This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past discussions.
As young as 6 years old, Selasie Buatsi had her own steel-toe shoes and hard hat, which she donned each Saturday for tagging along with her contractor father to jobsites in her native Ghana.
This early exposure to the industry sparked an interest that led her to move to the U.S. at the age of 19 to study civil engineering and develop her own career path. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree from Purdue University.
As project manager for Medford, Massachusetts-based Bond Civil & Utility Construction, Buatsi has worked on some of New York’s most notable construction jobs including the Con Edison Bronx gas pipeline installation project, which was completed in 2016 on time, within budget, during a compressed schedule.
Here, Buatsi talks with Construction Dive about becoming a civil engineer, overseeing projects in New York City and learning from her team members.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What led you to choose construction for your career?
SELASIE BUATSI: It was destiny for me to pursue a career in construction, as my father has been my mentor throughout my life and works in the same industry. As a young girl, I cherished our Saturday afternoon visits to jobsites, where I was fascinated by the work taking place and enjoyed interacting with the staff.
These experiences ignited a passion within me to study civil engineering and launch my career in the construction field.
What do you do in your current job and where are you located?
As a project manager for Bond in the Bronx office of their New York Region, I oversee projects across the New York City boroughs and Westchester County. My responsibilities include managing all aspects of project delivery, from estimating and budget development to scheduling, cost forecasting, contract negotiation and overall project management.
What are a few of the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on and why?
I have found pleasure in every project I have participated in. Each project has its distinctiveness, with diverse needs and outcomes. This has trained me to be imaginative and flexible when handling each project.
Among the projects I relished working on with Bond, the Con Edison project in New York City stands out. It involved putting in place roughly 2,400 linear feet of a 36-inch gas transmission main to supplant the current 36-inch transmission gas main on Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx.
I found the project to be very fulfilling as I was able to surpass the gross margin target by three times. This was made possible by establishing a good rapport with the client, which enabled me to gain a better understanding of the project's scope and requirements.
With this knowledge, I was able to efficiently allocate and manage resources for the project. The successful completion of this project and my strong relationship with the client led to Bond being awarded Con Edison's Bronx Border to White Plains project, Phase 7 and 8, which covers more than 9,000 linear feet.
What benefits are there to working in construction?
As the person responsible for overseeing all aspects of a project's construction phase and serving as the primary point of contact for daily interactions with clients, I have been able to improve my organizational and leadership skills. Working alongside high-caliber colleagues has been an excellent opportunity to learn from their experiences and dependability, which has allowed me to consistently deliver projects on time and within budget, without sacrificing quality or safety.
What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?
Don't let a male-dominated career intimidate you. Be confident and focus on developing a clear career path with measurable goals. Work hard toward achieving them and don't hesitate to ask questions when you need clarification.
It's also helpful to build a network of experienced individuals in the construction industry who can provide mentorship,