Women in Construction Week: Celebrating Swinerton Women in the Southeast

At Swinerton, the best part about Women in Construction Week is the opportunity to highlight our impressive women. For the Southeast team, this means we get to feature Project Executive Robyn Schoch in Atlanta, Senior Marketing Manager Lonni Grattan in Charlotte, Senior Project Engineer Rachel Kurth in Atlanta, and Senior Estimator Ashlee Popka in Atlanta.

Keep reading to learn how these four women answered questions about their backgrounds, careers, and how to succeed in a male-dominated field. Click through the Image Gallery above for photos of those featured.

It’s safe to say “I want to work in construction!” isn’t a popular answer from kindergarten girls for the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Explain what led you to construction and Swinerton.

Robyn: I’ve always loved the idea of building things since I was a little girl obsessed with Legos. The feeling that comes with being a part of such an impressive process that yields these tangible results is amazing.

Lonni: As a marketing professional, my path to construction was less direct than most of my colleagues. What began as a temporary receptionist job for architecture firm Gensler led me to an unexpected yet very rewarding and challenging career as a marketing professional for A/E/C firms. The opportunity to join Swinerton came following an almost 10-year stint as an independent consultant providing strategic marketing and design services, with a majority of my clients still living in the A/E/C world. With a strong reputation in the Denver market, and my immediate attraction to high-quality projects and even higher-quality people, joining Swinerton was a fantastic opportunity to leverage my professional background in an exciting new environment.

Rachel: I was the little girl with a massive sparkly bow in my hair playing in the dirt, building a fort with my brother. I have always been a maker, builder, and creator. I studied Industrial Design at Georgia Tech and interned with niche design/build firms. After working with several of these companies, I knew that was the direction for me.

My Swinerton Love Story? Robyn Schoch, a PX with Swinerton in Atlanta, accidentally flung a piece of fruit across the room at a career fair. We made eye contact and both busted out laughing. I actually got out of the line I was standing in to go speak with her … it was the least I could do after laughing at her. We hit it off! Special Projects was just getting off of the ground in Atlanta, and I wanted to be a part of it. I was the third member in the SP group. Pretty crazy that was 2.5 years ago!

Ashlee: I knew I liked math & science so that led me to Georgia Tech, even though I didn’t have a specific major in mind. I liked how tangible Civil Engineering was, so that’s what I chose. In spring of my first year, I realized I needed to find an internship for the summer so I wouldn’t have to go back home and waitress. I got a position at an industrial CM firm that was doing an expansion on a General Mills cereal plant and learned about construction as a career. I loved being out in the field seeing the progress and interacting with people. Before I went back for fall semester I changed my major to Building Construction and am very glad I did!

Tell us about your job. What do you do? What’s the most rewarding part?

Robyn: As I grow in my career, my job becomes less about building buildings and more about building the people that build buildings. That’s honestly the best part. Seeing your team (which becomes your family) grow, overcome obstacles, and work together to accomplish something great is the best reward a boss can ever ask for.

Lonni: I love collaborating with super smart, creative, talented, innovative, and hard-working people. While I may not build stuff directly, it’s rewarding to provide a skill set and passion for communicating what it is that we do so we can do more of it! From providing strategic direction and messaging, mentoring, developing impactful visual communications, collaborating on company-wide initiatives, and so much more, my job is never boring and the people I work with continue to challenge me on a day-to-day basis. I’m forever curious, which comes in handy when working in an industry with so much to learn from.

Rachel: I am a Senior Project Engineer for the Special Projects group in Atlanta. I am also the “CEO of the Interns.” It is a blast looking for smart kids with individual personalities. Then to watch them grow from being a deer in the headlights to a confident member of our team is awesome. I take a lot of pride in helping to challenge and support our interns, and most importantly, make them feel valued.

Ashlee: I work in Preconstruction and lead efforts to budget new projects. But, it’s more than just pricing – it is understanding the job inside and out from what you are given on paper (everything from a single sketch to a 300-page set). Communication is key in my position within our team, with subcontractors, the design team and owner. I love the quick turnaround and the diversity of projects. The most rewarding part is working with my Swinerton team and pouring our hearts into something that we stand back and feel awesome about when it’s done.

Construction is a male-dominated field, with women representing 9% of the industry’s workforce. At Swinerton, 15% of employees are women, and 24% of our leaders are women. What advice do you have for other women on how to succeed in construction?

Robyn: Give it your all every day, and you’ll never have any regrets. Be the team member that you hope to work with, admit your mistakes and learn from them, never be embarrassed to ask questions, and always be proud of yourself and how far you’ve come. Construction isn’t easy, but it’s definitely worth it.

Lonni: Embrace the differences that being a woman provide you with rather than using them (or allowing anyone else to use them) as an excuse. Hard work, intelligence, commitment, and a desire to be the best you can be at what you do will ultimately outshine any pre-conceived notions, whether good or bad. Kick ass every day so no one even thinks about questioning who you are because you’re a woman.

Rachel: Men who are not used to working with women may call you sassy, feisty, and bossy. What they really mean is that you are passionate about your job. Let being a woman be the least interesting thing about you. Be known for being “that person who is smart, funny, a great leader, a hard worker.”

Ashlee: Be the best version of you that you can be. Don’t get caught up in what you think you should be or what someone else is. Know your strengths and own them, and shore up your weaknesses with team members that compliment you well. Don’t be afraid to take time to invest in yourself – your mind, health, and happiness. I believe women have a lot to offer the industry and am proud that Swinerton is leading the pack with supporting and developing female talent. I hope I can continue to be a part of growing a strong female presence in the Southeast.