A Stepping Stone

How starting with the YBG can help you land on the ECA board

By Shayna Wiwierski

There are many ways that leaders of member firms become engaged in the ECA board, one of which is becoming involved in the YBG.

The YBG was launched four years ago and has grown to more than 1,000 members, many of which are currently on the ECA board or have been in the past. In fact, since YBG is a great networking initiative and program by the association, it helps members to get their foot in the door and make lasting connections with others in the industry. Involvement also bodes well for the long-term sustainability of the ECA.

We chatted with three ECA board members on their involvement with YBG and how an invitation to a YBG event ended up becoming so much more for their careers.

Alistair McBride

Originally from New Zealand, Alistair McBride first made his way to Edmonton eight years ago and hasn’t left since 2012. Coming from an insurance background, he has worked in construction groups for a number of major insurance companies until finally becoming the corporate risk manager for PCL Construction earlier this year.

Alistair McBride – insurance background, he has worked in construction groups for a number of major insurance companies until finally becoming the corporate risk manager for PCL Construction.

McBride originally got involved with YBG during his time as a senior construction underwriter with Zurich Insurance Company in early 2014. His boss at the time decided that he should go out and meet people in the industry and that an event for a new program the ECA was running would be a good fit.

“I went to the first YBG event held at MKT here off Whyte Ave. in early 2014,” says McBride. “My boss at Zurich said, ‘look, you need to get to learn more about the construction industry and the ECA is the central point of construction here, so this YBG thing is a good way to know your peers.’ I went to the event and there were about 200 people there, so it was a start of good things to come.”

The 34-year-old says that the kickoff event was great for networking and getting to know more people, especially since he was new to the industry.  McBride says that he learned lots about the local construction industry, and by talking to different people from different walks of life that helped him improve his confidence.

“You go out there and might know one or two people and they aren’t guaranteed to be at these events, so you spark up a conversation with strangers.  Those people you meet introduce you to others, and on it goes,” he says.

It was those introductions that helped McBride further his career.  Through those connections and his ongoing attendance at YBG events, eventually he was asked to sit on the education group, making the transition from attendee to committee member.  As he got to know more people in the YBG leadership group, he was introduced to members of the ECA board of directors, and that helped him expand his network and eventually become a board member of the association.

McBride officially joined the ECA board in 2017 where one of his roles was the YBG board liaison. Currently, he sits on the standing committees for finance & risk, and education.  He says that he has been approached from YBG participants asking about his experience moving from the YBG to the ECA board and whether it’s a good fit.

“There’s a lot of other people looking to see if it’s a good way to go to move on up at the ECA.  I’m always happy to provide my two cents on that.”

Although YBG offers many educational aspects in the program, McBride mentions that the networking opportunities are second to none.  Currently the YBG is spearheading a program called YP Merge, where all the young construction groups in Edmonton get together and network.

“There is the YBG, but there is also a young estimator, young engineers, young architects, and all these different groups, and they are all part of the construction hub; the core group that provides the basis of construction in Edmonton,” says McBride. “What YBG has kind of been the leader on is to get them in the same room, because at the end of the day we all need each other to be successful. That’s been a big push for the last 18 months.”

YBG has created a combined calendar for everyone’s events, so members from the different groups can log onto one central repository and find the details of future meetings and events.  He mentions that this is another way for networking within the industry.

Whether it’s connecting through YP Merge or YBG, McBride highly recommends becoming involved in the events the groups put on.  What was originally a recommendation from a colleague ended up being his ticket to eventually becoming a board member for Canada’s second-largest regional construction association.

“I was just a little guy from New Zealand who knew no one; and now I’m on the board. A lot of it is in part to the acceptance and openness of the YBG group,” says McBride.  “It’s been a great experience for me. I’ll continue to attend these events as I get older and older and greyer and greyer.”

Rob McGrath

Rob McGrath has been with the YBG since the very beginning.

Rob McGrath joined the
YBG in 2014. He is now the
executive chair of the YBG and the YBG liaison on the ECA board.

McGrath, president of Synergy Projects Ltd., joined the YBG in 2014, the very first year of its inception.

“My initial introduction to the YBG was through Matt Schellenberger.  After an initial discussion, I was very happy to join the YBG in its inaugural year, as the potential to be part of a positive shift in the construction industry within Edmonton was exciting,” says McGrath.

McGrath is currently the YBG liaison on the ECA board, as well as on the ECA stakeholder strategy & engagement committee.  For the first two years of YBG he chaired the group’s networking committee.

“Within our construction industry, so much of what we do is relationship based.  As a general contractor, 85 per cent of work on a given project is done by subcontractors and suppliers, so it’s been very important to me to get out and meet infinite amounts of people in this industry that I normally wouldn’t have been exposed to,” says McGrath. “When we do get on a job together, we already have that friendship or acquaintance created; things run smoother.”

Not only is it a great opportunity to network with others, YBG also helps individuals get their names out in the industry quicker.

The YBG brand is intended to attract those in the the first half of their construction careers.  McGrath says that the average age of the developing leaders in the group are in their mid-30s, however, they do get participants who are of all demographics. He says that senior leaders in their respective organizations have started to come because they see the value in meeting and engaging with the next generation of leaders and sharing what they know.

McGrath, who is also the executive chair of the YBG, says that although YBG was originally conceived to get more young professionals connected in the industry, they are currently now trying to align more closely with the ECA and participate in the same strategic planning and visioning of the association.

“Naturally we are starting to overlap more and more, YBG and ECA,” he says. “The people coming out to events is becoming much more blended. The same people who would go to a traditional ECA event now go to YBG events, so being a part of the YBG is now synonymous as being part of the ECA.”

Jillene Lakevold

If it weren’t for YBG, Jillene Lakevold may not have been interested in pursuing a spot on the ECA board.

The 34-year-old director of sales – architectural channel lead for All Weather Windows, as well as director on the ECA board, joined the YBG in its inaugural year. ECA executive director John McNicoll called her and said that he thought she would be a good fit for the YBG leadership team.

Being a part of the YBG helped Jillene Lakevold meet a lot more people in the industry. She was elected to the ECA board in 2016.

“He said ‘we would love to have you join this leadership team and here is what we are trying to accomplish; here is what we are trying to do’,” says Lakevold.  “John has always had a passion for developing the next generation of leaders and is really passionate about leadership in general.”

Being a part of the YBG allowed Lakevold to meet a lot more people in the industry, both through events and by taking on a leadership role. She says that there was a lot of interaction with people who worked at the ECA and the ECA board. The most value she found from it though was networking and connecting with leaders in the industry.

She says that the YBG allows for more informal mentoring to take place, as people in the first half of their careers really want to learn from the people who have experienced it all. Over the years, the group has offered a number of events, such as the Lunchbox Series, where a senior leader would host an event and YBGers could attend and ask as many questions as they wanted. YBG also allows people to connect face to face instead of through just emails or phone calls. It’s that in-person connection that allowed Lakevold to make the jump from being on the YBG Leadership Team to sitting on the board of the ECA.

“Being involved in YBG gave me a great appreciation for the work of the association, as well as the connections and relationships established in the industry,” she says. “Being able to establish those relationships through my involvement with the YBG helped me to get a seat on the board, since I had already established some of those relationships and understood the issues. All of that was good preparation for understanding what was ahead for the board work.”

Lakevold got elected to the ECA board in 2016, one year after she started with YBG. She still attends YBG events since she likes the energy and the excitement about the future of construction. She says that the YBG Leadership Team is a great opportunity to see if you like board work and participating in it early on lets you be exposed to what happens during board meetings and see if there is future interest in joining the ECA board.  The YBG really gave Lakevold the opportunity to see and get engaged at a leadership level in the ECA and she said that she doesn’t know if she would have been that interested in it if she didn’t have the YBG leadership experience.

“By getting to meet the great people and see the great work that was being done, that sparked my interest. To get on the board you have to have the opportunity to meet people, but ultimately people need to trust that you will represent their interests on the board, that’s how you get voted on. And so, I think by having an opportunity to engage with people, I’m honoured that people trust me enough to vote for me to represent those interests. I don’t think I would have gotten that same opportunity if I didn’t get engaged.”