Looking over Sean McDevitt’s resume reveals an impressive career. He worked in human resources for decades at one of the biggest soft drink companies in the world before switching to an international travel company.

So, what inspired him to helm human resources in the roofing distribution industry? McDevitt said it’s all about the blue-collar — literally and figuratively.

“I wanted to get back to an organization [that] was proudly blue-collar,” he said. “[Beacon is] proudly blue-collar. Even when we're hiring kids off campus, I want a campus kid that proudly puts on the Beacon logo, polo shirt, who's not embarrassed because they went to some high-level school to have a logo on their shirt,” he said. “We're looking for people that actually want to be part of Team Beacon and do that.”

To do that, Beacon’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer said he is working to make the company a world-class organization that puts its people first, from mental health programs to support the growing Latino community in roofing.

From Soft Drinks to Shingles

Initially, McDevitt wanted to be a consultant, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in organizational behavior from Brigham Young University in Utah. His first role was as an internal consultant for Payless Shoes. He liked it well enough but wanted to be part of an executive team making substantial decisions, which consulting wouldn’t afford. He leaped and joined Pepsi.

“They were known for developing people that could get to be head of HR and really have an impact,” he said.

McDevitt spent 22 years with Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiCo, working in various regions of the country as well as Spain, Turkey and Portugal. While working for the Bottling Group, he handled field HR, served as HR lead of international acquisition and was vice president of HR in Spain. With PepsiCo, he was vice president of HR in Spain and Portugal.

“By the time I arrived, it was a given — you didn't have a business meeting without an HR person there because anything you were going to do is going to be executed by your big frontline workforce,” he said. “I grew to really appreciate that.”

Upon his return to the United States, he served in vice president and senior vice president roles at Pepsi and was the HR lead in designing and implementing a new global operating model. He concluded his soft drink career as senior vice president of HR, supporting more than 50,000 employees and leading a 250-person team.

McDevitt said there are far more similarities in what Pepsi and Beacon do than people realize, which is part of what drew him to Beacon.

“If you think about Beacon, we're about 530 locations across North America. The bulk of those employees are drivers, warehouse people, salespeople that go to job sites, or to customers, and you look at Pepsi, and [it has] that same geography. We're about 370 locations, more employees, because, you know, it's a fast-moving product,” he said. “It's the same thing — a lot of forklift drivers, a lot of truck drivers, a lot of salespeople.”

beacon 2024 ire vegas-668_600px.jpgMcDevitt speaking during a panel at the 2024 International Roofing Expo. Photos courtesy of Beacon

Additionally, the roofing distributor continues to scale. Around 20 years ago, Beacon was a $415 million company; as of 2023, it has an average revenue of $8.78 billion. Beacon has also seen massive growth as of late with its Ambition 2025 plan, including new locations and greenfields.

At that scale, a company needs HR leadership, and McDevitt’s background made him the prime candidate for becoming Beacon’s new CHRO in May 2021. Before joining Beacon, he was executive vice president and CHRO at Apple Leisure Group, a $4.5 billion global integrated travel company.

“I think Apple Leisure was really helpful in the fact that they were a company that was rapidly growing and trying to professionalize, so that's really good fit for what we are, even though it's a 95-year history,” he said.

Apple Leisure also served as a wake-up call. McDevitt loved the blue-collar pride that Pepsi Bottling Group cultivated and wanted that back in his career. He said Beacon has been the perfect fit both in operations and vision.

“I found a CEO that was like-minded in Julian [Francis], and we lead with our values, and our first value is [to] put people first, right? And so when you think about starting from there, that's [a] pretty good place to be,” he said.

As the CHRO, McDevitt works with the board of directors and committees, handling audits and compensation, which gives him the satisfaction of knowing he is making high-level decisions that will improve the company.

“You've come up with something, and you see it in action. It's a short turnaround — we can make a change or have an idea and go visit a branch the next week, and it's already in motion,” he said. “That kind of short cycle to make a change and make things better? It's a privilege to be able to do that.”

The position also allows him to interact with the “field organization,” where he can visit branches and talk with frontline employees about what they’re experiencing.

“I went out to the field and didn't expect to find what I found, which was an organization that was really motivated; they really loved working for Beacon; they really love putting on … the blue shirt,” he said. “And so it was really for me, and continues to be, my source of … joy.”

It also satiates a wanderlust he’s had for years — he studied abroad in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as in Spain and South America. He and his family, including four children, love traveling and are always looking for new locales to visit.

Putting People First

Among his accomplishments at Beacon, he is proud of launching a parental care policy and improving 401(k) programs. The company is also enhancing employee services around mental health, an area McDevitt is passionate about. He lauds Beacon for being open to these policies.

“I came into our executive committee and with our CEO and our team and presented the Beacon version of going from a minimal [parental leave] program to what I felt was a good program as a benefit to employees,” he said. “[Their] questions were, ‘Is that enough time to really integrate an adopted child into your family? Should we do more?’

“The values aspect of being a place that wants to do the right thing, put employees first — the things that we do — to see that lived is actually a privilege, especially as an HR person,” he added.

Another initiative McDevitt is passionate about is supporting the Latino community in the roofing industry. Anyone in the industry knows that labor shortages have been a constant struggle; even a large company like Beacon feels its effects. 

beacon 2024 ire vegas-682_600px.jpgMcDevitt spoke about how to overcome language barriers in roofing during the 2024 International Roofing Expo.

One way Beacon seeks to remedy this is by tapping the Latino workforce and community. McDevitt both talks the talk and walks the walk; as someone bilingual in Spanish, he knows the value of having Spanish-speaking management who can communicate with employees.

“One of the things we're trying to focus on, and we haven't cracked the code yet, is to figure out how to help our non-Spanish-speaking managers more effectively manage a Spanish-speaking workforce,” he said.

For example, Beacon has provided “toolkits” with key terms for managers to use when working with Spanish-speaking employees. Additionally, Beacon makes it easier for Hispanic and Latino workers to apply. All its pre-hire materials are now in Spanish and English and posted on Spanish-speaking job boards.

“If the fastest-growing part of the workforce that's going to make you successful speaks Spanish, you better figure out how to hire Spanish speakers, how to be successful, how to build a culture that's welcoming to them, how to create a way so that they can advance once they get here,” he said.

The effort does more than help Beacon find employees. As McDevitt mentioned, one of the fastest-growing groups of owners and managers in the roofing contractor industry is Latinos, so serving customers in their native languages will be a boon for the distributor. McDevitt said 85% of Beacon’s job postings now include speaking Spanish as a requirement or preference.

“Our people embraced it, which is really the key,” he said. “You’ve got to get hearts and minds embracing this workforce.”

To that end, McDevitt said the best advice he can give to other roofing distribution professionals is to build great teams willing to focus on attainable goals. For those in leadership positions, he said it’s about being a great people leader first. If they can do that, positive outcomes are sure to follow.

“If you want to be a leader — if you're a sales leader at a branch, for instance — the number one thing that's going to make you successful is having a great team, great people below you, having them motivated to chase whatever goal — the goal of the year, or the strategic goal for the three-year plan,” he said. “Real success comes from great teams and great individuals on those teams chasing common goals.”