Our people bring the passion, drive and ingenuity to make great things happen for our clients, communities and industry.
Meet Our Relentless Allies
Leading with Intention
From winning work to investing in our local communities, Erica Frandsen’s commitment to excellence has positioned Balfour Beatty to build new futures across California.
From winning work to helping cement Balfour Beatty’s reputation as an industry and community leader, the roles and responsibilities of a construction marketing professional extend far beyond sales and advertising. For Marketing Manager Erica Frandsen, activities like building morale amongst her team, organizing local volunteer opportunities and even supporting the next generation of builders are all in a day’s work.
Since joining Balfour Beatty in 2013, Erica has exemplified intentional leadership beyond her colleagues and communities. In 2021, Erica, along with her husband and Balfour Beatty Director, Sacramento Kyle Frandsen, developed and executed a plan in collaboration with the company’s local leadership to open a new office in Sacramento. This strategy has effectively positioned Balfour Beatty to expand our presence into the growing K-12 and higher education markets in and around the Sacramento community—among other exciting opportunities.
Since that time, Erica has played an integral role in growing the footprint of the business, as recently demonstrated by the team’s first project award—the $2.8 million Natomas High School Administration Building for new client, Natomas Unified School District. The team also secured a $35 million progressive design-build contract to build the new C80 Creekview Elementary School for Roseville City School District—amongst 15 local competitors.
But it isn't simply achievements such as opening a new office and delivering critical project wins that have lifted Erica to new levels of leadership. Erica says the key component of her intentional leadership is always remaining cognizant of her teammates' daily hard work, both on and off the jobsite.
In 2020 when COVID-19 required jobsite teams to rapidly implement new safety and operational procedures, Erica created a program designed to encourage Balfour Beatty teammates on the front lines of the pandemic. She implemented a "Project Pride" campaign to recognize jobsite teams for their dedication and commitment to the safety and health of our people and partners as they continued to deliver industry-leading projects for our clients.
Erica understands that leading with intention also requires forward-thinking. As the co-chair of Balfour Beatty's summer internship program in California, Erica demonstrates her passion for investing in the builders of tomorrow and the importance of Balfour Beatty’s role in ensuring a robust talent pipeline.
"One of the best ways we can help solve the labor issues our industry faces is to provide meaningful internship opportunities," adds Erica. Balfour Beatty’s summer internship program in California spans six weeks, includes opportunities for various roles both on and off the jobsite and culminates in an annual scholarship presentation experience.
Additionally, Erica has also supported the next generation of construction leaders through her service on the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Judges Panel for the national Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Student Competition.
As an intentional leader, Erica understands that Balfour Beatty’s impact reaches far beyond our jobsites and into the communities where we live and build. Throughout her tenure with Balfour Beatty, Erica led the annual Red Shoe Day, participating alongside her teammates to collectively raise over $20,000 in support of San Diego's Ronald McDonald House Charities.
She has also co-led the coordination of Balfour Beatty’s annual Green Apple Day of Service for the past seven years—an effort that has provided sustainable campus beautification projects for several of Balfour Beatty's valued education clients.
But even with the various activities she spearheads, Erica's teammates know that she will never lose sight of her primary focus and passion – leading challenging efforts to procure new work for Balfour Beatty. Since joining the company, Erica has contributed to securing 34 project wins totaling over $750 million worth of work. These include new progressive design-build K-14 school campuses, energy-efficiency retrofits and large design-build youth transition centers among other projects that have helped build new futures across California. In 2021, she also collaborated with a team that secured a $2.5 billion, five-year pool selection with the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Southwest. Erica is now taking her efforts one step further in support of the new Sacramento office, chasing challenging opportunities with new school district partners against top local competitors.
Due to her exceptional contributions, the San Diego Business Journal recognized Erica as a 2020 Outstanding Woman in Construction and Design as well as a 2020 Next Top Business Leader under 40.
Whether she's creating compelling proposals, giving back to the community or even launching a new office, Erica demonstrates the same intentional leadership and commitment to excellence that exemplifies Balfour Beatty’s reputation as a people-first business.
EHS Manager Shapes Heat Stress Legislation
Experts from various fields recently testified in front of the Maryland House Economic Committee in support of House Bill 722, which will require employers to develop, implement, and maintain an excessive heat-related illness prevention plan for employees.
Among the expert panel was Environmental Health and Safety Manager for Balfour Beatty US Civils Southeast Region, Eric Yates, where he shared best practices for preventing heat-stress illnesses on construction jobsites.
“Ambient heat, which comes from a variety of sources in the workplace like the sun, machines, equipment and hot work processes, can have an extreme impact on employee safety and performance,” Eric said. “Excessive exposure can lead to heat-stress illnesses, which will affect employees’ performance and health if proper prevention methods are not put in place.”
During the hearing, Eric shared how prevention methods such as employee training, proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and prevention plans can help employers recognize and avoid high-risk situations and signs associated with heat stress.
Eric and other experts will join Maryland House Delegate, Lorig Charkoudian and Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) in establishing guidelines for House Bill 722 before it is adopted.
A little over two years ago, Ellie McBride packed her bags and left her home in the UK for a new opportunity with Balfour Beatty in the US. After four years working with Balfour Beatty UK’s major projects business and the opportunity to travel to over 30 countries, Ellie had set her sights stateside.
Working as a field engineer on the Jimmy DeLoach Project in Savannah, Georgia, Ellie felt ready for the career and lifestyle changes that came with her move. Although the transition put her in a new role with different expectations, she soon adapted to life on site and began the construction of six structures on the project.
“When I arrived, many things were different from what I was used to, but that is to be expected,” says Ellie. “Fortunately, I had our business manager, Sherrie Drinnen. She took me under her wing, helped me settle in my role so that I could fulfill my responsibilities in this new environment. Sherrie’s support made my transition more straightforward.”
Career changes aren’t the only differences Ellie has overcome during her two years in the U.S. On top of tackling a language barrier (deep southern accents can be tough!), there are subtle lifestyle differences that require some adjustment. Everything from calculating time differences when communicating with family back home, driving on a different side of the road and even grocery shopping looks little different. As is her personality, Ellie tackles all of this with energy, determination and a good sense of humor.
While Ellie certainly misses her friends, family and dog, Tom, she’s enjoying her opportunity to work in the U.S. and is making the most out of her time here.
When she’s not hard at work, Ellie likes to explore new places and continues to immerse herself in American culture by attending baseball and football games, traveling interstate to visit friends, hiking and even plans to attempt a few water sports.
Staying true to her adventurous nature and hoping to gain more experience in the early construction phase, Ellie recently made her way to Texas, to begin work on our design-build Oak Hill Parkway project.
A Lifelong Learner and Admired Advocate
Inquisitive by nature, Dimelina Mora enjoys learning from the different perspectives and backgrounds of her colleagues and industry peers, gaining what she calls “an ever-growing catalogue of knowledge.” By proactively seeking to learn from others, Dimelina has grown personally and professionally while making an impact on those around her. She values the diversity of Balfour Beatty employees and the unique backgrounds they bring to the table, including how our people influence the clients and partners with which we interact and the influential dialogue we lead within our company and industry.
Dimelina didn’t always have her sights set on a career in construction. During her sophomore year of college, Dimelina was searching for an internship to gain experience and exposure to the workforce, primarily setting her sights on the design industry. It was by happenstance that an opportunity with Balfour Beatty emerged.
As a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, an organization in which Dimelina still participates today, she was coordinating a career fair for her peers. Balfour Beatty recognized her talent in managing the event and requested her resume—and the rest is history! Beginning as an intern, Dimelina has built her nine-year career exclusively with Balfour Beatty.
Dimelina’s first internship included working on a Special Projects Group (SPG) interior renovation for Georgia Tech’s School of Civil Engineering, more formally known as the Mason Building. Although she was originally hesitant to pursue general contracting due to a lack of exposure about the field, she credits her internship with Balfour Beatty as instrumental in changing her outlook on the trajectory of her career and discovering her passions in the industry.
She describes her internship experience as both rewarding and collaborative: “From trade partners to clients, everyone was eager and willing to share their wisdom, best practices and experiences with me. It was a wonderful learning environment.”
Today, Dimelina is a project manager with Balfour Beatty’s SPG team based out of Atlanta, Georgia, and she has made it her mission to raise awareness regarding opportunities in the construction industry. Specifically, she focuses on educating K-12 students—especially students with diverse backgrounds—on opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and occupations.
Frank Fotia, project executive with Balfour Beatty’s SPG in Georgia, praises, “Dimelina is a key member of our Atlanta SPG team and displays the type of positivity, teamwork and collaboration we want on all our project teams. She’s made her home here at Balfour Beatty and continues to grow our client base and make us better. Her passion for our industry and the many types of people who surround her is infectious.”
Dimelina believes Balfour Beatty’s foundation for success is rooted in the company’s advancement of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. With this core belief as a guiding principle, Dimelina has served on both the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) board as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Members (ASCE YM) board. She also actively participates in workshops with non-profits such as Goodwill and hands-on service and training programs led by organizations such as West Side Works, a program for individuals with diverse backgrounds.
“The more perspectives we have, the more well-rounded individuals and organizations we become,” she asserts.
Dimelina is also a passionate advocate for increasing women’s representation in construction. She advises women in the construction trades to be “vivacious,” and to “do one thing every day that makes us proud and one thing that plants a positive seed for the future.”
Although Dimelina may not have originally dreamed of pursuing a construction career, she has not only seized every opportunity in her path but also expanded her sphere of influence within Balfour Beatty, her industry and community—growing exponentially as a builder and leader.
Taking the Healthcare Industry by Storm
If it is a man’s world, then someone (with apologies to James Brown) surely forgot to tell Deanna Skipper. Deanna and women like her have completely flipped the script, challenging convention one square foot at a time.
And speaking of square feet, Deanna’s built thousands of them, primarily in the healthcare market. But her story almost had an entirely different ending. After graduating from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in business, Deanna quickly found herself daydreaming about a career that wouldn’t confine her to claustrophobia-inducing cubicles.
Fortunately, Deanna didn’t have to look far to discover an opportunity that would offer the adventure and variety she was seeking. Her younger and older brothers had since graduated from Clemson University’s construction management program, and it wasn’t long before Deanna dove headfirst in their footsteps. Undaunted by the prospect of attending lectures alongside wide-eyed freshmen several years her junior, Deanna was equally fearless about entering a male-dominated workforce.
“I knew I’d be a minority,” recalls Deanna, “but I can’t say I ever gave it much thought or felt like I’d be at a disadvantage.” Then again, talent tends to beget the kind of confidence that can shatter any glass ceiling.
David Stanton, vice president of operations and healthcare business unit leader for Balfour Beatty in Charlotte, recognized the “it factor” in Deanna immediately. Since the first day of her internship at Greer Memorial Hospital, Deanna has learned the ropes of healthcare construction from David, and she’s quick to credit him for guiding her to become the accomplished project manager she is today.
“What haven’t I learned from David?” says Deanna. “He’s a supervisor who pushes me, but he’s also a friend who encourages me.”
It helps to have experts like David just a phone call away when you’re renovating critical facilities with standards such as infection control that aren’t part of typical construction vernacular. But Deanna has become a healthcare construction expert in her rite, becoming others’ first call when best-laid plans go awry.
She led, for example, a 12,000-square-foot addition to Seacoast Hospital’s Emergency Department (ED) in Little River, SC. Several weeks before the project’s scheduled completion, Deanna received a design change that might have thwarted a less experienced builder. Balfour Beatty was tasked with converting two rooms into psychiatric holding areas, which possess unique requirements like overhead cooling doors and in-wall security consoles to eliminate the potential for patient self-injury.
The project team faced uphill challenges, beginning with the fact that most of the rooms’ complex systems were also long lead items, requiring nearly the same amount of time to deliver as Balfour Beatty had to complete construction. Having built a similar psych hold room for Roper Mt. Pleasant Hospital just a few years before, Deanna led a successful sprint to the finish, even obtaining a separate certificate of occupancy for the ED while the team finished out the remaining rooms.
Over the years, Deanna has developed a reputation as a project manager who’d much rather step back into the shadows and shine the spotlight on her team. She’s far from reticent, however, when it comes to discussing the technical aspects of her job from cooling towers and central energy plants to generators and medical gases.
Her biggest point of pride? The people she’s served, from families welcoming dreams come true in state-of-the-art delivery rooms to nurses ministering more efficiently to little boys with broken arms or women waiting tensely for mammogram results in tranquil consultation rooms.
Deanna may not have come in on the first wave of women breaking ground in construction, but make no mistake, she has played a role in the evolution of her industry, both by epitomizing operational excellence and refusing to accept any barriers to it. In doing so, Deanna defines the very essence of leadership.
What an indelible mark for a woman to make.
Born to Build
Beth Davis was visiting construction sites before she could walk. Perhaps that’s why these days, she’s pretty comfortable running some of the largest and most complex jobsites in the Southeast.
A second-generation builder who learned the ropes of large commercial projects from her father, the Ohio native has spent her entire 20-year career with Balfour Beatty, building a resume that would spark envy even amongst the most seasoned industry veterans. And she’s done it with a combination of sweat equity and earned swagger.
A recognized ground-up construction expert, Beth has helped shape the Charlotte skyline. Her mark includes the $76 million Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Uptown Charlotte and the new corporate headquarters for Corning Fiber.
Beth can credit countless other high-profile projects to her name. She oversaw interiors work for SPX’s Corporate Global Headquarters, a LEED Silver project that received a first place Eagle Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Carolinas Chapter.
Speaking of awards, Beth helped another marquee project receive a few of its own. Considering the job’s difficulty, it’s little wonder the collective industry took notice. Beth led a talented team that put nearly 340,000 square feet of work in place in just nine months. It took 12+ hours, seven days a week to achieve the feat of craftsmanship that is the LEED Platinum MetLife Corporate Retail Headquarters. “I learned the power of maintaining a positive attitude and persevering,” recalls Beth.
Though her portfolio primarily spans the private sector, Beth’s fondest memories are of a $200 million Central Campus for the Army Corps of Engineers. “It was something new and different,” she reminisces. Both qualities are key to Beth’s love of construction. “I like the process of creating something from nothing. You’re never doing the same thing twice in this field.”
Given the demands of her all-consuming career, it’s tough to imagine Beth having time to pursue many hobbies or interests once she’s kicked off her (often muddy) steel-toe boots. While she’s meeting project milestones, Beth is masterfully managing the schedules, routines and day-to-day organization of her family. Recognizing the importance of educating and inspiring the next generation of builders, Beth also plays an active role in mentoring Balfour Beatty’s up-and-coming project engineers and project managers in Charlotte.
It’s safe to say Beth never dreamed of a path that didn’t include building. For those women contemplating a career that mirrors her own, Beth offers this advice, “Be passionate and take ownership of your work. Construction is all about following through from start to finish.”
While Beth is aware of the reality that she is both a woman of influence and a minority in a demanding and competitive industry, she’s always maintained a firm policy of checking her apologies at the trailer door, refusing to concede any assumption that she doesn’t belong.
“If you treat others the way you want to be treated—with responsiveness and respect—you earn both in this industry. That really holds true for anything in life,” she argues.
Outspoken but fair, confident but compassionate, Beth Davis and women like her are the future of our industry.
Rising to the Challenge
Ashrita always knew that she was destined for an active, hands-on career. She enjoys being outside in the fresh air and sunshine and has a scientific mind that relishes a challenge. With a can-do attitude and a strong determination to help her teammates succeed, Ashrita is building an impressive construction career by relying on her keen problem-solving and communication skills to foster collaboration and identify innovative solutions for her teams and projects.
Born and raised in India among a family of engineers and scientists, Ashrita moved to the U.S. to pursue her college education. As a student at Purdue University, Ashrita considered multiple technical fields, but civil engineering felt like the right fit.
Armed with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, she began her career working for a structural engineer in Houston. She enjoyed the stimulating work and was thrilled to be a team member on multiple ENR award-winning projects in Houston and southern California. However, after spending time on jobsites and seeing construction managers in action, she dreamed of a future in the field. When she heard Balfour Beatty was hiring field engineers in northern California, she jumped at the chance.
Ashrita has excelled in the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of construction management. Currently in her sixth year in the profession, she recently received a promotion to project engineer and is serving as a member of the Caltrain Electrification project. This complex, urban project includes working in a 150-year-old right-of-way.
During the installation of pile footings on the project, crews discovered an abandoned foundation fifteen feet underground that dated back to the early 1900s. The object was obstructing the path of the piles. Working into the early hours of the morning, Ashrita and the designer developed a plan to safely move the footing. Ashrita’s adaptability and creative thinking helped her team keep the project on schedule.
When Ashrita is not at the jobsite, she enjoys volunteering for community-based construction organizations, including Building Humanity and Habitat for Humanity. As a member of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program, she has also travelled to the Philippines to work on a wastewater treatment facility.
Ashrita feels fortunate to work in such a challenging and rewarding industry. As she has witnessed the industry become increasingly more diverse and inclusive, she appreciates all the individuals who have paved the way to ensure a more equitable future for women. Yet, from her first day on-site as a field engineer, Ashrita has observed areas in which more progress is needed.
“Working alongside my Balfour Beatty teammates, I am respected, and my contributions are appreciated,” Ashrita explains. “However, the workforce is predominantly male, and it can present unique challenges to establish trust with those who do not have a lot of experience working with women. Once they get to know me and know my work, they begin to trust me, but it takes communication and tenacity to break down barriers.”
Ashrita is quick to point out that once relationships of mutual trust are established, the same trade partners will go out of their way to assist her in accomplishing jobsite tasks. Still, she feels that continuing to advance the number of women in construction, and supporting these women, is paramount in creating a more equitable and inclusive work environment. In support of this, in 2021 Ashrita served as a panelist Balfour Beatty’s first “Together Allies” Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit Allies” Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Summit to discuss allyship and how men can advocate for women.
Ashrita is proud of the honest dialogue that occurred at the conference and the continuing efforts of Balfour Beatty’s Connecting Women employee affinity group. “Connecting Women provides a platform for empowering the women of Balfour Beatty to discuss issues that are still prevalent in our industry and gives the men of Balfour Beatty an opportunity to understand how they can support their teammates and be an advocate for change in our industry.”
Ask Ashrita if more can be done, and her prowess at finding solutions quickly reveals itself.
“We need more women in higher operational and administrative positions to serve as role models and mentors. There are also opportunities to continue to grow our Connecting Women employee affinity group and create a mentorship program to help women from across the company support each other and recruit new women to enter the industry.”
Being flexible, adaptive and always looking for more efficient ways to solve issues is how Ashrita approaches her daily work and her career. She appreciates that Balfour Beatty is a people-first company unflinchingly tackling workforce equality issues to move the construction industry forward. It is construction professionals and leaders like Ashrita who will get this job done, and she is up for the challenge.
Paving the Road for Future Generations
When April Medlin was young, she dreamt of helping people by becoming a nurse. Little did she know, instead of through nursing, she would impact the lives of hundreds of children through her role in the construction industry.
April’s unlikely journey began when she graduated with a degree in sociology. At the time, April had already shifted gears from nursing to setting her sights on educating and inspiring future generations by earning her teaching credentials.
During her time as a student teacher at a local middle school, April was touched by a moment she experienced with a young girl. The school had taken a group of children on a field trip to the nearby community college, where they displayed a plethora of unique career options.
When the class was leaving, April began a conversation with a young girl, asking questions aimed at what she wanted her future to hold. “My mom works at Taco Bell and puts food on the table every night for me and my siblings. I think that is a good job. I want to work at Taco Bell,” the young girl said in response. April pondered the thought for a moment. She had never considered the prospect of children not wanting to pursue a postsecondary education.
Curious, April asked the student if she wanted to attend college and received a firm “no” in response. April continued pressing the topic, asking questions about what the young girl was interested in and whether she had considered pursuing her passions in the beauty industry. The young girl began to light up as April explained the potential career paths within that industry. This is the moment that ignited a fire within April to continue guiding and supporting children who may not be exposed to the opportunities available to them.
As fate would have it, April began working at Balfour Beatty over 12 years ago when she learned more about a field she had never previously considered. Many misconceptions about the construction industry exist, including that it is labor intensive with visualizations of hammering nails, setting framework and pouring concrete. But, as April discovered, there are many avenues to pursue a career in this field.
Today, as a project accountant manager for Balfour Beatty in California, April oversees a vast array of vital business activities. Her responsibilities range from overseeing accounting processes to developing a team of adept accountants. April is even helping drive the implementation of a new software to help streamline accounting practices nationally.
April now takes every opportunity to help younger generations explore new paths and shape their futures. Volunteering at Abraxas High School in Poway, CA, April relates to the students by sharing the twists and turns of her own career. She helps expose students to apprenticeship programs, networking events and even internships that can be taken advantage of while they are in high school.
“[As a builder focused on education facilities] We build things that matter, that give me pride and impact students every day,” states April.
April discovered this volunteer opportunity through the Women’s Construction Coalition’s Julie Morgan Society. This program was founded with the goal of inspiring younger generations to pursue the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industries by providing them with related mentorships and scholarships. The program presents high schoolers with options for achieving education through venues such as a traditional four-year education or apprenticeship programs. They also provide networking events where students can meet and connect with industry professionals.
A trusted advisor, April reviews and recommends training materials for teachers to utilize in their classrooms. Leveraging her experience as a teacher, she also works with the students, guiding them through the Julie Morgan Society program and assisting them in filling out applications for scholarships.
Having found her own door of opportunity, April shares her story of working her way through a variety of careers, eventually rising through the ranks at Balfour Beatty where she began as an accounts payable clerk. Even though April isn't working in a field related to her degree, she inspires those around her and is shaping future generations through her outreach efforts.
An Industry Pioneer
To this day, people sometimes express surprise when they find out Preconstruction Director Annie Hughes works in construction. The surprise usually gives way to the assumption that she performs an administrative role. Little do they know, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Annie isn’t one to boast about her significant accomplishments, but - as anyone who knows her will tell you - she should be. With over 36 years of experience, Annie is a well-known industry pioneer who continues to inspire and mentor others.
Before her career had even begun, Annie was forging a path that would challenge the status quo and lead the way for other young women. Blessed with a natural ability in math and science, Annie was encouraged by her brother-in-law, Eluster Fields (a civil engineer) to consider a career in engineering. After asking herself “why not?” she went on to become the second African American female to graduate from the prestigious University of Cincinnati’s civil engineering program – a success that she considers as one of her proudest achievements. Note: if you visit the school today you will still see Annie’s graduation picture from 1982 gracing the hall.
Annie’s initial interest was in engineering but she quickly fell in love with construction after realizing that sitting in an office staring at plans all day was not for her. Her first job out of college took her through a rigorous training program that allowed her to touch every aspect of the construction process. This experience served as the basis of her well-rounded career that began in the cost department, progressed to the field and eventually led to her main specialization: preconstruction.
Today, Annie is a trusted expert responsible for our Charlotte team’s estimating and preconstruction efforts. She is described by her teammates as a natural leader who’s never afraid to take on a challenge or speak her mind. These traits have served her well over the years, but Annie admits they have sometimes been tested, particularly in her first years after college: “starting out in a male-dominated industry, nobody was ever mean to me, but there was a sense that they were questioning why I was there.”
For Annie, the answer was obvious, she was there to learn and build iconic work, just like everybody else. Annie stayed true to pursuing these goals by seeking lessons to be learned from everyone she worked with. Ultimately, her willingness to learn and ask questions allowed her to build solid connections with her teammates and an enviable bank of knowledge that she in turn, continues to share with her teammates today.
Annie now commands significant industry respect, but she is conscious that for many women, the construction industry can still be a challenging environment. From her own experience, she’s seen that forging a strong support network is key, so she makes herself available to other women as a guiding influence to answer questions and share advice when needed.
Annie’s readiness to help and encourage other women is also evident in her personal life. In her own family, her niece, Candance Campbell was inspired to pursue a career in engineering, just like her aunt. And, in addition to her fast-paced career and commitment to her beloved family, she finds time to support a women’s ministry and volunteer for Girl Talk, a local non-profit initiative that empowers teenage girls.
The advice Annie offers to the women and young girls in her life applies to anyone who’s game to follow their dreams and shatter assumptions: “you’ve got to be strong enough to know what you’re talking about and find people who will back you up.” But, she warns: “none of that will help if you haven’t done your homework first.”
Those who know or have worked with Annie will know that this isn’t just casual advice, it’s a lesson she took the liberty of discovering firsthand and continues to demonstrate to this day. And if you consider the heights Annie has scaled – you’ll appreciate just how valuable a lesson it is.
A woman’s decision to pursue a career in construction may still come as a surprise to some. But as more and more women follow Annie’s lead and find their voice we will reach the stage where there’s no more surprises or false assumptions. Just iconic work by brilliant builders like Annie.
Leveling the Field for Everyone
Amy Kennedy didn’t set out to be a role model … or a construction worker. Unlike a lot of her peers, Amy had never been exposed to construction and hadn’t considered it as a career until it was time for college.
To speak with the passionate project executive today, it’s hard to believe there was a time when Amy wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. All she knew was what she didn’t want to do – sit behind a desk doing the same thing every day.
Amy’s mom also recognized her daughter needed a more hands-on career. At her mom’s suggestion, Amy spent a day shadowing a family friend who owned a construction business, just to see if it sparked any interest.
That one day’s experience was all it took to ignite a passion that’s been burning ever since. But as Amy recalls, it did take some explaining at the time. “I’d never talked about construction so when I applied to study at Clemson University my friends were really surprised. It took them a while to understand what construction management was and why I would choose a program that had 8am classes.”
There were only a handful of other women in Amy’s classes, but she never saw it as an issue or cause for concern. Amy had discovered the career path for her, and she was determined to see it through – even if it meant she had to sacrifice the college tradition of sleeping in.
The gender imbalance in Amy’s college program was a good indicator for the conditions she would experience in the field. When she entered the workforce as a young project engineer for Balfour Beatty, Amy was one of very few women working in the field.
This meant there weren’t any female leaders for Amy to look up to as she rose through the ranks, but she had something just as powerful: a will to achieve and male leaders who believed in the power of inclusion.
As Amy explains: “I was determined to be the best I could be, and I always had really strong male mentors who made sure I was learning, improving and being respected at all times. If they heard any inappropriate comments or behaviors, they’d call it out immediately, so I never felt alone. I was completely supported.”
The level of support and inclusion demonstrated by her mentors is a big part of why she is proud to have stayed with Balfour Beatty for almost 20 years and counting. It’s also a major factor that helped shape her into the leader she is today. That is, a widely-respected, inclusive leader who is passionate in ensuring everyone experiences the same success she has enjoyed throughout her career with Balfour Beatty.
There’s no doubt that Amy has become a role model for women in construction, but true to her inclusive form, she sees herself as a role model for anyone who needs or wants a supporter – male or female, older or younger.
As Amy explains: “I’m not exclusive about who I take under my wing. More women are joining the field these days and I’ll always make myself available to them as a mentor, but I think as leaders we need to be equally supportive of anyone who needs or wants some support. We’re all professionals and we all have something to learn and share. Men can learn from women and vice versa. Things like gender and age don’t matter; it’s your knowledge and experience that counts.”
Amy’s willingness to help others learn and grow is well-documented – and it’s not just limited to her project teammates, either. Amy recently shared an online video outlining her best practices for working with gypcrete (check it out here). It’s just one example of how the self-described “sponge for learning” will go out of her way to ensure everyone can benefit from the same expertise that she has.
For Amy, every day is another opportunity – a chance to learn, a chance to grow and a chance to lift someone else up. In her mind this is all just part of the job that she loves, but for those of us who have been inspired or mentored by Amy, she’s doing much more than that.
Through her work and her example, Amy is a role model leveling the field, for everyone.
Leaning Into a Better Way of Building
Amanda Patton almost skirted her destiny to become a third-generation builder.
It was a strong lineage, too. Amanda’s grandfather was a plumber, and her father worked on septic systems. They dreamed that Amanda would follow in their footsteps as a professional engineer. But growing up, Amanda wasn’t drawn to construction—or any related field for that matter.
That was until her family decided to build a new home. Like any teenager, Amanda was keenly interested in the plans for her bedroom. But unlike most her age and much to the astonishment of the architect, Amanda took it upon herself to resketch those plans precisely to her liking. And just like that, a young girl from a small Alabama town started to dream big about her future as an architect.
At Auburn University, Amanda enrolled in the prestigious College of Architecture, Design, and Construction’s School of Architecture. During her third year, Amanda learned that she had not been selected to advance within the architecture program. What appeared like a dream denied ended up being destiny in disguise.
Upon transferring to study construction management in the College’s Department of Building Science, Amanda’s exposure to architecture helped her recognize some of the industry’s inherent dysfunctions and operational inefficiencies. Unbeknownst to Amanda at the time, it marked the beginning of her journey to become the lean construction leader she is today.
After graduation, Amanda joined Balfour Beatty’s recently established Charlotte, NC office as an estimator. Nearly two decades later, she’s still going strong, having earned a reputation as a respected and collaborative building partner committed to the continuous improvement of her projects, teams, and the industry at large.
Amanda’s formative years in the business offered exposure to a wide variety of markets and project scopes. From tenant improvement work for international banking institutions like Bank of America to higher education projects at Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill, and Penn State University and healthcare projects such as Western State Hospital, Amanda built a strong and well-rounded foundation that included certification as a Design-Build Professional™.
Thanks to the encouragement of a mentor, she even made the leap from preconstruction to operations. To quote Sheryl Sandberg, Amanda “leaned in” to each opportunity she was presented with bold curiosity and the tenacity to make it her own.
In 2006, Amanda relocated to the Mid-Atlantic region to help grow the Corporate Accounts’ footprint. However, a shift in the company’s strategic focus led her to officially join the Mid-Atlantic team contributing to integrated projects.
Recognizing the vast communications gap and system siloes that exist between AEC partners, Amanda began exploring ways to help owners more effectively communicate their project goals and expectations—what’s known in lean circles as “conditions of satisfaction.” As she helped teams break away from traditional modes of thinking and working, Amanda experienced an epiphany that had perhaps been her whole career in the making.
“I realized that I don’t have the process-driven mindset of your typical engineer. My passion is connecting people,” Amanda recalls. “The first pillar of lean is respect for people. This really resonated with me. The prospect of delivering projects differently was interesting and motivating.”
Although Amanda got a glimpse of an ideal industry future state while attending Lean Construction Institute (LCI) events, she wanted the opportunity to work on a project where lean was fully embraced and embedded. In 2015, Amanda got that opportunity as part of the integrated project delivery (IPD) team (collectively referenced PennFIRST) selected to build a new, 1.5-million-square-foot patient pavilion for Penn Medicine. The project, which is slated to complete in 2021, created an ideal testing ground for lean practices and tools. From off-site manufacturing to daily huddles, target value design (TVD), and parametric modeling, the PennFIRST team has reaped countless successes in advancing the case for lean.
“To see people want to work this way and to find value in it has been really exciting,” praises Amanda, who has most recently been serving in the capacity of control on the Penn Medicine project. “To be part of a team where the owner may one day find the cure for cancer – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Amanda has not only been committed to positively impacting the practice of lean on her projects, but she also played an instrumental role in establishing a new lean community of practice (CoP) in the Philadelphia, PA area.
Amanda may not be your typical construction professional. In an industry where the command is all too often valued over collaboration and tradition over innovation, Amanda has broken the mold by remaining true to herself and to her deep-seated belief that there is a better way to build that puts people first.
When Aislinn Nagy changed her major from city planning to building construction at Virginia Tech, she didn’t think twice about working in a male-dominated industry. It wasn’t just that construction was becoming more inclusive when Aislinn graduated in 2011. As decisive as she is driven, once Aislinn establishes a goal, she simply refuses to accept any barriers to achieving it.
Before donning her cap and gown, the Charlotte, NC native was already building an enviable resume. During an internship with RT Dooley Construction, a family-owned general contractor Balfour Beatty acquired in 2009, Aislinn worked on one of the most signature buildings punctuating her hometown skyline, the Duke Energy Center. During another internship, Aislinn made her mark on the nation’s capital, helping renovate the Pentagon.
It came as little surprise to those who knew Aislinn that she graduated with the honor of “Most Exemplary Senior” in her building construction department. But Aislinn was only just beginning to crack the glass ceiling. After graduation, Aislinn joined another national general contractor. Her first project, a federal prison in West Virginia, was hardly a softball for the 22-year-old. Aislinn relocated to an unfamiliar state and was the only woman out of a nearly 30-member project team. In what would become a recurring theme of Aislinn’s career, where others see obstacles, she seizes opportunities. Aislinn describes her relationship with the project’s superintendent, a 6’4,” Paul Bunyan-esque, tower crane of a man, “He toughened me up, and I softened him.”
Though Aislinn enjoyed her tenure in the Mid-Atlantic, she never forgot her roots and joined Balfour Beatty’s Charlotte team in 2015. “It felt like coming home,” she recalls. Aislinn’s first project with the company, a challenging multifamily housing development, would have tested even the most seasoned construction professional. It was a baptism of fire of sorts for Aislinn, then a 27-year-old assistant project manager. But Aislinn wasn’t second-in-command on-site for long. When the project manager departed the company, senior leadership entrusted the job to Aislinn, confident in her ability to deliver. Predictably, Aislinn did not disappoint.
“You have to find ways to get a job done under pressure,” maintains Aislinn. “Often, you don’t have the liberty of taking three days to make a decision. You have to make the best call for your client and trade partners and be willing to stand behind it.” As Aislinn looks back, she realizes these lessons are equally applicable to projects that run smoothly or those that encounter any number of the industry’s common obstacles.
Today, Aislinn is a project manager with nearly three million square feet of work credited to her name. She was recently named to Charlotte Agenda’s 30 under 30 Class of 2018. A relentlessly positive, calm under pressure, consummate team player, Aislinn’s glass is always half full. She’s spent the last several years managing a $14 million renovation to the Reynolds American, Inc. headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., and in March 2019, transitioned to oversee a $30 million K-8 STEAM facility for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Despite a demanding career that requires many early morning job site visits and late-night emails, Aislinn dedicates time to serving others through initiatives like the ACE Mentor Program. In December 2018, she led a project like no other—building a footbridge over a canyon in Bolivia’s Cochabamba River Valley. In partnership with Bridges to Prosperity, Balfour Beatty assembled a diverse team of construction experts to provide Bolivians a safer and faster route to access food, healthcare and other basic necessities.
“Leadership is hard to teach and a lot has to do with experiences and how a person can take those experiences and translate them into success,” says Jeff Sandeen, vice president and business unit leader in Charlotte. “I have witnessed Aislinn become a humble yet driven leader, and that is reflected in her daily operations as well as her community involvement.”
In many ways, Aislinn is fulfilling her destiny. Her father, who works for CBRE, often took his children around Charlotte, pointing out buildings he’d helped bring to life. Today, Aislinn can take the same personal pride in the Queen City, knowing she’s building foundations in more ways than one.
“I never want to be so comfortable that I’m not challenging myself. If I’m not aiming for something, then I’m settling,” affirms Aislinn with a wisdom that surpasses her age.
Ability, ambition, adventure. Aislinn Nagy is proving the future of construction belongs to anyone who devotes themselves to building it.
Almost every American can recall with remarkable clarity exactly where they were when two planes ripped through a brilliant September sky. Sixteen years later, Paul Studley’s memories are more vivid than most. The New York native was working in Midtown Manhattan on that fateful day and watched in horror as that same sky was engulfed by billowing black smoke and raging flames.
But Paul also remembers the deep, abiding sense of community he felt once the skies fell silent. The way people banded together to become their brother’s keeper. 9/11 changed us all, and for Paul, that change manifested in a profound passion for safety. At the time, Paul had spent 20 years in the tradeshow industry, overseeing the erection of large-scale exhibits with a variety of equipment including mobile cranes. He was keenly aware of the dangers that can arise when men and machinery mix. Because of 9/11, Paul was even more keenly aware of the fragility of life. In the days forward, he renewed his resolve to protect those under his watch.
It was a passion that eventually followed Paul to Seattle, Washington, where he joined Balfour Beatty’s team in the Northwest, locally known as Howard S. Wright. Before the cross-country move, Paul had left the tradeshow business to follow in the footsteps of the Studley family profession: vertical construction. His father and older brother were electricians by trade, and a second older brother was an ironworker. But Paul, who’d always had an affinity for high-end finish work, pursued carpentry. It was with this diverse skillset that Paul was dispatched from Seattle’s Union Hall to Howard S. Wright on July 27, 2006—a day that he recalls as life-changing.
“It’s been 11 wonderful years,” beams Paul. “The people inspire me as much as the projects.” It wasn’t long before Paul was hired as a full-time employee in the company’s Special Projects Group, which focuses primarily on interior fit-outs and renovation services. Because these projects are often completed in occupied spaces and during off-peak hours, they present unique safety challenges.
But none Paul isn’t prepared to tackle. Paul’s projects—like the University of Washington Husky Stadium renovation—consistently achieve stellar safety records. In fact, his last two jobs didn’t record a single incident. When asked the secret to his teams’ successes, Paul is eager to discuss the details from pre-task planning to hazard analysis and housekeeping. But the more he speaks, it becomes apparent that this soft-spoken superintendent is able to win the hearts and minds of subcontractor partners because of his sincerity. It’s evident in his practice of introducing himself to each worker with a gloved handshake. It’s evident in the extra effort he takes to educate himself about safety, reading about incidents that occur on other contractors’ jobsites and sharing applicable lessons. It’s evident in the way he compassionately approaches workers who have fallen short of safety requirements.
“If people feel you’re invested in them, they’re more likely to be invested in themselves,” attests Paul, who never hesitates to voice concerns when he spots an unsafe action or behavior. “I don’t feel remorse for telling someone, ‘You’re not doing yourself any justice.’ Because I’d feel a million times worse if I didn’t.” Paul is particularly excited about Balfour Beatty’s newest Zero Harm campaign, “See Something, Say Something,” which aims to encourage open lines of communication about safety.
“Paul embodied ‘See Something, Say Something’ before it was launched,” praises Brian Sorensen, director of safety, health, and environment in Seattle. “He develops cohesive teams in which every person feels like he or she has the ultimate responsibility for safety.”
On 9/11, thousands of ordinary men and women became extraordinary heroes. The same transformation can happen every day on construction sites, where excavators and riggers, and electricians have the power to take bold and courageous actions to protect one another. Paul Studley didn’t become a champion for safety because he covets medals or recognition. Like he’s demonstrated throughout his entire career, Paul genuinely cares about people. Perhaps that’s one of the best legacies of 9/11 and the collective promise made to never forget.