Like those who came before us in the Midlands, Amy Thompson may very well carry the torch as a “pioneer.” Pioneering qualities have characterized every step of her career; she currently serves as director of business development with McCarthy Building Companies’ Omaha office. Despite this lofty moniker, in a perhaps “typical” Midwestern way, Thompson is quite humble about her role as a leader within a traditionally underrepresented field for women.
“Every woman in construction today is a pioneer, whether in an office or on a jobsite,” Thompson said. “Construction is a great career for women. And the National Association of Women in Construction reaches women builders in the trades, project management, marketing, administration and executive leadership.”
McCarthy is a member of the Omaha Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, which Thompson said provides education, support and networking to advance women’s careers, and build their technical and leadership skills.
Interestingly, Thompson wasn’t born anywhere near here. It would take a more than 5,400-mile journey to get there.
“I was born in Brindisi, Italy,” Thompson said, a reference to a community right at the “heel” of the country’s “boot.” “My father was in the Air Force.”
The family would land in Modale, Iowa and Thompson graduated from high school in Missouri Valley.
“Both are just 45 minutes or so from the Omaha metro area,” she said. Thompson has called Omaha home for almost a quarter of a century.
“While in college, I worked at an ad agency and, after getting my degree in 2001, I worked in marketing management roles within the technology and finance industries before entering the A/E/C [architecture, engineering, construction] industry,” she recalled. “I had a former boss who became a mentor, and he was the one who recommended I get into the A/E/C industry to sell ‘high-end professional services.’”
This recommendation ended up being fortuitous, as Thompson joined DLR Group as its national sports business developer in 2005. She focused on Division IA university athletic departments and Minor League franchises.
“I think of the years there as my ‘glory days,’” Thompson said. “It was so much fun. The University of Texas Longhorns were my first client, and my first project ‘win’ was the Disch-Falk Field renovation-expansion.”
MAINTAINING PROFESSIONAL MOMENTUM
Thompson would pivot to Leo A Daly and health care business development in 2010, before transitioning to McCarthy seven years later. Today, her focus has been on core markets including health care, education, commercial, and advanced technology and manufacturing.
“Recently, McCarthy added a second business development professional in Omaha and now we’re expanding and succeeding,” she said in late September. “I’m interested emerging markets such as biosciences, higher education and industrial.”
Thompson has also played an instrumental role in guiding the firm’s geographic expansion to other cities in Nebraska and Iowa, including Lincoln and Council Bluffs. Reportedly, as a key member of the Omaha executive leadership team, she has helped to secure over $600 million in new business since joining the company around four years ago.
“In addition to being passionate about how construction projects ultimately benefit our clients and the people they serve,” Thompson continued, “I believe my success in developing effective business development strategies for winning small to large capital project pursuits is the result of my being well-organized, communicating effectively, following through and executing well-planned marketing campaigns.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Thompson always wanted to be an advertising agency executive.
“Like Angela Bower on ‘Who’s the Boss’ or Darren Stevens on ‘Bewitched,’” she said.
MAKING AN IMPACT
Thompson is fulfilling her childhood dream with a company that she describes as building critical projects to meet practical community needs, contributing favorably to residents’ health, safety and quality of life.
“The opportunity at McCarthy appealed to me as I could be a part of a leadership team for a new, growing office which was exciting,” she said. “I also really appreciated the employee ownership offerings and believe that is one of our main differentiators when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.”
To that end, Thompson said women account for 9% of the construction workforce (a comment that aligns with Department of Labor statistics).
“The construction industry has come a long way in terms of providing leadership opportunities for women and educating young girls about future opportunities, but there’s still room for improvement,” she said. “Throughout McCarthy, there’s strong support toward driving diversity of perspectives.”
She spotlighted its national employee resource group, Partnership for Women, designed to introduce young women to construction careers and opportunities within the firm.
“To equip female employees for long-term success, McCarthy’s central region developed a two-year career development program with a curriculum that includes strategic communication, negotiation, decision-making and other topics that will help women be more effective in their jobs,” Thompson said.
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
A graduate of Bellevue University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management and Metropolitan Community College with an Associate of Arts in General Studies, Thompson has earned Building Design & Construction’s “40 under 40” award, graduated from Leadership Sarpy in 2011, serves on Bio Nebraska’s board of directors and as its executive committee’s secretary (2021 to 2023).
Additionally, Thompson indicated she is proud of her work with the Greater Omaha Chamber’s and Nebraska Economic Development’s MedTech Advisory Group and holds the distinction as one of the first three women to join the Aksarben Foundation’s floor committee.
“In 2010, I started The FAC (Friday Afternoon Club), a grassroots networking group comprised of local A/E/C professionals, with business development responsibility, and our valued clients,” she added. “It’s still going strong, and we have over 30 companies on our waitlist.”
Like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Thompson looks forward to the day when there are no “female leaders,” just “leaders.”
“I look forward to expanding my role with McCarthy, and continuing to bring great projects to the people of Nebraska … attracting more women to career opportunities available to them in the construction industry.”