Vicki McCauley moved to the Denver area from Des Moines 20 years ago to begin a job at global engineering firm CH2M HILL. Not only has her career with the company been a long and fulfilling one, CH2M HILL has helped McCauley evolve the role over time to accommodate her needs when she acquired a disability – Multiple Sclerosis.
Around 12 years ago, McCauley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord – the central nervous system. At the time of her diagnosis, McCauley was working in the technology field for CH2M HILL, traveling by plane to the West Coast to set up internal telecommunications systems for some of the company’s 26,000 employees.
Because one of the symptoms of MS is fatigue, McCauley recognized the need for a more flexible work schedule that would include decreased travel and the ability to work fewer hours. After talking with her boss, the company found her a position as a facilities operations supervisor in the Denver headquarters, and allowed McCauley to work a shorter, 10 am to 3 pm schedule.
Says McCauley: “Some days I feel great; other days I don’t. With this disease people don’t often understand I don’t feel well even though I don’t look sick, but my employer understands, and has been very supportive.”
CH2M HILL believes that supporting its workforce, including people with disabilities, is integral to its success as a company. “We strongly believe in diversity, equality and inclusion, as well as in maintaining a supportive work environment to help our people achieve their professional goals, regardless of the personal challenges that they may face,” says Ryan Cook, vice president of the Talent Acquisition & Deployment Center at CH2M HILL. “We know that our differences are what make us extraordinary, and the deep respect that we feel for our extended family of employees, our clients and the communities we serve inspires us to be our best selves,” Cook adds.
These days, McCauley is thriving in her role. She is responsible for liaising with property managers for the firm’s Colorado locations. She helped to move the Boulder office, and is assisting with lease negotiations for another office for the company. She spends her days on email and the phone, and no travel is required for the role.
McCauley also is able to take advantage of CH2M HILL’s “diversity rooms,” where employees who need to nap or rest during work hours can do so in privacy, with no questions asked.
“In my 20 years of working here,” says McCauley, “CH2M HILL has been very understanding. I believe my experience here has been very typical in terms of how the company handles situations for people with disabilities. She adds: “As long as you do your job they are willing to accommodate your needs.”
When applying for a job, McCauley has some words of wisdom for candidates with disabilities. “Try not to focus on your limitations, but rather your value, strengths, and contribution,” she says.
McCauley is a member of CH2M HILL’s A.C.E. (Assist.Connect.Educate.) network for people with disabilities. She says she appreciates being able to connect to other workers who understand what she’s going through, and help her “problem-solve new ways to adapt to her work environment when needed.”
The ACE network at CH2M HILL provides a networking group and centralized resources and information for employees regarding both visible and non-visible challenges. CH2M HILL has employees with all types of disabilities as well as care providers. Employees can access information regarding their disability or information regarding their role as a care provider as well as connect with others who can relate to their challenges, says Phyllis Wasmuth, global IT service delivery manager at CH2M HILL who is the co-founder and co-lead of ACE.
In addition to McCauley and others who have part-time roles due to flare-ups with MS or similar disabilities, another employee who is Deaf gets support from his CH2M HILL colleagues with all of them working together to facilitate his ability to understand all conversations during virtual meetings by typing out the content or having face-to-face meetings so he could read their lips, Wasmuth says.
The firm is also very supportive of employees with physical challenges. Wasmuth cited an example of a former employee with a visual impairment who only required a large computer screen and close proximity to his screens. “He was one of our most successful employees from a productivity and knowledge perspective, being one of the most punctual – even though he relied on public transportation to get to work,” says Wasmuth. ACE is an extension of the existing culture at CH2MHILL and now provides a centralized site for those seeking information or connections.
For a person with a disability who is considering a career in an engineering firm, the opportunities are fruitful. CH2M HILL hires qualified people for positions in engineering, procurement, construction, management, and operations. Employees work on some of the most challenging and inspiring projects across the globe ranging from an epic project to replace Singapore’s sanitary services infrastructure to assisting in Gulf Coast reconstruction efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
For professional jobs, college coursework or a degree is typically necessary. (McCauley has some college coursework under her belt.) CH2M HILL also has an internship program across engineering, construction and business functions for interested college students.
Furthermore, CH2M HILL receives around one-third of its work from the U.S. government, particularly the Department of Defense, for projects in more than 40 countries. To that end, the company actively recruits current and former military personnel – and has many military employees stationed at U.S. government installations around the world.
To find the best talent for these global roles, CH2M HILL is proactive about hiring, promoting and networking with diverse candidates ranging from people with disabilities, to racial minorities to military personnel, says Nancy McKinney, who works in global recruitment operations at CH2M HILL.
For people with disabilities looking to find a job at CH2M HILL, McKinney says the company will hire the best person for the job – regardless of disability. She says the best place to search for and apply for current openings is the company’s careers website at http://www.ch2mhill.jobs.
Here, job seekers can search based on keywords, location and job categories to find the right position for their specific interests and skillset. “Even if we do not have any postings that match their requirements at the time, they can still apply and set up search agents which will alert them via e-mail when positions are posted that match their specified criteria,” McKinney adds.
At the bottom of each job posting, CH2M HILL publishes its Equal Opportunity and Accessibility Statement, and applicants who have a disability can request assistance with completing the application process or review some frequently asked questions. The website also provides information about working at CH2M HILL.
When applying for a role, McKinney says an applicant with a strong resume and cover letter will often be offered an interview “especially if he or she uses the cover letter to address how their experience aligns specifically to each basic qualification listed in the job description,” she says. Applicants should bold the same items in their resume, and use similar keywords throughout the documents so that CH2M HILL’s recruiters will have an easier time making the connection between a candidate’s skills and a job’s nuanced requirements, she adds.
Providing strong support for employees (and potential ones) across the board has earned CH2M HILL many accolades. The firm has been consistently ranked as one of the leading employers and is repeatedly recognized as a best place to work in the U.S.
Additionally, the company has received Readers’ Choice awards in 2013 from Minority Engineer and Workforce Diversity for Engineering and IT Professionals, which are Equal Opportunity Publications magazines. Most recently, CH2M HILL was recognized by Diversity/Careers magazine as a 2014 Best Diversity Company in the Engineering & Information Technology category.
With a wide range of staff with disabilities, CH2M HILL’s hiring practices speak volumes. Vicki McCauley is proof: The company strives to hire the best person for the job, and will make extraordinary efforts to provide accommodations and support to fortify an employee’s success for years to come.