By Cathy Dixon
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.
Catherine Dixon, Director, VVA Project Manager & Consultants
What was your first job in construction? I worked onsite for a construction management company shortly after graduating college. I helped monitor subcontractor work progress, did planning and scheduling, estimating, and prepared and reviewed change orders.
What is your current job? I am a Director at VVA, LLC. VVA is an independent project management firm that represents clients on their commercial construction, renovation and relocation projects. I manage a variety of design and construction projects for corporate and educational clients.
What job do you want in the future? This is the career I am happiest in and plan to stay.
Why did you choose construction? What led you to construction? I am a graduate Civil/ Structural Engineer. I did some design work right after graduation, however, I soon found myself out in the field and loved the excitement, the urgency to respond to immediate challenges and obstacles, and the need to problem solve immediately as issues arise.
When did you realize you wanted to work in construction? During my first field assignment 30 years ago.
Is there someone in particular in your life that led you to this career? No one in particular led me to this point.
Who inspires you? Smart people who work hard.
What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in construction? 30 years ago it was unusual to find women in engineering and construction projects, and always required a period of convincing people that we were qualified. Today, however, it is much different, there are many women that I encounter in the field.
What is your favorite part of your career? Successful projects that meet all their goals and create happy clients.
What is the best company you have worked for? I have been very lucky in my career choices. My first company, Burns and Roe, gave me a perfect start as it allowed me to sample the various parts of the business- design and construction in civil, structural, and the environmental engineering fields. This experience helped direct my career for the rest of my life. The time I spent at NBC and JPMorgan in their facilities department allowed me to help directly influence the development of the project management business as it began to thrive in the 80's and 90's. My time here at VVA has allowed me to take all that I have learned and apply it to a variety of different projects to make for successful outcomes.
What is the biggest challenge of being a woman working in construction? The challenges I encounter are not specific to being a woman; complicated projects are both challenges and rewarding as we work to overcome the obstacles.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the field since you started? I find many more women in the construction and in the engineering fields today than 30 years ago. In addition, technology has completely revolutionized this business as well as most others.
What advice would you give someone starting out? I think the most important thing to do is the best job that you can.
What is your most valuable certification? What was the most challenging? For me being a licensed professional engineer is an achievement that I am proud of.
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