My Personal Journey in Construction
Written by Kyla Schultz, Chief Financial Officer, JEN COL Construction
There’s no other industry I would rather be in than construction and there’s no other role than construction finance that I can imagine doing. It’s the combination of these two passions that has taken me to where I am today – Chief Financial Officer at JEN COL Construction. How many professionals in other industries have the opportunity to be a part of building a lasting legacy—schools, hospitals, fire halls, community recreation centres, parks, theatres—that will be there for generations to come?
Before joining JEN COL in 2007, I worked for two other local construction firms in Edmonton, but it wasn’t until I came to JEN COL that my career really started to take shape. Immediately I noticed a company whose owners truly cared for their people and nurtured the careers of their staff by providing opportunities to learn and grow. I was hired by Yvonne Jodoin, one of the co-founders of the company, and she empowered me to make decisions right away and gave me the chance to develop my skills in the area of construction finance.
Being a smaller company when I joined JEN COL—and having the desire to learn and be involved—I was able to get a full 360° view of how each department works together through every stage of a construction project; from the initial business development and estimating side, progressing through to the various stages of the construction lifecycle, and finally onto project close. It’s not a view everyone gets the chance to see, so I know I’m very fortunate. The real key for me, however, was not sitting on the sidelines, but taking action and earning a seat at the table amongst a group of internal partners with as much passion for building a better future as I have. It was also a relatively unique experience, given I was only one of a small handful of females in the company at the time.
I was always involved in the finance side of construction, but I think being engaged with and participating in the other areas of the construction process helped develop my critical thinking and, to this day, informs the strategic insight needed in construction finance. Finance plays such a pivotal role in the success of any construction company (and project) and because of that, my team and I always operate with the strategic objectives of the company in mind. What I recognized, however, as I began taking more of a leadership role in finance at JEN COL, was the lack of formal training specific to construction accounting in schools. Similar to when I started in the industry, much of the special nuances involved in construction finance was still self taught and self learned. This was one of the reasons I, along with a few colleagues from the construction industry, helped establish the Edmonton chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA) in 2014 – one of only two CFMA chapters in Canada. I am still a member of this great organization that brings financial professionals together to enhance the construction industry.
Construction finance is not just about finance, it’s about teamwork. From every facet, construction is about collaborating with your team to overcome obstacles, and the finance team is a big part of this. With every new project there are new and interesting challenges, but inevitably strong networks are formed and everyone on the team depends on one another to get the job done. To me, this is perhaps the most rewarding part for me and my team – working together is really the sweet spot in accounting.
Today, as the CFO of one of Alberta’s most respected construction services firms, I manage all financial aspects of the company while taking an active role in setting strategic direction; and I am proud to say I was recently invited into the ownership group at JEN COL. I’m equally delighted that we now have over a dozen women in various roles in the company, from human resources and accounting to business development and project management and positions in the field as well. Our core purpose at JEN COL is to Build a Better Future, which ironically has less to do with constructing physical buildings and has more to do with communities and people, our staff included. It’s very exciting for me to see so many women not only work here but thrive and become leaders in their roles; and it gives me great pleasure to help motivate more women to pursue a career in construction.
In addition to mentoring some of JEN COL’s future leaders, another aspect of my role that I’m extremely passionate about—and the mission for the rest of my career—is strengthening awareness of JEN COL’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) both internally and externally. Being socially responsibility and operating in an ethical and sustainable way is a big part of our culture as well as my own personal values. Aside from the obvious business benefits, I believe CSR drives greater employee engagement when we encourage personal and professional growth… much like when I first joined JEN COL.
Having spent my entire career in construction, I can say with conviction there are great opportunities for women in construction. My advice to anyone interested in a career in construction is to find and reach out to someone who inspires you (male or female); learn as much as you can about the different areas of construction to put yourself in a better position to succeed; get off the sidelines and make things happen for yourself; and most importantly, have fun and enjoy what you do. No matter what your passion is—accounting, project management, business development or carpentry—there’s a rewarding career waiting for you in construction.