It is always inspiring to see ambitious, talented women building careers in our industry. The construction management team on the Medical City Frisco tower addition project in Texas is a shining example of how the construction business continues to grow by attracting and engaging more women with diverse experience.
This $67M project has several females playing key roles and provides a unique window into the contributions they are making, the respect they have from their colleagues, and how they support each other as they tackle this large-scale project together.
Pursuing Diverse Paths to Fulfilling Careers in Construction
From the moment anyone engages with these women, their enthusiasm for the industry and their roles in it is palpable, and they acknowledge there are many ways to get started in construction. “First of all, people should understand multiple paths can lead to a career in this industry,” said Desiree Curry who is responsible for leading the day-to-day project management efforts as the team’s senior project engineer. Desiree first received her degree in architectural engineering technology before pursuing a career in construction management.
The team’s project engineer, Sadie Gupton, had a passion for the healthcare industry since childhood and planned on majoring in biomedical engineering. But she said attending a college seminar hosted by a general contractor about building the pediatric wing of a hospital “opened my eyes to the possibility of dedicating my career to actually building hospitals instead.” So, she immediately changed her major to construction engineering.
Plenty of people like the team’s scheduler, Regan Soldner, enjoy successful careers in our industry without earning an architecture, engineering, or construction degree. She earned her bachelor’s in education and spent her first years after college teaching in the US and Italy, but her early experience working for her grandfather’s construction company as a teenager kept leading back to open doors in construction. She eventually found herself working in construction again and now leverages her previous experience as an educator and consultant to contribute a unique perspective to scheduling.
Leveraging Soft Skills & Building Relationships
Part of what drew Regan to construction is the people side of the business. Regan says the construction business is, “a small world, so the importance of building relationships, helping others, being a team player and an effective communicator cannot be underestimated. Bringing emotional intelligence and people skills to the table will help solidify your position as an important contributor to any team.”
The Value of Continuous Learning & Strong Mentors
All three women stress the importance of always advancing in your profession through learning. “Look for opportunities to learn from everyone on your team, and keep asking questions,” counsels Sadie. “I think asking others to explain and teach makes them better at their job too, so don’t be shy,” she added.
This means learning from and seeking out mentors as well. “I’ve been so fortunate to have great men and women mentor and coach me throughout my career,” said Desiree, “and I’m committed to doing the same for others too, because we need to support and help each other learn from our challenges and successes.”
Desiree also points out that as the industry continues to change, there are always new technologies, processes, methods and the like to learn about, so in addition to formal training, “we need to keep advancing our knowledge each day through informal and on-the-job learning so we stay current as the industry progresses.”
Leading with Results & Confidence
When it comes to advice for other women, Desiree stresses the need to “demonstrate your value first as a high-performing team member, and second as a woman.” At the same time, Sadie encourages women to have the right mindset by realizing, “you do offer a unique perspective as a woman, so you should view that as an advantage instead of holding back or being intimidated.”
Regan noted that “women need to be aware the industry is still evolving, so you might encounter people who are not accustomed to women serving as leaders and influential decision-makers.” But she doesn’t want women to be discouraged, saying “just be aware of it and realize everyone has a lot to contribute, regardless of their personal views. Find opportunities to learn from them and let your results speak for themselves.”
A Future Without Limits
These women are just as passionate today about the things that first drew them to the industry – like opportunities to travel and interact with so many different people, the day-to-day variety and challenges their jobs present, and impacting the end users of the buildings they’ve helped build long after a project has ended.
And they are just as excited about the opportunities specifically for women in this business. “I continue to see more women pursuing AEC degrees and entering the industry each year,” Sadie pointed out, adding “I think we’ll continue to see more representation by women in our industry across the board, from trade partners to superintendents, project executives and more.”
“A superintendent on the project said it would have been unusual to have one woman on his team twenty years ago, let alone several like we have on this project,” said Desiree. “He believes women are an important key to the future of this industry, which is saying a lot given his tenure in the construction business.”
To continue to grow as an industry and encourage more women to pursue careers in construction, it will take all of us. “Everyone in our industry should be proud of their contributions, because we’re all impacting people’s lives through the buildings we build,” added Desiree. “From swinging hammers on the job site to managing receivables in accounting to serving as executives – it takes all of us to be successful and we’re all in this together.”
Sara Curry is the Healthcare VDC Director at JE Dunn Construction, where she leads VDC planning and services for many of the company’s healthcare projects, including one at Medical City Frisco in Frisco, Texas.
Article originally appeared in the March/April issue of NAWIC Today magazine.