What does being active duty military have in common with being an estimator at an electrical contracting firm? On the surface, it might be tough to tell. Spend a few minutes with Elizabeth McGoldrick, however, and the answer becomes clear:
- Understand and accept the mission
- Gather necessary information and tools
- Train and train more
- Dive in and get it done
Young workers in electrical and systems contracting can learn and be inspired by Elizabeth’s story. She is an estimator and safety director at Electrical Consulting Services, Inc. (ECSI), West Palm Beach, FL. She also is a drill sergeant in the United States Army reserves, softball coach for an under-14 traveling team and high school team, IEC Florida East Coast Chapter member, and IEC Emerging Leaders cohort two member. Cohort two created the Volt Wagon, which was showcased at SPARK 2022 in Louisville.
SPARK 2022 was Elizabeth’s second time at an IEC event – previously she had stopped in at the 2019 Business Summit as it was nearby in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
“Attending SPARK 2022 gave me a real feel for the group,” Elizabeth says. “We were all there with the same values, the same goals, and the same intent to make this industry better than what it is. It was kind of super overwhelming, but it was super cool to be part of a greater picture.”
Learning and Growing at ECSI
Elizabeth joined ECSI in August 2017 – not because of a lifelong dream to work in the electrical field but, well, because it kind of fell into her lap.
Pursuing her undergraduate degree in business administration from Alderson Broaddus University, Philippi, WV, on a softball scholarship, Elizabeth came home to Florida to complete her bachelor’s and then her master’s degrees in business administration at South University.
“I had a family friend who was working at ECSI in the summer and joked with her to tell her boss that if he needed to hire someone, hire me because I’m looking for a job,” Elizabeth laughs. “I came in for an interview with Ken Kettner who is our president and kind of fell in love with the company. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”
Elizabeth credits Ken with nurturing her interest in working hard to grow within the electrical contracting industry due to his passion for the work and, more importantly, his dedication to his people.
“After working here for a year, Ken and I were doing my annual review and he asked me, ‘what do you want to do here?’” Elizabeth remembers. “I told him that I’d like to become an estimator. He then started to teach me everything about estimating and continues to answer my questions every day. Ken has given me opportunities to be successful.”
Elizabeth also is proud to call Ken her friend and she knows she can always count on him to be there for her. And, she reciprocates. She and Ken are bringing aspects of the IEC National Emerging Leader program to some of the company’s field team to offer them more hands on experience and education. Whether it’s estimating, safety, project management, these employees can get a better overall awareness of company efforts and their leadership role in its success.
She recently accepted a promotion and additional duties as ECSI safety director, and Ken has been training her on project management as well.
Achieving Her Military Goals
For as long as Elizabeth can remember, serving in the military was part of her story. Her grandfather and cousin served in the Marine Corps, and she had that branch in mind for herself as well. The circumstances of life, however, paved a different path for her.
“I have the cliché story,” Elizabeth says. “I was in third grade on 9/11 when the Twin Towers fell. I remember watching the news that night with my parents and them explaining to me that we were under attack and for a kid, that’s a scary situation. I also remember a few weeks later seeing the soldiers, the airmen, the sailors, and the marines who were deploying to go overseas to fight for their country. I was only 8 years old at the time but I remember turning to my parents and saying ‘I’m going to be one of them when I grow up. I’m going to go fight for our country.’”
She never wavered on that goal.
Her first brush with enlistment was at the end of high school when a Navy recruiter encouraged her to join right after high school. She ended up refusing that invitation as she knew she wanted to become a military officer and that required a bachelor’s degree. So instead, she accepted the softball scholarship she was offered to attend Alderson Broaddus University.
“I decided to go play the sport I grew up loving for four more years and get my education. After that, I could pursue my military goals,” she says.
That timetable shifted a bit due to the enlightenment of an army recruiter who was present at an Alderson Broaddus homecoming event. After Elizabeth’s initial smart aleck rebuff to him – “Screw the Army; Go Marine Corps!” – the recruiter engaged her in conversation and opened her eyes to other branches of service. More importantly, he shared that she could join now, continue being a student athlete, obtain financial help through the army, and begin getting years of service under her belt en route to her goal of becoming an officer. She enlisted January 24, 2014, just two days prior to her 21st birthday.
Elizabeth went to basic training that summer, back to school in the fall, and the following summer she went to job training. Today, she is an Army reservist drill sergeant with a unit in West Palm Beach.
“I’m teaching them the basic skills to make that switch from civilian life to soldier – physical readiness, drill and ceremonies, basic rifle marksmanship, warrior tasks, battle drills,” Elizabeth says. “This past summer I did my first drill sergeant mission and it was so rewarding watching these trainees go from never shooting a rifle to qualifying. It was great to see their motivation and their passion.”
Elizabeth is awaiting her next commission, a promotion to E-6, a staff sergeant rank. Her army commitments are to drill once a month and an annual two weeks order, typically in the summer. Now with nine years in the service, she is in the middle of working on her officer packet and when that’s approved, Officer Candidate School is next – and the culmination of achieving her biggest goal.
“When I interviewed with Ken in 2017, I was upfront about my army service, and he was completely understanding,” Elizabeth says. “I’m very, very blessed and very, very grateful for the support I get from Ken and everyone at ECSI. They are super encouraging to me.”
Enjoying All of Life
As if a full-time job, Army service, and leadership development with the IEC chapter weren’t enough, Elizabeth dives in head first to a couple other important aspects of her life – softball and family.
“I coach 14 and under fastpitch softball for a traveling team,” she says. “Being in Florida, softball is a year-round activity. The high school season begins soon and many of the girls I coach will be playing for their high school teams and I want to help them with that transition.”
Elizabeth, a four-time most valuable player for catching at Alderson Broaddus, continues to play softball as well. She is part of slow pitch softball team and plays year-round – a benefit of living in the Sunshine State and a source of jealousy for her friends from the north.
Carving out family time is super important to her, and she makes plenty of time to play with her nephews. She remains super close with her parents and her siblings who all live nearby.
“My brother and my sister-in-law literally live right down the street from me, and my sister and brother-in-law live just 15 minutes from my house, so I’m very lucky. I get to see my nephews all the time, and they’re so spoiled,” Elizabeth says. “My third nephew was born early this year, and I’m in love with him!”
Contributing to Electrical Contracting
Elizabeth found being a part of the IEC Emerging Leaders program in 2022 an amazing experience, and one she hopes to help replicate with the IEC Florida East Coast Chapter. Also, she is committed to doing whatever she can to continue the work begun with cohort number two’s development of the Volt Wagon, a workforce development trailer to interest potential electricians by being able to experience some typical day-to-day tasks. The Volt Wagon offers a chance to try simple tasks that, hopefully, help accomplish a huge goal of expanding the workforce.
“We were working on a way to make the industry better with our industry impact project, and we were able to take people and show them hands on what we were trying to accomplish with the IEC Volt Wagon,” Elizabeth explains. “During the Shark Tank at SPARK 2022, it was cool to see more than just the sharks put offers on the table.”
As a result of the cohort’s extraordinary job, orders – and funds – to build three more Volt Wagons are on the table. Elizabeth and her cohort colleagues – Rebecca Barnes, Tyler Hadden, Karsen Kredit, John O’Mara, and James Sharkey – will be advisors to a new IEC Emerging Leaders group. Elizabeth looks forward to letting that team know what she and her team learned and then seeing them add their new ideas to improve the trailers and get them on the road.
Elizabeth is still early in her career, but she appreciates that she has experienced much and learned more. She is able to combine those experiences, along with those captured through her involvement with the US Army and organized sports since she was five years old, to make her a better ECSI employee and a better leader overall.
“I do think being a part of the IEC Emerging Leaders program made me a better leader,” she says. “And not only for my organization here at ECSI, but also at the IEC national level to keep making the electrical industry strong and impactful, and bringing in new talent. Working with diverse people from different backgrounds with various skills – these skills are the same at work, in the army, in sports, and in life. I strive to always get better and be better than what I was before.”