Careers in Construction Month: Nate Abel went from managing claims to managing construction

When Senior Field Engineer Nate Abel decided to leave the insurance industry, he was in pursuit of a second career, not just a job. He had been with a national insurance provider for 15 years and although he used to get a lot of joy out of his job, decided that the industry and culture wasn’t a good fit anymore. He was looking for a place where he could stay for a long time and contribute, because one too many process improvements and Six Sigma initiatives left him feeling unvalued and miserable.

Knowing that Nate was a concrete foreman before going into insurance, Project Director Aron Kirch, whose son was on Nate’s baseball team, had long pushed Nate to consider Kitchell. Many of Nate’s responsibilities – working with contractor estimates, reconciling, scheduling repairs for homeowners, etc. – transfer well to the role he has today.

“I dealt with customers and conflict every day – passing on good news and bad,” said Nate. “You learn to communicate well with others and solve problems, which are competencies I use on the job every day.”

Nate came to Kitchell in March 2021 and worked on the NOAH Medical Office Building for Honor Health. Now he works on the Phoenix Children’s Hospital 10th and 11th floor build-outs, working with trade partners, scheduling trades, addressing safety, quality and generally keeping the job flowing.

“I love what I’m doing now,” he said. “I love building things and the people I work with. Employee ownership adds a whole other dimension. People treat it as if it’s their own and take pride in their work.”

Aron also convinced Nate by promoting the future possibilities.

“You can achieve whatever you want at Kitchell if you’re willing to work for it,” he said. “You’ll get paid what you’re worth, there’s career growth, development and the culture is great. We’re a midsize construction company but we don’t have a corporate feel – we still have that contractor, down-to-earth culture. The Sid Carlisles and Mike Kings of the world – they’ve swung the hammer and they’ve lived it, so when they talk about how special this place is – it adds a whole new layer of depth to it.”

“Only certain people get to walk through the gate with a hard hat, and it’s special. Not everyone gets that,” he added.

Clearly Nate is in his happy place, managing construction instead of claims. Who do you know who would be a good fit at Kitchell?

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Careers in Construction Month: Rob Previte preferred construction to carats, but his wife may have disagreed

When KCI Project Manager II Rob Previte attended ASU, he changed majors a few times and settled on housing & urban development, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 2008. Like many who come out of college (especially during a recession), Rob wasn’t exactly sure where his degree would take him. He had worked in retail through college and continued down this road, first at Skechers, then at Kenneth Cole and finally at Capri Jewelers in Chandler Mall, where he was store manager for about four years.

“The transition from jewelry to construction was definitely harder for my wife, Emma, than for me,” he said.

Rob learned about a Kitchell project engineer position from longtime friends Mike Hancock and Aron Kirch (whose wife had gone to school with Emma). He figured he had the capabilities – organization, assisting with project schedule, document controls, meeting coordination – not to mention the people skills to convey nicely into a construction career. He interviewed with Scott Root, Brent Moszeter and others, and was offered a PE role in 2015.

His first project was the Banner Healthcare Corporate Office. From there he went to healthcare projects – a medical office building adjacent to the Banner University Medical Campus, then to multiple projects over the course of four years on the SJHMC campus, including the Barrow Neurological Institute Medical Office Building, and now he’s at the Valleywise Healthcare Medical Center.

“If you asked me when I was working on it, I would have said I hated it, but in retrospect, the Barrow project is probably the one I’m most proud of,” he said. “The functionality, what Barrow does for people with so many coming from out of state and out of the country to be treated – it was a complicated project, but very satisfying.”

In school, Rob was exposed to some aspects of construction when he was bouncing around between majors. But he feels his background in retail was most applicable to what he does today.

“There are a lot of abilities that transition nicely – people skills, communications skills and dealing with people with varying backgrounds – it’s all helped with what I do today. The ability to communicate effectively between design teams, owner’s reps and trade partners is extremely important. These skills translate from many different backgrounds, there is no reason to think you won’t be successful without a construction background.”

Rob Previte is a natural at the job. Who do you know who would be a good fit at Kitchell?