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 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.