Careers in Construction Month: Matt Kirch went from banker to builder

Kitchell Project Manager Matt Kirch graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in business management and set out on a nine-year career in the banking industry. He excelled in the role, managing branches for a national financial institution throughout metro Phoenix’s East Valley. But he began to lose motivation when he felt he wasn’t building anything tangible.

“The tough thing about banking is that you don’t see your work come to fruition in a physical way,” he said. “Your results are on a dashboard – sales numbers, investments, mortgages – the final accomplishment never changes throughout your whole career.”

His cousin, Kitchell Project Director Aron Kirch, knew Matt would be a good fit at Kitchell. Matt admits that he never worked in construction and has a laughable random box of tools at home, but figured he was still young, eager to learn and could transition to something else with many years of work ahead of him. So, in 2015, he left his lucrative career in financial services and made the switch to construction. And there was no looking back.

“I took a pretty big pay cut and was older than the other project engineers who were starting out, but I also had more maturity so it might have been an easier transition,” he said. “After being in the business world, I had good communication skills. Although I didn’t have the education or background in construction management, because of my work experience I was probably less hesitant to call an architect, engineer or talk to an owner.”

Matt says the biggest benefit of his prior career is interacting with people. He was driving teams in banking – financial officer, mortgage brokers, tellers – who had different roles, but all worked toward a common goal of making a customer happy. He uses the same skills in what he does today.

“We’re solving problems. It may be complex, we may not have the answer, but we can find a solution that makes the client happy.”

Matt has worked on several healthcare projects while at Kitchell. Today he’s working on the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Medical Office Building.

“Construction has a flow – scrubbing bids at the beginning, signing trades up, getting things released, building, dealing with issues – even with a project timeline it feels different. It’s never the same thing every day – it’s always changing, and I like that.”

Matt admits that making a switch might be scary at first because you’re starting over, but time flies quickly, and before you know it, you’re an expert. You’ll be happier that you took on the challenge.

“If you’re a hard worker and have a good work ethic, Kitchell is a place you can really grow.”

Matt went from banking to building and is succeeding. Who do you know who would be a good fit at Kitchell?

There’s something to be said for those who ascend mountains for fun: gutsy. Those who do it to take a picture with a Kitchell logo’d banner: smart and gutsy.

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Bearing the Kitchell name (literally and figuratively), KCI Senior Project Engineer Wilson Leech and Project Manager Paul Jackson recently conquered the highest peak in Southern California, Mt. San Gorgonio. During their one-day hike they gained more than 11,000 feet and traversed 17-plus miles of steeply dipping thrust faults (if you don’t know what that means, ask them).

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“It was a tough hike, but the views from the top and exhausted satisfaction at the end made it all worth it,” said Paul.

Wilson explained the mountain as a massive block of quartz monzonite, which sits atop an ancient platform of Precambrian gneissic rocks, providing spectacular views.

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Wilson and Paul are working on a project together at SDSU (and are also apparently novice geologists), and collaborated on the following quote to commemorate their achievement, adapted from Thomas W. Higginson:

“Great men Kitchell Employee-Owners are rarely isolated mountain peaks; they are summits of ranges.”

Indeed we are.