An NKBA chapter event illustrated career pathways in the industry. By Loren Kessell
It’s easy for new design professionals to feel that working at a firm may be their only option, but what if some of them also have a love of hands-on work, or working within a specific area, like fixtures? How do they get there?
NKBA’s Columbia River chapter hosted an event to help answer these types of questions, discuss different career paths and roles within the design and construction industry, and to show those new to it how all of the business relationships connect and matter.
The event, “Next Gen: Pathways in the Industry,” held this month at Contract Furnishings Mart in Tigard, Oregon, featured five panelists from various professional backgrounds who participated in a discussion followed by a Q&A session. Each person shared experiences and wisdom about careers in different segments. Panelists included Ashley Fleschner, contractor for Flescnher Construction; Chelly Wentworth, CMKBD, independent designer with C-Change Design; Karen Sedgewick, CMKBD, design-build designer for Metke Remodeling & Luxury Homes; Terese Schoff, showroom sales rep/manager for Contract Furnishings Mart, and Jessica Halberg, outside sales representative for Quality Sales Inc.
Familiar faces, first-time visitors and student members expressed their appreciation for the insight and how the panelists mentioned ways in which they protect each other’s job roles.
Panelists shared tons of information, but a few key takeaways stood out.
- From the contractor side, Fleschner said it is important to show up when you say you will and to deliver the work you promised in order to keep client trust.
- The designers stressed accuracy, detail and communication to foster seamless installation.
- On the showroom side, Schoff said that customer service is key, and Halberg added that her motivation in outside sales is being her own supervisor, and showing up to do a job well. Wentworth emphasized the importance of effective collaboration with all roles, and that the relationship between a designer and a contractor is the foundation.
- And, Wentworth and Sedgewick praised their involvement with trade associations. Both are NKBA-certified members, and they said they found a “family and sense of community” within their local chapter. They also touted the importance of membership and networking.
Columbia River has more exciting opportunities coming down the pipeline, including a student-focused program, hopefully this summer.
“We’re partnering students with working professionals to create something during the course of the event,” Courtney Glidden, AKBD, program chair for Columbia River, said. “The goal is to have designers, contractors, and vendors working together with students to create an end product.”
The chapter previously participated in a similar event last year at the BUILD Retreat, which is a long weekend that unites members of different industry organizations. The activity involved using a LEGO set, and each person played a role to illustrate how it works within the industry. A designer read instructions, a contractor assembled pieces, a vendor organized the pieces and the last person looked at the final product as the “client.”
The chapter will implement a similar activity during its upcoming student event.
Glidden is starting to play a larger role as a mentor within the chapter. She’s been in the industry for six-and-a-half years, and hopes to help people find their passion within the business she loves. She was burnt out after graduating from college, and eventually worked in a cabinet shop for two years before moving to her dream job, and current role, at a design-build firm that focuses on remodeling homes from the early 1900s.
“I have a very rare and wonderful work setting that encourages everyone to ask the question ‘How can we do this better?’” Glidden said. “Because of my early struggles, and my current love of design, I want to help others find their path to work satisfaction.”