Women in Construction Week

Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day and Women in Construction (WIC) Week! To celebrate, we will be recognizing a few of our amazing team members who have made significant contributions to the AEC community. Thank you all!

Introducing Clarissa Chiang, MBA

Director, Growth and Strategy

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
11 years

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
I developed the penchant for connecting with people back in college. I was actually a fairly quiet and shy person growing up but through my internships and retail job during my college years, I became more interested in connecting with people – learning their stories and understanding how I could help them— and tying this back to sales and business strategy. My foray into the industry was fortuitously accidental: I fell into the AEC industry and quickly became fascinated with the impact that the built environment has on creating and sustaining communities.

Who inspires you?
Michelle Obama – she is genuine, thoughtful, and passionate about improving the world around her. She constantly finds creative and impactful ways to help others’ voices be heard, achieve greater equality and equity, and drive positive and sustainable growth at all levels.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Stay curious. Be a sponge – learn as much as you can about the industry (the work and the people) and ask for as many opportunities to be a fly on the wall in meetings – be it business development strategy or project meetings. Seek out opportunities to develop relationships with both your colleagues and consultant partners in the industry. Volunteer to be a part of any internal initiatives or special projects, especially those that require you to step outside of your comfort/knowledge zone.

Introducing Michelle Kelly

Director, Business Development

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
19 years

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
My background is in public relations and marketing and I was working for an agency fresh out of school. My (soon-to-be) husband was to graduate school for construction management at the time while working for a local developer and then a general contractor. I learned about architecture and construction through him and when an opportunity to join the construction company he was working for came up, it sounded interesting.

What projects are you most proud of?
In marketing and business development roles, I support our operational teams in winning new projects and I’ve had some exciting client pursuits that I’m really proud of over the years. I’m really proud of the work I did as a manufacturer’s rep for DIRTT, when I helped Pacific Northwest University build a new physical therapy and nursing classroom building with flexible interior construction that will adapt to their growing and expanding medical degree programs.

Who inspires you?
Michelle Obama and my dear friend Sonja Bochart.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Learn as much as you can about the technical aspects of your job and the business of design and construction — it makes you valuable at the table. Build relationships broad and deep, because they are the foundation of this industry and will get you further in your career than your technical abilities alone will. Ask questions and put on a hard hat and safety vest and get out on jobsites to see how a project is built. Find advocates and allies — both male and female — in your company and in the industry.

Introducing Kim Thompkins

Director of Proposals

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
30 years

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
When I was working my way through college, I worked at a landscape architecture firm and then after graduation I worked for an architectural firm, which is where I developed my interest in this profession.

What projects are you most proud of?
I’m proud of some of the winning proposals that I have led, including for the GSA, USACE, and the Georgia Board of Regents.

Who inspires you?
All the working moms who are pulled in numerous directions, especially now with remote learning and remote working.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
I would advise women to be persistent and know your value. Get engaged in outside organizations to learn more and increase networking opportunities.

Introducing Ashley Skerry

Associate Director

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
9 years

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
Childhood. My Dad was a tower crane operator — watching a project go from dirt to a completed building was always fascinating to me.

What projects are you most proud of?
All of them! Particularly the ones that proved that I was more capable that I thought.

Who inspires you?
All of the women in our industry who continue to push boundaries, prove they deserve a seat at the table, and contribute to the beautiful built world around us.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Work hard, trust your gut, listen more than you speak, and have fun with it!

Introducing Gargi Patil

Project Manager

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
4 years

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
As a kid in middle school. My dad’s an architect. For me and my younger sister, dinner table conversations revolved around new projects my dad was working on and sometimes our weekends were field trips to his construction sites.

What projects are you most proud of?
Everything, but specifically my most recent ones from 2020. They really showed me what I am capable of and that makes me push myself every day.

Who inspires you?
Women in the construction industry in general. They have already overcome a lot by just being here. It won’t be a “man’s world” much longer.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Believe in yourself. And don’t shy away from asking for help when you need it. Remember to pay it forward.

Introducing Kimberly McHugh

Senior Director

How long have you been in the AEC industry?
I have been in the industry for 23 years. I began my career working as a project engineer and project manager in general contracting before transitioning to supporting the owner’s side of the business.

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
My family owned a real estate company so I grew up participating in sales and development. When I left for college I was considering architecture and engineering as majors, but met the director of the Construction Management program at an introductory event for incoming freshman. His pitch on the many varied career options I’d have with a CM degree was how I became directed into construction. I’ve stayed interested in this business for the many challenges and complexities we get to tackle every day.

What projects are you most proud of?
I’ve had a variety of fun projects to work on throughout the years, but rather than pinpoint one particular project, I find that I’m most proud of the work I’ve done in the healthcare sector. Projects where we have the opportunity to give back to our broader communities are personally fulfilling. I love that we get to participate in the creation of a space that helps people heal.

What inspires you?
More appropriately for me is who inspires me. Every day I’m inspired by my teammates. It’s a privilege to work with a team that is driven by integrity and providing value-added service to our clients, that seriously hustles to get things done, and that always does so with collaborative partnership.

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Don’t be afraid of being a woman in the construction industry! Hard work, building your network, and fostering positive mentorship relationships is gender-neutral. Your desire to learn and grow, your hustle, and your intelligence are characteristics that promote growth and success across any industry. Embrace the differences between yourself and your male peers, understand how they supplement your individual toolbox, and use them to highlight your personal strengths.

Introducing Jessie Anderson

Senior Project Manager

How long have you been working in the AEC industry?
Since 2002, when I started my first industry job as an intern at Mithun, an architecture firm in Seattle.

When did you first develop an interest for this profession?
When I was a kid — between 6 and 8 years old — my father returned to grad school to study landscape architecture. He sometimes took me with him to class lectures and on fieldtrips, and I have fond memories of wandering studio halls admiring the scale models and architectural drawings, and of rainy afternoons exploring our local Japanese botanic garden. My dad used to let me borrow his fancy technical pencils and Prismacolor marker sets, and I’d (very carefully) draw miniature “dream house” floor plans. Architecture and design ultimate lead me to my dream job — project management — but my passion for the building industry began then.

What projects are you most proud of?
Leading the complete fit-out of Google’s gTech 3333 Walnut campus in Boulder all the way from budget approvals and early planning through design, construction, operational fit-outs, and occupancy. The project was delivered on time, came in under budget, and was a huge success not only for the team’s leadership (this being their first dedicated HQ office in the region), but also for the end-users who loved their beautiful and fun new workspace!

Who inspires you?
Kristen Pyle, who is an amazing leader in our region. Kristen is strong but also kind, humble but unabashed about broadcasting our teams’ successes; she is personally approachable but can be a formidable force in standing for what is right and fair in contracts and business, and as an advocate for diversity and equality in our industry. And she does all of this while raising three active, growing boys! Kristen is truly an incredible woman!

What advice would you give women starting out in the industry?
Don’t assume you have to prove something or push people around just because you are a woman or feel you have a lesser voice in this industry. Listen. Ask questions if you’re not sure of someone’s intent, rather than jumping to conclusions. Be bold, yet fair. Treat others with the decency and respect you would want to be treated with and often they will reciprocate. Believe in your abilities and what you have to offer your clients/projects/the industry as a whole!