'My Mother Has Been By My Side and Has Had Faith in Me When I Had No Faith in Myself' -- 20 Questions for Women in Construction

By Sherry Castro

Hard Hats. Strong Women. Building the Future.

Follow our blog to hear the stories of women working in construction in New York City at every level as we ask 20 questions to women working in construction.

Sherry Castro, Operating Engineer Local 15, Journeywoman

What was your first job in construction? My first job was at JFK airport repaving the runway, I was an apprentice.

What is your current job? Crane mechanic at the Second Avenue subway.

What job do you want in the future? I would like to own my own construction firm.

Are you in a union? What is the best part of being in a union? Yes. I am a proud member of the International Union Of Operating Engineers, Local 15, New York City.

Why did you choose construction? What led you to construction? I was studying nursing in Detroit when my grandmother developed dementia, I returned home to NYC to help care for her and realized that I needed to find a career that would offer me great pay and benefits. I was years away from my nursing degree, and construction was the next option

When did you realize you wanted to work in construction? On the first anniversary of 9/11. I still lived in Detroit. I was on my way to a memorial service in Hart Plaza. While crossing the street I saw a woman operating a loader, and realized that I wanted to do that !!! I also wanted to come back to my city and help rebuild.

Is there someone in particular in your life that led you to this career? Yes, Tammy Green, my classmate at N.E.W. It was her who told me, "We are going to stand in line for 2 days and get an application to be operating engineer apprentices"... I followed her.

Who inspires you? My mother, she has been by my side and has had faith in me when I had no faith in myself.

What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in construction? The support and brotherhood that I get from my union brothers and sisters. I feel as if I have a second family.

What is your favorite part of your career? The freedom to take vacation whenever I wish.

What is your most memorable moment working in construction? My favorite moment isn't during work... it's during the NYC Labor Day parade. Marching up Fifth Avenue with my union is the greatest feeling ever.

What is the best company you have worked for? EE Cruz

What is your favorite project you have worked on? Yankee Stadium, Atlantic Yards and East Side Access.

What is the biggest challenge of being a woman working in construction? Gaining respect of your coworkers. People believe that we are here to fill a quota, not to do a job. When they see that you CAN do what you were sent here to do, they begin to respect you.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the field since you started? I encounter more women than ever.

What advice would you give someone starting out? Keep your eye on your work, not the men. Find a date outside of work. Always be early and never give up

What is your favorite tool? My 24 inch adjustable wrench, my welding shield, and my electric Lincoln grease gun.

What is your favorite hard hat sticker? Besides my union sticker..."Cheap labor isn't skilled, skilled labor isn't cheap"

What is your most valuable certification? What was the most challenging? I'm in the process of obtaining my class C Hoisting Lisence. I've passed the written exam and this spring I begin the practical portion. This is also the most challenging of all my certifications because in order for me to receive my NYC licence, I must have 2 years as a mechanic on a crane (which is very hard for a woman to get) AND the operators I've worked with must sign an affidavit.

What would surprise us about you? Besides the fact that I love to travel to overseas... that I'm real good on playstation3, NCCA football, fight night champion, and UFC undisputed3.

Tell us "What is your favorite hard hat sticker"?

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