Four career journeys and why the typical career ladder may be a thing of the past

A women on a climbing wall

As seen in the Wichita Business Journal (April 16, 2021). To view the full article, click here!

“Climbing the career ladder” is a term often used to describe the advancement of an individual in a company to higher levels of salary, responsibility and title. It’s a great way to show a possible career path, but it comes with limitations. Consider looking at career development as a climbing wall, not a ladder.

Picture a climbing wall; numerous handholds and footholds in all directions helping associates learn new skills and reach new heights. The climbing wall is fluid, responsive and adaptive to associates as they progress in their careers. The climbing wall also provides support to the company. Companies have certain needs as they expand, and the climbing wall offers companies a chance to offer and train talent (who already have extensive knowledge of the company) to take on special projects or help expand to new locations.

As McCownGordon Construction grew, the realization that cultivating and sustaining a growth mindset for associates was crucial. In response, the talent development team began brainstorming new ways to engage associates and keep skills sharp. One initiative was the creation of McCownGordon University, an online learning management system where associates are able to access a variety of resources. Growth and success can take many shapes and forms, and it’s time employers realize success is not one-dimensional.

Hear from four of our Wichita associates about their “climbing wall” paths.

Organic growth

Dean Youngers, director of construction operations for the Kansas business unit, is a born and raised Wichita native. Youngers joined

McCownGordon as a superintendent and travelled nearly 72,000 miles covering projects his first year on the job. As the company began to grow, Youngers organically grew with it and into his current role as director of construction operations where he leads a team with over 100 associates. He leads with the philosophy that “the most important mentors you have are the people you support and manage.”

Youngers credits his growth as well as McCownGordon’s growth with being an employee-owned company through its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). As employee owners, “We carry the McCownGordon flag and we truly work for each other. We hold each other accountable to our core values and continue to raise the bar,” Youngers said.

Looking ahead

Micquille Robinson first joined McCownGordon as a summer intern in 2018. Once he graduated from college, Robinson joined the McCownGordon team full time as a field engineer. Field engineers work directly on the project site and typically work their way into a superintendent role, but Robinson’s goal is to get as much experience in the field before making a transition to a project engineer/project manager role.

“With all of the training courses offered by McCownGordon in person and online to better ourselves in our professional field, they make it easy for me to continue to challenge myself and grow as an individual,” Robinson said.

Robinson has already taken on a dual role holding the responsibilities of both a field engineer and project engineer to learn both skillsets while pursuing his master’s degree.

Engineering firm to construction

Manroj Sangha joined McCownGordon as an engineering manager after spending eight years at an engineering firm creating mechanical and electrical engineering construction documents. Sangha’s current position as an engineering manager is unique and different from his prior experience in the way that he touches every aspect of the construction business, from project pursuits to working with the design team and trade partners. He acts as an advisor to the client as well as an extension of the design team, advocating for both. The engineering services department at McCownGordon provided him with the necessary support and tools to make his transition as efficient as possible.

“The career transition was a rewarding venture because I was on an entirely new set of rungs with a new destination point. The opportunity has given me an entire new perspective of the construction business,” Sangha said.

Sangha uses his knowledge of the design process to be an extra set of eyes on the field and for the design team.

“We’re here to fill in the gaps and focus on the bigger picture. The result is a much broader holistic approach to the world of engineering.”

Kansas City to Wichita

Sarah Blogref began her McCownGordon journey as a project coordinator in Kansas City, Missouri before transitioning into her second role as an executive assistant supporting HR and talent development.

“When the executive assistant position posted, it really struck a chord with me … I knew that it would be a lateral move, but I also knew that the experiences I would gain would be very valuable to my career and growth,” Blogref said.

In May 2020, Blogref moved back to Wichita, her hometown. She appreciated the opportunity to move back home, stay with McCownGordon and take on a new role as an office administrator where she has office duties but also continues to support the HR department with recruiting and onboarding of new associates.

Blogref said that the climbing wall resonates with her because “you don’t have to be taking steps up to grow. Anything I’ve wanted to try; I’ve always had the support.”