Chicago WIC Week 2021

Project Engineer

Years with Mortenson: 5
Industry Tenure: 5
Degree: MS & BS, Civil Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Global Leader in Construction Management (GLCM) program participant




Tell us more about your background/experience/education. What decision or path led you to the construction industry/Mortenson?

My dad built the house I grew up in, so construction was always interesting to me and I thought during high school that I might want to be an architect and design unique houses and buildings. As I was applying for colleges, my mom (also an engineer) said, “Architects can design things that are challenging to build. Be a civil engineer. They get to figure it out.” So, I did! I applied to the University of Illinois because I’ve been an Illini fan since I was in the womb. Lucky for me, U of I is traditionally the top Civil Engineering school in the country and that is what I wanted to do.

In college I did a few internships. One with Caterpillar where I worked with machine models on the computer and two internships with other general contractors. I knew after being on a job site for a summer, construction was for me. It was exciting seeing different phases of the project evolve over such a short period of time. I chose Mortenson because the people felt genuine and like a family. 

Tell us about your female role model or mentor that helped you grow your career. How do/did they inspire you?

I’ve been fortunate to have a few female mentors/role models. These ladies pushed me outside my comfort zone and challenged me to take on more responsibly, all while supporting me from the sidelines. They allowed me to succeed or fail fast and learn by their examples. 

I was amazed by how one of my mentors had a way of knowing literally everything about the project. She was able to lead a meeting and ask questions -even questions that may seem like common sense - to make sure the owner truly understood. I took it as a lesson that many times people nod their heads but may not fully get it. 

These are also the mentors who will call and check in on me periodically just to talk and see how life if going. It means so much to me because I know they are incredibly busy, but they choose to give me 10 mins from their day. It is those little gestures that mean a lot.    

What advice would you give other women considering a career in construction or the AEC industry?

DO IT & OWN IT! Construction is continuous problem solving. It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s gratifying, and it’s involved. You are not just sitting behind a desk; it throws you into the fire and you are able to prove yourself. You build relationships with trade partners and your team quickly as you conquer the daily tasks. There are more and more women entering construction, so own it! We are in an awesome field and should be proud of our accomplishments. 

Constructing is also very tangible and rewarding. There is a hype at the beginning of the job to start something new; taking an empty lot and creating something from nothing. Then the moment when you and your team reach the finish line there is this euphoric feeling of “you made it.” The feeling of accomplishment at the end is unmatched and the gratitude from an excited owner is incredible.