Job variety, continuous learning, and contributing to a physical environment that will be enjoyed by future generations are among the many opportunities associated with construction careers, according to the women serving in them at Virginia Tech.

In honor of Women in Construction Week, leaders from the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities and the Myers-Lawson School of Construction highlight the positive outcomes tied to job trajectories in construction and facilities.

Read about the range of pathways available to women interested in launching a construction career.

What are some of the biggest opportunities associated with construction or facilities-related careers that immediately stand out to you?

“What stands out right away is that you’ll always have the opportunity to learn. My career has taken me through what feels like the entire Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities. I’ve really tried to embrace every chance I’ve received to learn something new.”
— Jennifer Boyd, operations control center planner

“There are a lot of opportunities to move around to different roles within the industry based on your skill set and what interests you. For example, I started off in accounting for a general contractor, then jumped on the chance to get into project management. I eventually transitioned into construction for the third-party renovations company at Virginia Tech before becoming director of renovations in-house.” 
— Joy Manning, director of renovations

“I like how construction engineering and management draws vibrant people who enjoy building relationships, taking on challenges, and putting plans into action. In my experience with my internship and my classmates, it has been a privilege to work with such hard-working, knowledgeable people. Construction is a complicated process with many moving pieces, and I look forward to a career where I get to daily exercise both my 'engineering' brain and my 'social' brain as I navigate multistep installations with many different stakeholders. I also love how the construction industry allows its participants to experience virtually any other industry, since it is within built structures that house companies, hospitals, athletic events, and more. Creating these spaces requires the builder to delve into what the end-user needs and understand how the building can best meet those needs.” 
— Emmy Melchert, a senior majoring in construction engineering and management and an intern with W.M. Jordan

"Those in the construction industry make a huge difference. When you look at your surroundings, you'll realize that the built environment would not exist without construction. The U.S. construction industry creates about $1.4 trillion worth of structures each year, while, according to studies, more than 53 percent of typical construction projects are behind schedule and more than 66 percent suffer from cost overruns. My passion is to use automated solutions and robotics to contribute to improving the quality of construction as well as productivity and safety."
— Keresh Afsari, assistant professor, Myers-Lawson School of Construction; managing director of ARCADE LAB

Construction and facilities is typically a male-dominated sector. What would you tell a woman interested in joining the field for the first time or transitioning into it from another industry?

“I would say pursue any and all opportunities that interest you. Over my past 30 years in the design and construction industry, it has been great to observe the number of women coming into the field substantially increasing, especially recently. This influx has helped to forge a more professional, supportive, and tolerant construction culture for everyone, especially on college campuses.”
— Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect

"If you enjoy problem-solving and something different every day, then go for it. I get to solve the daily problems in every industry I have worked in. From designing and constructing new facilities to meet current needs to designing and implementing systems and processes that solve operational problems. I have been fortunate to work in manufacturing plants where I have done it all, including product design and manufacturing, the design and build of the equipment used for manufacturing, and the design and construction of facilities to support the manufacturing. Some of the industries and organizations that I have been fortunate to work in include aerospace and automotive facilities, wastewater and water treatment and processing facilities, municipal and international airports, oil and gas facilities, and now, higher education."
— Mary-Ann Ibeziako, assistant vice president for infrastructure and chief sustainability officer

How does someone go about finding a mentor in the industry? And what makes a good mentor?

“You never know where you may find a mentor. It could be through an organized program, a supervisor, or someone whose role you would aspire to someday. Men or women. Just make sure your mentor is someone with whom you connect with; is willing to offer feedback; you can be honest with, and they can be honest with you.” 
— Heidi Myers, executive director of real estate.

Construction is always in demand at Virginia Tech and in cities and towns across the globe. How do you maintain a sense of balance between your personal and professional lives?

“I strongly believe you can achieve it all in this industry. I was previously in the military and was actually going to leave the construction field. I wasn’t sure there was a path that would support having a family. Fortunately, I had an excellent mentor. He challenged me to try it for a year and helped me work through different options to find the balance I was looking for. I ended up with a full career in Naval construction and a family. It’s important to show others different paths to success, and I believe there are lots of great options for women in construction.”
— Wendy Halsey, assistant vice president for facilities operations. 

It must be incredible to watch hard work come alive on campus construction sites and in university facilities. What is it like to experience that?

“Working in higher education is a dynamic environment because colleges and universities are never ‘done’ growing and changing. There are always multiple stakeholders, institutional goals, strategic plans, and various interests that create an ever-evolving environment. I’ve also seen how higher education is impacted by local, regional, and state government through our work at Virginia Tech, and learning about how Virginia Tech contributes to those different levels is fascinating.”
— Alisha Ebert, deputy to the associate vice president for campus planning and capital financing

“Throughout my experiences working in capital design and facilities at universities, I have fallen in love with the notion of being a steward of the physical campus community. Campus is home and it is a privilege to help take care of it. I’m proud to have made a career in this special setting.”
— Rosalba Ledezma, director of capital design

“One of the best parts of my job is knowing what I do impacts the university community. The work I do makes a difference in people’s lives and helps make Virginia Tech truly feel like home for all Hokies for years to come.”
— Stefanie Locklear, interior designer

What makes you most excited about your job? Would you recommend it to others considering joining the industry?

“Yes, I would recommend it! The job is different day to day with a lot of learning and variety, but it is amazing to watch the process. The time goes by so fast and at the end of the day, it is always a good one.” 
– Heather Snidow, office manager, Office of the University Building Official

“Absolutely. I love the consistent opportunity to grow my skill set. As an energy analyst, I not only benchmark our energy and water data each day, but I also have the opportunity to investigate the anomalies in the data. Some days, I'll be troubleshooting water conservation measures in a research lab, the next day evaluating an LED lighting project or planning for our LEED for Operations and Maintenance recertification program. Overall, the most important part of my job is that my work supports the Climate Action Commitment. Building operations generate a large portion of carbon dioxide emissions, so the work we do to conserve energy and water in buildings has an impact on the environment. At the end of the day, any work that I do to reduce our carbon footprint and to convince people to be more mindful about our environment is important to me.”
— Simona Fried, energy analyst

There’s no time like the present to start a career in the construction industry. The Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities is hiring for a wide range of positions and also provides an on-the-job apprenticeship program. The Myers-Lawson School of Construction offers undergraduate and graduate programs exploring emerging technologies and trends in construction.

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