In 2005, Michelle McCarthy first set foot in the SDS2 headquarters, quite unaware of the steel detailing and fabrication industry, its software, or the people involved. Having graduated with an advertising degree, she had applied for a marketing role, but instead ended up interviewing for a vacancy on the sales team. “I was there, I was dressed up. I figured it would be good practice before finding my real job,” McCarthy says. “Almost twenty years later, I’m still here.”
Over the years, McCarthy has played a key role in SDS2's growth, witnessing and contributing to several significant shifts and evolutions within the company. These include becoming part of the Nemetschek Group's global network in 2016 and most recently merging with ALLPLAN in 2021. Her unwavering motivation to learn and confront new challenges, coupled with her enthusiasm for the steel industry and its community, remains constant.
Currently, she serves as the regional manager for ALLPLAN in the Americas, laying the groundwork for the long-term success of both our company and clients in a rapidly advancing industry.
Discovering her calling
Growing up on a farm in rural Nebraska, McCarthy spent her childhood cycling on country roads and her teen years engaged in various labor-intensive tasks like laying irrigation pipes for her family's fields and detasseling corn.
She attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she initially intended to pursue a degree in athletic training. However, after a year, she realized it wasn't the right fit and switched to communications, and eventually to advertising. “I had all of these classes from different majors,” she says, “and just kind of figured out what degree I could make out of it.”
McCarthy's career took off when she joined SDS2. She took the sales role for a reason many recent graduates can relate to: looming student loans and the stability of a regular paycheck from SDS2. “I didn’t think it would be a long-term thing,” McCarthy laughs. “I didn’t know what steel detailing was at all. But I am one of those people who likes putting together IKEA bookcases. I like seeing how things come together, and I think within six months, I was turning into a steel nerd.”
Mastering the craft
McCarthy was advised upon her hiring that she would need to put in more effort than her male peers to succeed in the sector. “I was probably the only female sales rep out there for steel detailing software at the time,” she recalls. “Between that and coming in with no detailing experience, I had to work hard to build my credibility. But that didn't scare me.”
McCarthy flourishes when learning new things and connecting with new people, which is precisely what she did for many years at SDS2. Before video conferencing became widespread, SDS2 would conduct sales demonstrations in person for potential clients. McCarthy traveled across the country showcasing SDS2's features, often gaining as much knowledge as she imparted.
“I’ve had customers teach me so much because I’d just ask. That’s how I got through demos,” McCarthy reveals. “A customer would ask me to do a curved lintel, and I would just have to say, ‘I don’t know what that is, but if you draw it for me, I’m sure I can model it.’”
Simultaneously, she was getting acquainted with the people in the industry. “I was building relationships, I was showing them our software, and I loved seeing it click for them how SDS2 could help their business,” she explains. “And then, over the years, I get to watch their businesses grow, and that’s really fulfilling for me.”
McCarthy remained in her position until 2019 when she left SDS2 to head a sales team for a startup in the MEP sector. However, just four months later, she returned. “I realized that I just like steel. These are my people,” she confesses.
Upon her return, she faced a series of transformations, beginning with a new role overseeing various sales and marketing projects as SDS2 expanded under a new CEO and the guidance of the Nemetschek Group. Then came the COVID pandemic in 2020, followed by the 2021 merger with SDS2's sister company, ALLPLAN, which presented a new opportunity for McCarthy. Now, she serves as the Regional Manager for ALLPLAN, supervising all business operations for both SDS2 and ALLPLAN products and services in North and South America.
As expected with numerous changes in a brief period, there are always growing pains. Nonetheless, McCarthy draws inspiration from a mantra she often hears in her yoga class: nothing is permanent. “When things are good, you have to be ready because it’s not permanent,” she says. “And when things are tough — that’s not permanent either.”
Throughout all of this, McCarthy has done what she excels at: learning new things and meeting new people. Her new position has put her in regular contact with ALLPLAN's teams in Germany and around the globe, and she is broadening her knowledge of other construction trades, including bridges and precast concrete.
“One of Michelle’s strongest qualities is her openness,” said Detlef Schneider, CEO of ALLPLAN. “She is open-minded, she’s willing to step up and learn, and she’s approachable. These are important qualities for her as a leader, especially as we continue to integrate our two companies.”
“It’s definitely been a trial by fire,” McCarthy admits. “But helping employees and customers navigate change, and learning how to navigate it myself, that’s something I’ve come to enjoy. It can be uncomfortable, but I think that’s when you grow the most.”
Envisioning the future
Though McCarthy no longer works directly with clients in her current role, their success remains at the core of her efforts. “Before I was delivering the software and directly influencing end users,” she explains. “Now, I’m working to position our company to better serve our customers.”
As the construction industry progresses towards more integrated projects and BIM-driven workflows, she is excited about what the future holds. “Looking at construction and thinking about the synergy that we’re building between all the products in the Nemetschek Group, there are going to be some really exciting times,” McCarthy remarks.
In the meantime, she is grateful for SDS2's loyal user base, especially customers committed to enhancing the product for their everyday efficiency. “We have a really loyal customer base, and so many stakeholders are donating their time and giving feedback on development projects because they believe in our products and want to see them succeed long-term, not just for themselves, but for the entire industry,” she enthuses. “That’s so inspiring to me.”
While her journey in the AEC industry has taken her further than she ever envisioned, McCarthy ultimately hopes to be remembered for bringing added value to our customers. “We’re building the groundwork now,” she explains, “and we have an opportunity here over the next few years to bring ALLPLAN to the next evolution of what it could be.”