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: 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?