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Kayla Konarik: From point guard to power plant projects

June 27, 2024
Kayla Konarik: From point guard to power plant projects

In the latest of our series of interviews, we caught up with one of our youngest employees and someone who knows all about the power of teamwork.

It’s February 2017. Barbers Hill Eagles, Kayla Konarik’s high school varsity basketball team, is playing Georgetown High School in a crunch match. Win and they’ll be rewarded with a trip to the Texas state tournament.

But Georgetown has a formidable offense. They’re putting the Eagles to the test.

Twice, Kayla’s team has to play defense, not touching the ball, for two minutes straight – a veritable eternity on the basketball court. 

Twice, Georgetown fails to score. Teamwork triumphs. The Eagles are soaring to the state tournament semifinals.

As Kayla told us when we sat down to learn about the experiences that have shaped the early stages of her career:

“That was complete communication. Every single person had to do their own role to make sure that none of them scored.”

Fast-forward four years and Kayla would regularly play her part in a different triumph of teamwork. This time working as Labor Coordinator for our Union Field Services (UFS):

“Anytime we had a big job that required 20+ millwrights, all of the field managers would come in and we’d brainstorm on a massive whiteboard to make sure we were putting the best possible hands on the job. It was a huge collaboration.”

Before then, however, she would face the most difficult decision of her life. 

The dream is over

A former Barbers Hill Eagle, Blinn College Buccaneer, and Sam Houston Bearkat, Kayla was drawn to basketball from as soon as she could walk. If she didn’t have class, you knew where to find her:

“It was truly basketball all day long, except for classes. Most of the time I was in the gym. I didn’t go out and party or do the typical high school thing.”

Equally comfortable as a point guard or shooting guard, Kayla excelled on the court. Progressing through high school, she was named in All-District, All-Region, and All-State teams. Then in her sophomore year of college, she signed for a Division 1 team.

But in 2020, Kayla was forced to do something she would never have dreamed of doing.

She quit basketball.

Kayla and her teammates celebrate advancing to the Texas state tournament
Kayla and her teammates celebrate advancing to the Texas state tournament

A new identity?

You don’t put in hours of practice day after day, year after year, and then walk away from the sport you love without good reason:

“My body had just given up. I’d broken both my ankles. Broken multiple bones in my feet. I’d pulled my hip flexors. My body didn’t want to continue to go.”

It was a scary time. For years, basketball had been Kayla’s whole world. All she ever knew, all she ever did:

“I felt like I had an identity crisis, because basketball was my entire life. It was difficult.”

But she was excited to try something new. It just so happened that an opportunity would soon arise.

EthosEnergy’s Union Field Services team in Pasadena, Texas had an opening for a labor coordinator, responsible for helping to brief and dispatch crews of millwrights to provide expert labor at plant sites. Crews consisted of anywhere from two to 100 millwrights and everywhere in between, and sometimes they were needed on site in as little as 24 hours.

At the time, Kayla was working for a housing association and studying for a degree in kinesiology and exercise science at Sam Houston State University. But she had a close connection at EthosEnergy, and while a labor coordinator was not a senior-level position, we needed someone we could trust.

That connection? Kayla’s father, now former Director of Operations for EthosEnergy Field Services.

While it would be completely different from anything she had done before, perhaps a job with EthosEnergy would give Kayla new direction and opportunities to grow.

“I was at a point where I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in. I thought, ‘I can keep on finishing school, do kinesiology, or I can just take this step out and go learn some real-world information.”’

That step out would prove to be a step into an exciting new career. But only after Kayla had wrestled with another dilemma: Should she change her last name?

Making a name for herself

Kayla was no stranger to making her way in a male-dominated environment. From the age of around 5 or 6, she played with boys’ basketball teams because her dad wanted to challenge her.

But with her father being in the industry, Kayla was worried about how people would perceive her. She was concerned that she would not get the opportunity to prove herself.

It turned out to be quite the opposite.

She was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the field service crews were. The key, she believes, was gaining the millwrights’ trust. How did she achieve that?

“By just going in there confident and being like, ‘Hey guys, I know I haven’t done this before, but I’m a quick learner and I’m going to take care of you guys.’ Once they saw they could trust me and I was going to take care of them, it was like, ‘OK, we’re good to go’.”

Kayla then nurtured a reputation as someone who sticks to her word:

“I was completely honest with them. If I didn’t have work for them, I told them. You have to be honest. If you don’t have work at that point for them, then that’s the truth of it.”

If Kayla inherited her competitive nature from her dad, perhaps it was the influence of her mom’s compassion that helped her appreciate the true importance of her role:

“You’re dealing with guys’ livelihoods.”

Kayla was named to All-District, All-Region, and All-State teams. Then in her sophomore year of college, she signed for a Division 1 team.
Kayla was named to All-District, All-Region, and All-State teams. Then in her sophomore year of college, she signed for a Division 1 team.

Coaches and mentors

Kayla’s parents aren’t the only people to have influenced her growth. At high school, her head coach and assistant coach saw the potential in her:

“They weren’t just coaches. They were family.”

Indeed, Kayla describes her head coach as like a second father to her:

“He pushed me to limits I never even knew I could get to.”

And like her dad, Kayla’s assistant coach would spend hours on the court with her. No matter how late:

“If I wanted to go to the gym at 3 a.m. I could call her and she would just be there. She truly built me into the basketball player I was.”

What about with EthosEnergy? Kayla says that anyone she has dealt with has been willing to teach her as much as possible. But two people, in particular, stand out.

In July 2022, Kayla was promoted to Operations Support Specialist:

“Melissa Galloway was a huge mentor. She taught me a lot about the billing aspects of UFS and helped me along every step of the way. She and I spoke almost every single day until I was promoted again.”

That second promotion saw Kayla join our Optimization Solutions group as Project Support Specialist. She started the day after she and her wife – an inspiration herself through her work ethic – returned from their honeymoon.

Kayla’s new boss and mentor is Rachel Tyra – someone whom Kayla has long looked up to:

“I heard nothing but amazing things about Rachel, so I was super excited to join her.”

Kayla says Rachel is an amazing teacher. She also gives Kayla something else of immense value: She makes her feel trusted.

“Being so young, especially in this industry, it could feel like I wasn’t being seen as an adult. But Rachel truly trusts me to get my job done. To do whatever it takes to help the team.”

Determined to grow  

As a basketball player, Kayla was determined to perfect her craft and be the best of the best.

Now in her new career with EthosEnergy, she’s determined to keep growing. To learn as much as she possibly can about the industry. And keep doing her best for the team.

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