Why the typical career ladder may be a thing of the past

Featuring McCownGordon Kansas City associates

A woman on a rock climbing wall

“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 access a variety of resources. Growth and success can take many shapes and forms, it’s time employers realize success is not one-dimensional. 

Hear from four of our Kansas City associates about their ‘climbing wall’ paths: 

A taste of field work…

Ashton Tiddy joined the McCownGordon team right after college as an estimator. Ashton’s internship experiences during college were all estimating-based, so she made it a goal to get more field and operations exposure. Ashton worked as an estimator for three years before the perfect opportunity came a long where she could serve as an estimator and a project engineer on the same project. Ashton appreciated the support she received from various McCownGordon departments during her cross-training time. “I worked with the talent development, estimating and operations team during this transition, and they supported me and made sure I got the experience and exposure to the operations side that I wanted.” Ultimately, Ashton decided that an estimating role was her perfect fit, but she said that “being in the field for a year gave me a better understanding of construction and made me a better estimator because of it.”

Project engineer turned customer experience specialist… 

Samantha Hughes, customer experience specialist, began her career with McCownGordon as a project engineer intern in 2012. After finishing her degree in architectural engineering from KU, Samantha joined the team full-time as a project engineer. She worked as a project engineer for two years before she decided to explore other roles to continue learning new skills. Samantha filled in as a marketing coordinator in the marketing department, where she has since spent 6 successful years. Samantha says that her career path “isn’t about climbing a ladder, but about loving what I do every day and wanting to be a part of McCownGordon’s success. Each of my moves have essentially been a switch to find something I love even more than the last role!” Samantha thanks her managers for always encouraging her to take on new challengers. Samantha’s latest move is to serve as a customer experience specialist. In this new role Samantha focuses on collecting client survey data and interpreting the findings to ensure our clients have the best building experience with McCownGordon. 

Cross-training for client relations… 

Josh Weber spent most of his career in virtual, design and construction (VDC). He loved the work but felt like he wanted a change of pace. Josh was seeking a role that would be more client-driven with a chance to build lasting client relations and have more in-person contact with projects. The construction manager role aligned with these desires. When Josh was working at an architecture firm, he recalls loving “talking to the project team, seeing progress photos and going to the jobsite.” To get closer to his goal of being a construction project manager, Josh joined the McCownGordon Construction team in the VDC department. “I let Emily Brown in Talent Development know two years into working here that I wanted to cross-train,” Josh said. Josh valued the support he received from his manager, Michael Gekas, and head of Specialty Services, Emily Tilgner, who were both very optimistic about his career move. Josh began cross-training as a project engineer amid the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and has now transitioned fully into a project engineer role. 

Curiosity turned into an opportunity… 

Diamond Coleman first joined McCownGordon as a laborer for the Children’s Mercy Research Institute project in 2020. From a young age, Diamond knew she always loved being hands-on in projects. Working as a laborer allowed her to have the hands-on interaction that she enjoyed. You may have seen Diamond as a receptionist or helping with coronavirus cleaning and that’s because Diamond is always willing to lend a helpful hand whenever she can. During one of her cleaning rounds, Diamond peaked into the IT area and was intrigued by all the equipment. “Dustin, the head of the IT department, had asked me to help transfer some equipment and I kept asking questions. I wanted to learn more and more.” Diamond began taking on smaller projects for the IT team and “these smaller projects turned into larger projects which turned into a position in the IT department.” Her favorite part about being in IT is that every day is different. She is appreciative of the support Dustin Burns and the talent development team provided for her in her career. 


Check out what our Wichita associates had to say.