I grew up in a low-income agricultural town in California and had little knowledge of construction or engineering. Although I had no connections in either of these fields, I’d always been interested in math and science. Thanks to an internship at PCL, I was able to turn these interests into a rewarding career. Just as importantly, I got to inspire other students to do the same.
When I applied for college, I selected an engineering major and chose a college known for its “learn by doing” mindset. Industrial engineering stood out to me as it aligned well with my interests. One of the classes I attended was a process improvement course and it opened my eyes to the different opportunities available in engineering.
As I was browsing for an internship opportunity, PCL popped up in my search, and I recognized the logo at a career fair in my college. I walked up to the HR representative and we immediately bonded over process improvement, as he had attended an operational excellence program with PCL and was knowledgeable on the subject. I was truly in the right place at the right time.
During my internships at PCL, I had the opportunity to put into practice everything I was learning in school. It was a perfect environment for me. I collaborated with multiple people, worked with several different departments, and learned about PCL’s operations. I began my full-time journey in estimating and eventually transitioned into the field, where I was lucky to be part of the core team for the CalBio renewable projects. Our team operated like a start-up. We were working with a new client on an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) project, the first in our office. Our environment was innovative and fast paced. We had our own operations room and being in an open concept environment helped facilitate communication within the team. There was never a dull moment. This was home base.
Our team went on to build facilities in five cities and branched out to other clients. I left the nest and started coordinating in the field but still collaborated with my team. My PCL team mentored me through a lot of firsts and supported me in my growth from a field engineer to a coordinator.
I had doubts when I started on this path; there weren’t many female role models I could look up to. However, by attending conferences, I met women from other offices with longstanding careers at PCL. I learned about their careers, and it reassured me that I could follow in their footsteps.
As I grow in my career, I hope I can be that example for future generations. If you are a woman contemplating a career in construction, I encourage you to take initiative and contact the women in the roles you are considering. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect, and you’ll have someone to mentor you along the way. I really needed that mentorship at the start of my journey, and I encourage you to find a mentor early on in your career.
Over the years, as I’ve grown as a professional, I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor interns and connect with students to help them explore different fields of interest while sharing my experience as a builder. One of the interns I worked with went on to join PCL full-time. It was a proud moment for me, knowing one of the students I worked with chose PCL, like me, when starting out on their professional journey.
To all students, my advice is this: give yourself some time to transition into the real world but don’t stop improving yourself. Continue to invest in your career and personal life by pursuing degrees and certifications, and by building professional relationships. Or, simply take advantage of the training resources available to you. At PCL, I have been given the opportunity to attend conferences, receive program training and pursue my interests. In doing so, I have found my purpose: to contribute to interesting projects that make an impact on the community; to provide for myself; and, finally, to engage with youth and inspire them to be the next generation of builders.