Female leadership thrives at Journey Group

This piece is presented by Journey Group.

When it comes to male-dominated industries, construction beats even the military.

Only 9 percent of construction industry workers are women, according to catalyst.org, making it the second-most male-dominated industry — surpassed only by logging.

By comparison, the share of women serving in the armed forces is 15 percent.

At Journey Group, the balance increasingly looks different, and the company believes its teams are stronger because of it. Women are achieving career growth and opportunities across the Sioux Falls-based construction firm and finding a rewarding experience along the way.

Here’s a sampling of the talent you’ll find there.

Arin Knudtson is Journey’s vice president of finance and administration. A Brandon native, she came to Journey in 2015 following five years at Eide Bailly LLP.

Arin Knudtson

What attracted you to work in this industry?

I was lucky to have mentors at Eide Bailly who encouraged me to focus on the construction and commercial industry. I quickly realized I enjoyed the diversity of working with general contractors, subcontractors, aggregates suppliers, equipment dealers and more. I met people who were down-to-earth, self-motivated, dedicated and focused. They became friends, and I could relate to them personally and professionally.

Through my work at Eide Bailly LLP, I had developed a client relationship with Journey Group and was familiar with the company and team. When an opportunity arose to join the team, I was excited to take on the challenge. I was hired as vice president of finance and administration with a transition plan and coaching to become chief financial officer.

What makes Journey a unique place to work?

Journey is management-owned and heavily focuses on developing leaders at all levels within the company. Our leaders are very knowledgeable and empowered to make a difference – both in our company and in the communities we serve. Not only has this model been successful for more than a century, but it gives employees opportunities to take on challenges and perform at their personal best.

I can personally attest to how the company invested in leadership development. I have also felt the company was rooting for me, there to help me grow and learn new skills and guide me through the highs and lows of a career. I’ve witnessed the same thing happen to many others here, and I know both we as individuals and our business are better for it.

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about working in the construction field?

I know when people think about what makes a successful career, construction might not be the first thing that comes to mind. And that’s unfortunate because I think most would be surprised at the numerous opportunities in this industry at all levels, for all races and for men and women. Positions include architects, engineers, project leaders, field leaders and more. And those who work in trades come at a premium, not only because there’s a shortage in supply, but they are highly valuable and key to a successful project.

Additionally, there is huge entrepreneurial opportunity. Generally speaking, the construction industry has relatively few barriers to entry, and because so many contractors are used in various specialties there are many opportunities to participate and be successful in this industry.

What advice would you give to others considering a similar career?

Build a network of people around you for support, for coaching and for mentoring — people who can offer advice and share experiences and those that believe in your success. Do not be afraid to ask questions, admit what you don’t know, learn from your mistakes, and be vulnerable. These all lead to growth, both professionally and personally.

Finally, believe in yourself, and push yourself beyond the limits of what you believe you can achieve. This is particularly true for the women who are breaking the molds in the construction industry, a predominantly male-led industry. I can speak from experience: Frequently being the only woman at the table during meetings can be intimidating. Have confidence in knowing that you bring something specific to the table that is imperative to the success of the company.

 Jodi Hintz began her career with Journey in 2004 as the accounts payable specialist after spending a decade in a factory sewing baseball hats. Ten years later, she took another position with Journey as the administrative assistant for fleet management.

Jodi Hintz

What attracted you to work in this industry?

After 10 years of working in a factory, the company decided to close its doors. Any of the employees that would work until the last day would receive up to $10,000 to go back to school for two years and learn a new trade. I decided to get my associate degree in accounting, and a week before I graduated I applied with Sioux Falls Construction (now Journey) as an accounts payable specialist. I knew a few of the employees and had heard some of their stories about how this was not just a great place to work but that it was one big family. I was hired and started working a week after graduation. 

What makes Journey a unique place to work?

It doesn’t matter if you have worked for this company one day or 30 years, everyone here treats you like a member of their family. They will do everything they can to help you with any issue you are having, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t matter if you are a field employee or upper management, if someone has a question or problem, you can ask anyone for help to solve it. Our upper management has an open-door policy, and all employees are welcome to enter anytime even if it is to just say hi.

What advice would you give to others considering a similar career?

If you are the type of person who enjoys the outdoors and getting your hands dirty, this could be the right fit for you.

Andrea Miller joined Journey as a project manager after moving to Sioux Falls with Mortenson Construction in 2012 to work on the construction team for the Denny Sanford Premier Center. A former special projects manager in the Army, she served in Germany and Kansas before returning to her native Sioux Falls.

Andrea Miller

What attracted you to work in this industry?

It’s very satisfying watching the fruits of your labor literally grow out of the ground and come alive with bustling energy when a building goes into operation. Playing a part in this incredible transformation is an exciting and sometimes challenging experience that we share with others who equally understand the effects our work has on communities. This industry is wonderful ultimately because of the teams of people, companies and customers that we get to spend time with putting our work into place.

What makes Journey a unique place to work?

Leaders throughout the organization truly want to create a work-life balance. We set high expectations for our employees. We expect them to deliver the highest quality and value for our customers, but we also believe taking care of our employees supports that goal.

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about working in the construction field?

Just because you put steel-toes shoes on during the day does not mean you cannot put a dress on at night!

What advice would you give to others considering a similar career?

Get your hands dirty. Create. Innovate. But most importantly, choose a company that holds true to its values and that those values match your own.

Jolene Smith joined Journey in 2015 after 15 years with First Premier Bank/Premier Bankcard as director of corporate human resources. She’s a native of Worthington, Minn., who also spent time in HR at Gateway 2000. 

Jolene Smith

What attracted you to work in this industry?

I was attracted first to the opportunity to become an HR director. I wanted to work for a smaller company where I could utilize more than 20 years of experience, lead my own department and have a seat at the table where I could make a difference. However, I became more intrigued as I learned about Journey and its history. I was most attracted to how the company has impacted the community over the last century. I recognized many of the current and historic buildings that were built by Journey. In them, I saw stability. I saw an opportunity. I saw a future.

What makes Journey a unique place to work?

The people and the core values. Our company has core values, and our leaders live those values. As a company that is more than a century old, our core values have withstood the test of time. We hire people who believe in those values and fit our culture. That culture starts at the top with our owners and leaders. Our values are woven into our projects and our people.

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about working in the construction field?

The people are professional, respectful, hard-working and smart. Many have college educations and professional certifications. They are family-oriented and involved in their community.

What advice would you give to others considering a similar career?

Give it a try!

Jessica Weiss is originally from Upstate New York. She left to join the Air Force and served several years on active duty, stationed in three states. She moved to South Dakota to earn a degree at SDSU in construction management in 2013 and then worked for a heavy industrial electrical construction company. She is in her first year at Journey as an assistant project manager. 

Jessica Weiss

What attracted you to work in this industry? 

I find the art of “building” absolutely fascinating. Architecture is beautiful, and it molds the world we live in, literally. Not many people get to see what is behind the walls as a building is being formed. Being a part of that is what attracts me to the industry. It’s also exciting to start something new, overcome challenges throughout the project and then feel a sense of closure as a project wraps up.

What makes Journey a unique place to work?

I am fairly new to Journey, and I have been fortunate to work for great companies throughout my career, but I feel Journey is a place I can see myself long term. The people are great, and the work is exciting. I think Journey takes a “bull by the horns” approach. We want to be known as a company that produces great projects and great leaders, and that makes me excited to get up every day. Journey has a great name in the community and will try new things to make the company a better contractor and place to work.

What do you think people might be surprised to learn about working in the construction field?

The construction field is evolving every day. As a woman, I have never felt that I was out of place in this industry, and I have leaned on the individuals that have been in the industry the longest to help me learn and grow over the years. If you come into this industry with a willingness to put in the work and learn from those around you, then you can be highly successful in construction.

What advice would you give to others considering a similar career?

If you’re seriously thinking about this career path, then do it. Don’t let the doubts get to you because this industry is exciting and you get to be part of something bigger than you. You are able to drive by a building and have a sense of pride that you were a part of that, no matter what role you played in it. There are so many different paths in construction. You can be a project manager, a welder, a craftsperson, a site leader, architect, engineer and more. They are all very important and needed. I have a daughter, and she wants to be an architect. She is only 10, so there are still plenty of years left for her to change her mind, but it makes me happy that she is interested in being a part of this world because she is able to watch me and hear my stories each day.

Female leadership thrives at Journey Group

Meet five women who are achieving career growth and contributing to the success of Journey Group.

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