily seeing your direct path, in the seat you're sitting in right now, you see an opportunity that might be interesting to you that you'd like to pursue a specific role or you see a need for a role that you might want to create and taking that to your boss or your team and saying, "I see this as an opportunity." Then, recognize that opportunity is accepted and encouraged at the company, and they are willing to develop you into that role, or if it is a way we've always done it and not right now?

Is there any advice within that that you can give?

Rachel Ribich: Yeah, you hit that right in the head. It's recognizing that it's not always just giving up if you think, oh, that role doesn't exist at this company, so I'm going to move along and find a company that does have that particular role or where I can express my strengths.

If you appreciate your leadership, you work well with them, or you're coworkers, you enjoy your work environment. I advise young leaders to stick that out and work through it. And, if you try once and it doesn't work, try again a couple of times before thinking jumping ship to somewhere else is going to be the solution. And I think I've seen that very much in my career of not burning any bridges, staying true to who I am, respecting the other people in my companies, even when maybe the opportunities weren't there, just understanding that that's where they're coming from,

but not, yeah, burning any bridges along the way. And that has helped me tremendously in my path of getting continual opportunities in ways that I needed to continue my growth.

Emily Lawrence: Yeah, and one of the things you talk about, too, is connecting those dots, and while you're staying open, saying strategically, here are my strengths as you develop. And as you see new roles and new interests in your career, strategically say, "I think I want to go for this, and I need to learn these skills." So, while sitting in the seat, while it might not be the seat you see a path with going forward, learn everything you can because you had so much exposure to different areas in the company with those steps that you took, and that's important. We've also talked about that here in previous episodes as well.

Rachel Ribich: It's really important. In my career path, the leadership role I see myself in moving forward is well-rounded and not necessarily just in one facet. And that's okay. There are a lot of people who have a particular skill set, and their growth is in that skill. They get really good at it and find their leadership role within that skill. My path was not in that regard. I like robust, well-rounded research and knowledge, conjuring up new ideas and seeing them through to fruition. So, for me, that half included learning many different skill sets, tools, and leadership roles.

Jen Knox: And I think that is a huge value add probably for organizations, to have those specialists, the subject matter experts, and then also to have that broader look that understands the multiple facets of the business, how they work together, where the pain points might be, and how you can leverage resources and processes in a holistic way to drive both growth for the company and people within your organization as well.

Emily Lawrence: Yeah, and Rachel, I think, or Jen, I don't know which of you said this in a previous conversation, but it was that career portfolio versus a career path. And that's such a new way to frame a career. And I love it.

Jen Knox: Yeah, and there's a great HPR article out there on the career portfolio, and it is about, to your point, Rachel, collecting these diverse experiences. You said you learned so much about yourself traveling and working on a farm. Those things make you a holistic person and allow you to understand your strengths that you bring into the workplace. So it is that career portfolio; everything we are outside of work impacts how we show up, how we interact, and our strengths. So yeah, I love the idea of the career portfolio.

Rachel Ribich: Yeah, it's fun too to look, from my perspective, at least in my experience of my portfolio, to look back on how all those dots connected and that I knew when I look back on it now, it might seem like it's this winding, weaving road, but ultimately it had very strategic decision making along the way. And sometimes, I made a decision that wasn't the best, but there's always a silver lining, and there's always something to learn from. And so I don't have any regrets in my career journey. Everything led me to where I am today in a strategic way. Having a why behind the reason you make a decision or accept an opportunity is important, and that will lead that portfolio in a direction that has some validity behind it and not just a wandering path.

Emily Lawrence: Yeah, it's so easy to sit in a seat, get your head down, and then get negative. You don't think that that's your future. But in my past, I've been in corporate, I had a boss that gave me some really good advice because I said I made this move to a different role, and it's not what I thought it would be. I don't love it. I don't see myself continuing on that path, and he said, "Really, especially early in your career, finding out what you don't want to do is just as important as finding out what you do." But you sit in that seat, take everything you can, and learn everything you can from it. So you can take those experiences forward with you. And that's something I've tried to incorporate in my career and think about as I sit in a seat and imagine my future.

Jen Knox: Yeah, because if you think about it, you're more likely to find things you're not going to like, the things you are like you will like. The portions of roles you enjoy are much smaller than those you don't. As you grow through that career, you can craft a position that leverages all the things you enjoy, leverages your strength, and is a need for the business.

Emily Lawrence: And Rachel, that's what you've done with this role for that culmination of decisions and experience.

Rachel Ribich: My biggest advice for people that people forget about sometimes is that we have the power to ask for what we need and want. And I have done that wholeheartedly, and I have been amazed at the results of that. When I moved to Colorado, I told my company I needed to go to the mountains. That is my path. That is where I'm going. And I haven't found a job yet, but I'm going. And in that conversation, we developed a solution to help let me work remotely in Colorado until I got my feet under me. And that helped them out because they didn't need to hire someone and get someone trained up.

And so we figured out a solution that worked for both of us. And it's just like, you don't know it unless you ask. And it's wonderful, and it can be scary. But the outcomes I've seen in my life for just stepping up and being strong and empowered and knowing my value, hard work, and ethics in all of that have paid off dividends for me.

Emily Lawrence: Well, and that's what you did with Nunn, too, when you, circling back to that strategic pause of going and working in Europe and exploring other interests and putting yourself in a new situation, you kept that relationship with Nunn. I was at the going away party with you, and you had everyone backing you. And what a cool company and experience for you to come back and step in and say, "Here's everything I've learned, and here's where I see a need in the company." And for them to say, "Please, we loved your work. We see your value." That's ideal for any company and situation with a company.

Rachel Ribich: When you find a company like that, hang on. Yeah, when you can find that right synergy where you jive, where it works, you have the opportunities. I feel supported and working in a male-dominated construction industry as a woman in my mid-thirties, it takes a lot of strength and like that vulnerability piece to step up and say, look, I can do this, I can help be a leader at this company and move this company forward. And, working very technically on things with my field staff and stuff, my advice is to work hard, show up, stand strong, and know your value.

Jen Knox: Yeah, this is the feedback we've heard from clients around the interest for the younger generation to have more opportunities, learning and development, engagement; they want that. And it is something that companies should provide, but Rachel, your story resonates with me because you have to take ownership of it as well. You have to take ownership of what things you're interested in and what potentially you want to learn. And then, to your point, companies should leverage that, invest in it, and allow employees to explore those opportunities.

Rachel Ribich: And that's a huge part of it. And we do that a lot here at Nunn Construction. We give people tools to advance their careers and recognize when there are opportunities for growth. But ultimately, we're not hand-holding them through the process. It's like we've done what we can; here are your tools; we will support you, but it is your gusto, inspiration, and passion to find your path.

Emily Lawrence: I love that. Rachael, you said your advice already, which we wanted to ask you, with the depth of your story in your career.

But your advice is so sound: ask for what you want, go for what you want, you will figure it out, be strategic along the way, follow your passion, and be open-minded to other opportunities, and I think this is going to resonate and hopefully change some perspectives for young people in their career and next generation leaders.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was so special.

Rachel Ribich: Thank you so much for having me. It's my pleasure.