If you had told me 20-plus years ago when I was in high school that I would have a career in construction, I would have never believed you. From the time I was very young, I wanted to be a teacher. As I grew up, my purpose became more focused. I wanted to teach high school English. With my major selected, I set forth towards that goal.
So, what happened? Well, the need for money mostly. Typically, students who are paying their own way do not have a lot of it. So, when I found a job doing inside sales at a building supply house that paid well, I pounced. With that first job in 2002, I realized two things: first, I loved working with people; and two, I was fascinated with construction. From there I became a project manager and estimator at a female-owned residential exterior cladding company. The owner became an amazing mentor who showed me the ropes about being in the field. She didn’t mind the hard work and getting dirty and I learned that I was the same way. She was also tough as nails and she toughened me up too, something that was necessary if I was to succeed in this industry. I have now found my home at Catalyst Construction. I wear many hats and I enjoy each one.
Working in preconstruction is a great fit for me because it marries two of my favorite things; interacting with people and figuring out puzzles. Challenges are just puzzles that need to be solved. I look at each new project as a puzzle… “What is the best way to get all the pieces to fit?” Commercial construction has a whole different set of “puzzles” apart from residential, and I have been fortunate to have my manager here at Catalyst as another mentor – someone who has helped me navigate the differences.
Construction is an exciting and rewarding career, but not without its difficulties. As a much smaller voice in the trade, women have fewer mentors, networking resources, and opportunities than our male counterparts. Fortunately, with the creation of organizations such as National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), and Professional Women in Construction, we have access to not only resources and continuing education, but also like-minded peers who we usually don’t have a chance to interact with in our day-to-day working lives. As mentioned previously, I was very fortunate to have had a strong female mentor as a young woman in construction. That was rare back then, but as our numbers grow, so do our opportunities to help the women who are coming into this trade after us.
For these reasons I am so excited for the next generation of females in the construction field. Young women with an interest in construction need to be welcomed and eagerly encouraged. Together we can build an industry that embraces anyone who has a strong work ethic, a willingness to learn, and can think outside of the box.