Rounding Out Her Education

Sarah Stickney (EMDC ʼ21) spent a decade learning "a little about everything" while working in general contracting, but it was her time in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program that gave her the skills she needed to be a senior leader.

Sarah Stickney (EMDC ʼ21) Sarah Stickney worked for more than a decade in the general contracting sector of the construction industry, first as an estimator and then as a director of preconstruction. She likes to say that during that period, she learned “a little about everything,” but as time went on, she wanted an opportunity to focus on something new: management.

It was around that same time that Stickney met Tim Adkins, founder and president of Command Mechanical Group (CMG), and a student in Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program. Adkins told her about the program, specifically how it is designed for aspiring senior leaders within the design and construction space. He also explained that EMDC was taught by practicing professionals who bring a wealth of outside experience to the classroom and is fully online to fit the demanding schedule of any working professional. Stickney was intrigued, and in 2019 enrolled in the program herself.  

Now a graduate, Stickney (EMDC ʼ21) said the education she received in the program was the perfect complement to the wide-ranging insights she gained while working in general contracting. She also found the leadership role she desired. In May 2021, she joined Adkins as Vice President of Project Development for CMG, a full-service mechanical contractor located in Chicago.  

Her day-to-day work life still involves a little bit of everything, only now she's focused on the well-being of the company by assessing bid requests, meeting with partners and clients, reviewing financial reports, attending site walk-throughs, and identifying places for improvement. 

“I am implementing strategies from the general contracting side of the business to grow CMG,” Stickney said. “I'm working on strategic ways for contractors and developers to meet business and workforce participation requirements or goals, allowing CMG to keep a diverse workforce and veterans employed year-round. We oversee construction projects from contract award to closeout, so I am always networking with existing and new contacts.” 

That networking component is a benefit she relished about EMDC, from being able to interact with and learn from her classmates to getting to know the program's faculty members, all of whom are practicing professionals.  

"The breadth of contacts I've made and the subsequent introductions, advice, and shared experiences have given me so much more confidence than the person I was without that network," she said.  

It was in EMDC where Stickney learned another valuable lesson: as a leader, she doesn't always have to be the one to come up with the best idea.  

"It's not always the CEO, COO, or other executives with the breakthrough ideas," she said. "Listen to your peers, and consider viewpoints and thoughts of those in related fields."

EMDC taught Stickney about accounting, human resources, and construction law, all of which are now major parts of her role at CMG. Now she hopes to pass lessons forward from her EMDC experience  and recommends the program to any construction professional who knows a little about a lot of things but wants to hone their leadership skills. 

“EMDC covers so many subjects you likely won't come across otherwise that will add to your character and skill set,” Stickney said. “If you are driven to move beyond your current role and take ownership in an organization, this is the program, and it's time to invest in yourself.”

McCormick News Article