This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past discussions.
Before working in construction, all of the jobs that Kathy Gilmore tried seemed monotonous.
That all changed when she set foot on her first jobsite and quickly realized that she had a passion for building.
“For the first time, the square peg fit in the square hole for me and I wanted more of it,” she said. “Every day on a construction site is different, exciting and challenging.”
In her current role as project engineer at ICON Construction in Scottsdale, Arizona, she juggles a range of tasks that draw on her 30 years of experience in the industry. Here, Gilmore talks with Construction Dive about the benefits of a construction career and her past work on jobs in Northern California.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What led you to choose construction for your career?
KATHY GILMORE: I was fascinated by how a building could go from the dirt up and into an occupied structure. I discovered a passion that I didn't know was there.
Construction is one of the most crucial industries, it affects so many lives directly or indirectly and I wanted to be a part of taking a dream or vision, to a set of construction plans and then turning it into a reality. No two days are alike and there will always be a need to build something new or to make an existing structure newer and better.
Working in construction brings a feeling of pride and accomplishment and it's always icing on the cake when I can point out a building to someone and say "I had something to do with that!"
What are a few of the projects you've most enjoyed working on and why?
Most of my career was spent in Northern California on the commercial side. My very first project while working in the jobsite trailer was the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum. This was a fun project and I was able to be there at the grand opening when hundreds of children went running inside to play, experiment, interact and learn.
Two other projects that were enjoyable as well as fascinating were the San Francisco Juvenile Facility and the Redwood City Police Station. Neither of these had I personally ever been inside of, and I had the opportunity to learn and be a part of what goes into these facility types and the thought/reason behind why certain things were designed.
Today, I'm working on affordable housing in the St. Paul's Manor senior housing project in San Diego. What's cool about this site is it originated in 1953 and we're keeping it as close to the original as possible.
What benefits are there to working in construction?
There is so much opportunity and there’s definitely something in construction for everyone — especially women.
In my 30 years I have seen so many more women enter the construction arena — both in the field with their boots, belt and hard hat or in the office with their plan table and drawings as an architect, estimator or project manager.
And if you find that like me, you too have a passion inside of you to see things go from the ground up, then throw your (hard) hat in the ring and go after it. You will not be bored and you'll be excited and challenged every day.
What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?
Although construction has predominantly been a male-dominated industry, they're not the only ones who have a passion for the trade. Don't be intimated. We bring a lot to the table and can go toe to toe with any man.