Career Path Spotlight: Karen Campbell
At AECOM, employees are encouraged and supported to pursue career paths that best fit their unique capabilities, interests, and aspirations. Our Career Path Spotlight series takes you through the rewarding career journeys of our employees who have stepped out of their comfort zone and taken on new challenges to chart their own successful careers and growth.
This time, we connected with Karen Campbell, Vice President, Austin Metro+ Executive in the West region to learn how she progressed in her career path.
Hi Karen. What do you do for AECOM?
As Vice President, Austin Metro+ Executive, I wear two hats: Austin Metro+ lead and West Region Specialist Pursuit Team Lead. I’ve been at AECOM for 18 years working in our Denver, CO; Santa Ana, CA; and now Austin, TX office.
Tell us about your career journey and how you got here.
I started as a proposal coordinator in legacy company Woodward-Clyde’s Federal Services proposal center in Denver, Colorado. In this role, I was responsible for supporting senior proposal managers. After nearly two years, I started to lead my own major federal proposals and engaged directly with capture managers, project managers, and client account managers to prepare proposals and presentations. After five years, I applied for an internal open marketing position in Southern California to expand my skills from just federal to include state, municipal and private sector proposals.
After I transferred to our Santa Ana, California office, there was an open position to lead the Southern California proposal center. Even though I had fewer years of experience than suggested, I jumped at the opportunity and approached the office manager to give me a chance. We both took a leap of faith and worked closely together over the next four years to create a winning proposal center.
In 2003, I took another leap of faith and left AECOM to move to Hawaii and start my own soda company with my husband. As a new business owner, I was running every aspect of our company from accounting, marketing and business development to supply, production, customer and investor relations. Ten years and two kids later, we decided to move back to the mainland (Austin, Texas) to be closer to family and run the business remotely.
Using my network in California, I was introduced to the Process Technologies business leader in Austin who was hiring a business development/marketing lead for URS. I was fortunate that my 12-person interview panel was willing to listen to how someone working in the beverage industry for 10 years could transfer her skills into successful business development in the energy business. I worked for that group for three years. After AECOM acquired URS, I transitioned from the Process Technologies marketing lead to our new Oil & Gas Business Line marketing lead. After one year in this position, I became the Central Region Marketing Manager.
As the Americas regions evolved, I moved into my current role as Vice President, Austin Metro+ Executive where I have two focus areas. As West Region Specialist Pursuit Team Lead, I work on cross-business line opportunities, primarily for clients in our key cities. My team and I coordinate with Metro+ leads, market sector leads and client account management leads across the West Region to help position AECOM for strategic capital projects that require cross-business line solutions.
My other focus is Austin Metro+ lead, which I asked my manager to be considered for. In this part of my job I meet clients, partners and navigate the geopolitical scene. I find that my two hats complement one another. I am now involved from the investigative to winning stage for major pursuits in Austin.
What was a career defining moment for you?
My career defining moment was when I started my own soda company with my husband. We left full-time jobs, sold our house and used the proceeds to take on this exciting, scary, and fun adventure in Hawaii. The experience gave me the confidence and skills to approach my marketing position with AECOM in a much broader manner.
What’s something you wish someone had told you years ago?
Being scared is perhaps the best reason to try something new! I think it is important to challenge ourselves and to do what scares us – otherwise we may never learn our true potential.
What advice do you have for people who want to chart their career path at AECOM?
My advice is to understand what really drives you. Figure out which part of your job brings you the most joy and then discover how those specific skills can be applied to other career paths. Talk to people in a career path you’re interested in and ask questions.
Something I’ve noticed about careers at AECOM is that people can be on the same career path, but their approach and what they do once in their position can vary based on individual strengths. It is as important what we do as how we do it.
If not this path, what would have been your career plan B?
If living in the most remote island chain in the world wasn’t so difficult with two young children, I probably would’ve stayed in Hawaii to continue running our soda business. I loved the lifestyle, community and culture and am proud of what we created.
I also would have loved to be a stay-at-home mom. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom for most of my life and I cherished all the time we had together. I’d also dedicate my free time to support non-profit organizations specific to cancer charities and hospice care.