A standout leader and mentor, Cathy Orquiola doesn’t follow in anyone’s footsteps, preferring instead to build her own path. The story of her career includes many “firsts” – she was the first person in her family to go to college, helped the California Buildings (CAB) Los Angeles Office grow to $1 billion in revenue for the first time, and in 2021 was named PCL’s first female regional vice president and board member.
Orquiola is constantly on the rise because she admits she doesn’t like to sit still for long. “I like stress. I like action. I like seeing our projects built as it happens,” she says.
Orquiola displayed a strong talent for math and science from a young age. She earned a full scholarship to the Florida Institute of Technology, where she studied civil engineering.
“No one in my family had ever gone to college, so I took the full ride I got offered, which was in engineering,” she says. “My family thought I was going to work for an engineer after school. Then I stumbled into construction and I just fell in love with it.”
She says she enjoyed how construction requires meticulous calculations, and vigorous problem-solving skills, and being outside is part of the job.
“It was an awesome fit – I was able to use my analytical mind and also be out in the field moving around, counting rebar and seeing what was coming off the truck.”
Orquiola jumped right into the industry after graduating. By the late ‘90s she’d built an impressive track record of success as a project manager and was recruited to PCL’s team in Orlando.
But her first tour with PCL would prove to be a short one.
“It happened that the period when I worked in Orlando was one where there wasn’t a ton of new work,” she says. “I went from these fast-paced 90-hour weeks to being put on projects as fill-in. I wound up moving to another company.”
However, Orquiola maintained strong relationships with the connections she had made at PCL. Despite the fact that she was running a competitor’s office, she says PCL employees were always inclusive and welcoming when they would run into each other at industry events.
“PCL kept the door open for many years.”
By 2015, Orquiola’s reputation as a construction leader was well-established in the marketplace. PCL’s approached her about joining again, this time to join the U.S. head office in Denver to lead corporate development. Always driven, Orquiola had spent her time away continuing to chase (and conquer) new challenges. She returned to PCL Construction stronger than ever. Her impact in corporate development was immediate, which quickly lead to another promotion overseeing the PCL’s CAB group. The Los Angeles based office saw stratospheric growth with Orquiola at the helm.
Under Cathy’s leadership, CAB has grown its workforce by 237% and has delivered some of the region’s largest projects supporting the growth of Los Angeles, including nearly $3 billion in work for Los Angeles World Airports which includes the public, private partnership (P3) Consolidated Rent-a-Car Facility and the LAX Midfield Satellite Concourse North project. She’s also been recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles and one of the Most Outstanding Women in Construction and Design.
In 2021, her outstanding success record propelled Orquiola to be asked to join the company’s board of directors as well as become Regional Vice President, overseeing operations in Hawaii, Seattle, and California.
Although being a woman in a male-dominated industry can offer challenges, it can also be an advantage to stand out.
“Being a woman in construction is a differentiator. If I go into a room of 300 men, what’s the name they will all remember? It doesn’t matter what other people see, I’ve always seen myself as a competitor and consistently prove that I am the best person for the job.”
Orquiola says she’s sees a real commitment from PCL to support talent of all genders, abilities and backgrounds – it’s this culture that sets the company apart.
“PCL understands that different life experiences and thought processes make us better as an organization,” Orquiola says. “This inclusive culture is what empowers me to attract the industry’s best talent and lead a top-performing team.”