EMJ Construction’s Katie Haberberger Named ACE Mentor of the Year

Katie Haberberger ACE Mentor of the Year
Katie receives ACE Mentor of the Year at the 2019 BRIC Awards Banquet

Katie Haberberger, Assistant Preconstruction Manager, was selected as this year’s ACE Mentor of the Year. The ACE Mentor Program is a nationwide program designed to introduce high school students to the wide range of career opportunities in architecture, construction, engineering, and related areas of the building design and construction industry. Katie joined EMJ back in 2016 and has been a part of the ACE Mentor Program ever since.

As a high school student in St. Louis, Missouri, Katie had the opportunity to participate in a similar program called “Project Lead the Way”. Katie’s participation in this program helped affirm her desire to pursue a degree and career in the construction industry, and she now gets to pay it forward by helping high school students today discover and develop new skills, solidify future goals and get on track to exciting, rewarding careers.

The team that Katie led this past year met weekly in the evenings at the EMJ Chattanooga office, and during each session students had the opportunity to work directly with industry professionals as they sought to plan/design a renovation for a building in downtown Chattanooga. Katie brought in the architect she was working with on one of her job sites at the time so that the students could further apply real-life experience to their hypothetical project. After six months of learning, planning, and experimenting, the students presented their project at an end of the year banquet.

“It’s tough at first to get the students to progress week to week so that they can be prepared for the final presentations, but I love getting to see how proud they are of themselves once they reach the end,” says Katie.

After hearing Katie talk about her experiences thus far as an ACE Mentor, it was no surprise that she was named ACE Mentor of the Year. This title is only given to one mentor in the entire Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia area each year and EMJ is proud that Katie is this year’s recipient. She is actively living out EMJ’s mission, to be people serving people, by volunteering her time and industry experience to the next generation of industry professionals.

If you are interested in learning more about how to become an ACE Mentor, you can learn more about it here or by e-mailing Katie at katie.haberberger@emjcorp.com

ACE Mentor students develop plan to revitalize Chattanooga

A model of the ACE Mentor team’s plan to revitalize an underused area of Chattanooga

Each year, EMJ team members partner with area high school students in Chattanooga, Tenn., to design hypothetical projects as part of ACE Mentor Program‘s annual scholarship competition.

From September through February, the high school students spend one afternoon per week at the EMJ office or visiting a construction site, learning about careers in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. The students are also given a design and construction project and work with their mentors to complete it. At the end of the six-month period, the teams present their designs to a panel of industry experts who judge and select the best construction solution.

Students tour The Village at Waterside, a retail development, in Chattanooga with their mentors.

This year, the students were charged with developing a plan to revitalize and update a plot of underused land that promotes a vibrant, mixed-use economy and encompasses sustainable technology, a rich public realm for healthy living, and elements that make Chattanooga more welcoming to visitors.

With the guidance of their mentors, students Ryan Mattox of Heritage High School, Carter Smith of Ooltewah High School, Given Daum of East Hamilton School, Nia Houston of East Hamilton School, Kevin O’Boyle of McCallie School, and Jonathan Roach of East Hamilton School, developed plans for a modern, four-story retail, office and residential facility. The structure was accompanied by ample parking space, including a 380,000-square-foot parking garage, and outdoor recreation and entertainment space.

Check out the video at the top of the page developed by the students using 3D modeling software, a skill they were taught by their mentors, and click here to download a PDF of the team’s presentation.

The team presents their development plans at the ACE awards banquet on February 1.

The competition came to a close with an awards banquet on February 1, 2018. EMJ Project Engineer Katie Haberberger led the EMJ team with support from mentors David McCallen, EMJ Preconstruction Manager; Steve Totzke, EMJ Project Manager; Ben Fryar, Engineer, March Adams; Blake Garrison, Garrison Investments; Emanuel Huber-Freely, Architectural Intern, Chattanooga Design Studio; and Justin Rehagen, Construction Planning Specialist, Volkswagen of America.

In addition to ACE’s mentoring efforts, the organization also financially supports students through scholarships and grants and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships to students across the U.S.

Three of the outstanding students on the 2017-2018 EMJ team, Ryan Mattox, Carter Smith and Given Daum, received scholarships.

EMJ Project Manager Steve Totzke presents student Carter Smith with his ACE scholarship.

From all of us at EMJ, congrats to this year’s participants on a job well done!

To learn more about the ACE Mentor Program, please visit www.acementor.org.

Mentoring provides high return on investment

At EMJ, employees are encouraged to invest in others through servant leadership, and the organization’s Career-4-Life program provides opportunities to serve through mentoring, collaboration and training.

EMJ’s one-on-one mentoring program pairs leaders within the organization for nine months. Ben Milner, Senior Vice President of Preconstruction, was paired with mentor Jay Jolley, EMJ Chairman of the Board, for the inaugural mentoring class.

The two began having monthly meetings and focused on developing trust and openness with one another.

“We did it simply by tearing down barriers,” says Jay. “I shared my life story—the good, the bad and the ugly—and the hope was in doing that, [he] would be able to respond in a similar way by sharing with me [his] life story.”

Just as with business and client relationships, the key to mentoring is listening. “A lot of mentoring isn’t telling people what to do. It’s listening to what their problems are and trying to relate your experiences to what they’re going through.”

Ben’s experience with Jay has led him to incorporate servant leadership and mentorship into his own career. Now, every Friday, Ben sits down with an individual employee for two hours for a coaching and training session.

“When you have the opportunity to really pour into an individual and see that lightbulb go off in their head, I think it brings more satisfaction to me than probably the employee sitting across from me,” explains Ben.

One of the big takeaways Ben learned from his time with Jay was how to reorganize and prioritize his schedule to make time for coaching and training others. Though the Friday training sessions require him to work more here and there to make up the time, Ben considers the sessions well worth it.

“There is a dividend that pays off in the future,” Ben says.

Watch the video at the top of the page to learn more about Ben and Jay’s experience in the mentoring program. 

Looking for a company that invests in your growth and learning? View EMJ’s open positions here.

EMJ celebrates inaugural one-on-one mentoring class


6 things to look for in a construction company

Landing your first job out of college can be overwhelming. Resumes, cover letters, applications, interviews and even personality tests—how do you stand out from the competition? And how do you find the right fit among so many construction companies?

EMJ Corporation’s team of recruiters and career counselors weigh in on key components to look for in a company for a fulfilling career that lasts.

1. Growth Opportunities



High-quality companies provide opportunities for employees to excel and grow into leadership roles. Not only that, they encourage personal growth by investing in resources that allow employees to learn and develop skills that interest them. Visible growth opportunities motivate employees and give them purpose to create tangible long-term goals. Visit a company’s website and social feeds to browse for continuing education, mentoring or learning opportunities provided to employees.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“What are my potential career paths if I assume this role?”
“What kind of development opportunities does the company provide?”
“How does the company recognize success?”

2. Work/Life Balance



The transition from a flexible schedule of college classes to an 8-5 job can be challenging for recent grads. The company that you choose should be one that values its employees’ time outside of the office walls as much as inside them. If possible, reach out to an employee at the company to ask about the company’s culture of work/life balance. Check social media feeds and view reviews on glassdoor.com to make sure the company will value and respect your time away from the office.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“How does the company ensure that employees have work/life balance?”
“Would I be able to speak to someone in that role currently and discuss their daily schedule and responsibilities?”

3. Culture


About one-third of a person’s life is spent working—that’s why a positive company culture is so important. If you love what you do but are surrounded by people who are unreliable, bring each other down and complain, all of the money in the world is not worth staying at that company. While benefits packages or company incentives may be appealing, an organization’s work environment is the greatest factor in whether or not you will be happy in your role. Look for companies that have team-building events, volunteer together and do things outside of work as a group.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“What is a typical day like at your company?”
“How does the company promote a positive culture and work environment for employees?”
“What was the company’s last team-building event?”


4. Values & Philanthropy



Does the company support the community, give back to charities and donate time to worthy causes? Though it may not seem relevant during an initial interview, philanthropic efforts reflect a company’s values. Think about what values are important to you, and look for a company with similar values. Most companies have a mission statement on their website, and you will feel “at home” working for a construction company that doesn’t push you to contradict your ethics. Join an organization with principles that you not only respect, but also believe in.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“Does the company support or participate in any local organizations?”
“What values are most important to the company, and how does it exhibit them?”


5. History



Companies with tried-and-true history allow employees to diversify their experience, work with accomplished mentors and tackle large-scale projects with the support of a knowledgeable team. Accomplished organizations lead with their experience and provide confidence that your job will be stable—even with fluxes in the economy. Research the company for signs of growth, such as expanding markets and affiliate companies, as well as developments including social media and updated web presence. This reflects that the company is not stagnant and evolves as the industry transitions.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“What is the largest challenge that the company has encountered, and how does it impact its work today?”
“What would clients and other companies say about the company?”

6. Strong Leaders



Often overlooked by potential employees is the importance of a company’s leadership. Strong companies have leadership within the organization who mentor, advise, instruct and encourage their employees. Not only does this impact the culture, it strengthens the company as a whole. Research the company’s leadership, discover what causes they’re involved in, and find a role under a seasoned individual who is passionate about their work.

Sample questions for recruiters:
“What values are important to the company’s leadership?”
“In what ways does leadership mentor and motivate employees?”

At the end of the day, finding a job is a two-way street. Employers know what they want; it’s important that you know what you want, as well. Be self-aware of your personality, skills and weaknesses, and be honest about them—you will be sure to find the perfect match.

EMJ Corporation prides itself in providing an environment that encourages and encompasses all of the above. From promoting a culture of servant leadership to our mission of delivering unique value to everyone in our sphere of influence, we truly believe that our employees are the best in the industry.

If you’re interested in a workplace that values you and your growth, learn more about what it’s like to work at EMJ or view our available positions.

ACE Mentor Program develops the next generation of industry leaders

EMJ encourages employees to take responsibility in supporting and investing in our clients, partners and colleagues. One way we do that is to mentor our employees and encourage our team members to extend our mentoring efforts beyond the office doors.

A testament to this is EMJ Chattanooga’s involvement in the ACE Mentor Program—a national program that aims to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction.

Pictured is the EMJ Team of students Ryan Mattox and Carter Smith with mentors David McCallen and Russell Graham of EMJ and Blake Garrison of Garrison Investments.


Each year, ACE hosts a scholarship competition in which participating students are given a design and construction project, assigned to teams, and coached by professionals in their community to complete it. At the end of the six-month period, the teams present their designs to a panel of industry experts who judge and select the best construction solution.

This year, students were asked to design a community of 5-10 homes within Chattanooga’s urban core in an attempt to address Chattanooga’s rapidly developing affordable housing crisis.

“It’s hands-on learning at its best,” said Clint Dean, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction. “These students tackle real-life challenges and receive virtual, on-the-job training from experienced professionals before they even start college. ACE is a valuable tool for introducing teens to the industry and inspiring them to pursue related-degrees.”

With the guidance of their EMJ mentors, students Ryan Mattox of Heritage High School and Carter Smith of Ooltewah High School developed a tiny house community on a .72-acre parcel off of Main Street in downtown Chattanooga, which would facilitate neighborhood interaction, sustainability and green technology. The pair designed, estimated costs for, and built electronic and physical models of the custom-designed homes and community center.

Students Ryan Mattox and Carter Smith creatively used Legos to illustrate how residents would utilize their tiny house community.


Ryan and Carter present their design before the judges and a room full of industry professionals.


“I was very impressed by Ryan and Carter’s creativity and effort on the tiny house community project,” said Russell Graham, the team’s leader and EMJ Preconstruction Manager. “They worked well as a team to advance their concept and presented the information in a very professional manner. “

The ACE competition came to a close with an awards banquet on February 2, 2017. EMJ Preconstruction Manager Russell Graham and Project Manager Steve Totzke led two of the five participating teams with support from mentors David McCallen, Preconstruction Manager; John Rudez, Superintendent; and Project Engineers Katie Haberberger and Craig Skidmore.

In addition to ACE’s mentoring efforts, the group also financially supports students through scholarships and grants and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships to students across the U.S.

Clint Dean (left), EMJ Executive Vice President and ACE Board Member, and Caitlin Moffitt (right), Chattanooga State Community College and ACE Board of Directors President, present the EMJ scholarship to Nathan Merritt of Grace Baptist Academy.


EMJ Executive Vice President Clint Dean serves on the ACE Mentor Program’s Board of Directors as the Fundraising Director and had the honor of presenting scholarships at the recent banquet, including a $3,000 EMJ-sponsored scholarship to Nathan Merritt of Grace Baptist Academy.

“These outstanding students are the next generation of industry leaders,” Clint said. “We believe that our investment as mentors is returned tenfold as they enter the workforce with passion and innovative ideas, making our industry a more collaborative environment for all of us.”

From all of us at EMJ, congrats to this year’s participants on a job well done!

To learn more about the ACE Mentor Program, please visit www.acementor.org.

EMJ celebrates inaugural one-on-one mentoring class


On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, EMJ celebrated the success of its first one-on-one mentoring class.

Participants of Class I gathered in Chattanooga to review the events of the nine-month program and then toast the program over dinner.

A small class was chosen for Class I with 11 members of our executive leadership demonstrating their long-term commitment to mentoring by serving as mentors. Thirteen mentees represent a cross section of the family of companies and were selected based on recommendations from executive leadership.

Congratulations to this inaugural class, and thank you to the dedicated mentors who shared so much of their time and knowledge with their mentees.

Class II of the one-on-one mentoring program will begin in March 2017.

Class I EMJ Mentors & Mentees

Joey Barbeauld, Senior Project Manager, EMJ Construction – Chattanooga
Holly Bischoff, Controller, Accounting
Clint Calvert, Project Manager, RedStone
Ray Catlin, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction – Dallas
Clint Dean, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction – Chattanooga
Lance Gopffarth, Executive Vice President, RedStone
Chuck Hall, Director of IT
George Heath, Vice President – Retail Single Tenant, EMJ Construction – Dallas
Jay Jolley, Chairman of the Board
Andrea Kimberlin, Executive Assistant
Doug Martin, Chief Operating Officer
Chuck McGlothlen, Chief Financial Officer
Ben Milner, Senior Vice President of Preconstruction, EMJ Construction – Dallas
Burt Odom, CEO and President
Adam Parker, Project Engineer, EMJ Construction – Boston
Josh Phillips, Construction Manager, Accent Construction Services
Neil Pratt, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction – Boston
John Rudez, Superintendent, EMJ Construction – Chattanooga
Chas Torrence, Senior Vice President, Accent Construction Services


Rice: The key to great construction is the right team

EMJ’s people are the building blocks of the company. Their personalities, skills and past experiences are large parts of what make the company great. We are proud of each member of the team and enjoy sharing their stories.

When first speaking to EMJ while serving as a reference for a former colleague, Steve Rice was asked what type of opportunity would interest him if he ever decided to switch gears. His response: “I would be excited about an opportunity to focus on building people and teams.”

Two months later, EMJ’s Boston office needed a Vice President of Construction, and as Steve says, “The rest is history.”

After nearly 30 years in the construction industry, Steve Rice feels confident that he can “build any project with the right team.” Steve’s dedication to mentoring struck Neil Pratt, Boston’s Executive Vice President.

“It was clear from the first interview that Steve was devoted to building people, not just buildings,” Neil says. “I knew that his eagerness to coach, paired with his experience, would make him a great leader for our team.”

Since joining EMJ, Steve has focused on working with the account executive team to expand Boston’s scope into the senior living sector and gain large project awards in retail.

“I feel lucky to be part of a leadership team that ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to believing that our people are our biggest asset,” Steve says. “I am encouraged to develop and invest in my team every day, and I try to do that every day—while building some great projects.”

Steve also serves his community, instilling his passion for construction into local college students as an adjunct Construction Management professor at Three Rivers Community College.

“I have been fortunate enough to work with some great people who taught me along the way,” says Steve. “I see myself in so many of my students, and I am most proud of seeing people I have helped develop and mentor excel in their careers.”

When asked what advice he gives the young construction managers he works with, Steve says, “I always tell them not to be afraid to ask questions, especially to the Tradesmen in the field. Those guys have a lot of knowledge to share, and we can learn so much from working with them.”

Learn more about our EMJ team and how to become a part of it here


VIDEO: EMJ leaders discuss servant leadership

EMJ President Burt Odom and Chief Operating Officer Doug Martin discuss the importance of mentors throughout their careers and what makes EMJ a leader in the construction industry—its people.

EMJ works to distinguish itself from other general contractors by its dedication to creating a culture of servant leadership and mentorship.

Though servant leadership can be defined in many ways, at EMJ, the term means that servant leaders put others’ needs ahead of their own. EMJ believes that servant leadership ensures that each employee within the family of companies works toward its goal of “growing together.”

Servant leadership is closely tied to mentorship, as both are essential to EMJ’s ultimate success through fulfilling clients’ needs and reaching our maximum potential.

Mentors continually offer guidance, support and feedback to their mentees, who develop into the next generation of leaders.

EMJ’s Mentoring Program creates relationships within all levels of the company in order to identify “blind spots,” which resolve problems and push mentees toward success. From one-on-one mentoring to group mentoring sessions, EMJ is dedicated to the growth and progress of each and every employee.

EMJ team members care about each other and the clients they collectively serve, showing “we are only as good as our people.”

To learn more about Working at EMJ and our Career-4-Life objective and programs, click here.