This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past conversations.
Mary Mahany is a project executive for Shawmut Design and Construction, working in the New York Metro region out of the company's New York City office. She is responsible for leading teams, working to develop new client relationships and strengthen existing connections across the region.
Mahany (shown above, far left) is currently overseeing a large-scale, complex commercial project entailing a multi-phase, design-build renovation of an existing building. Here, she talks with Construction Dive about her 20 years in the industry and why she takes pride in every project.
CONSTRUCTION DIVE: How long have you worked in construction?
MARY MAHANY: As of this summer, I have worked in the construction industry for 20 years. From trading floors and data centers to schools, residences, hospitals and hotel infrastructure, I've completed projects spanning numerous sectors over the past two decades — including commercial, education, health care, hospitality and more. Throughout my career, I have risen through the project management ranks, originally starting as an assistant field engineer.
What led you to choose construction for your career?
As I worked my way through my early school years, I was always amazed at how people interacted with built spaces. I also had a passion for math and science and because of that, I studied civil engineering and received my bachelor's degree from The Cooper Union in New York City.
Once I was ready to jumpstart my career, I realized I didn't want to just design the built environments, I wanted to be a part of the human momentum that actually built these incredible places. Once I decided on a path, I returned to school to receive my master’s in design studies from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, helping to bridge the gap between engineering and construction.
What are a few of the projects you've most enjoyed working on and why?
I take great pride in each and every project that I've been a part of over the course of my career to this point. I have worked on everything from out-of-ground, 42-story office towers in Times Square to infrastructure upgrades in existing, multi-layered buildings in densely populated metropolitan areas.
Each project has its own unique facets and teams — the constant learning and interaction with new people, designers, clients and subcontractors is where I derive my joy from. I've come to understand that what matters more than the type of project is the story behind it, and creating a shared vision that unites a project team is what continues to inspire me.
What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?
It can be surprising to learn everything that working in the construction industry entails. People, technologies, capabilities and techniques are continuously evolving, and staying up to date on new trends is extremely important.
If working alongside people from all areas of the industry and transforming built environments sparks your interest, I'd strongly suggest looking for mentors and any opportunity you can to lean into this space — and make it better with your contributions, presence and unique perspectives.