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Women in Technology at Balfour Beatty
September 29, 2014
Just 8.9 percent of the construction industry nationwide is composed of women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Yet, many women are finding their way into this male-dominated business with their technology skills. Construction is very high-tech these days and becoming more so. Blueprints are viewed on tablets, Building Information Management (BIM) is used for 3D coordination, prefabrication, construction planning, and drones which are used to capture real-time images to improve building techniques, jobsite communication, and safety. Most construction companies have a comprehensive Information Technology department that acts as a support function for the business. Balfour Beatty has taken that a step forward bringing technology solutions to help streamline and provide efficiencies in the construction industry, especially direct to the field. Kasey Bevans, CIO of Balfour Beatty says, “It is important for women to see other women in key leadership positions to avoid creating the impression that there are limited career paths and leadership opportunities for women in the construction and technology industries.” Here is a spotlight on a few of Balfour Beatty women technology solution experts.
Claire Mao – VDC/BIM Specialist EIT, CHIT, LEED® Green Associate
Born in Shanghai, Claire was exposed to new technology at an early age. “My dad is an engineer who always inspired me to explore how things worked since I was little. He and my mom bought me assembled toy cars, dominos, mini dinosaur 3D puzzles, etc." All these early influences allowed her to become interested in subjects that are practical to technology.
“I have seen amazing buildings, bridges, and other structures that provide people with a place to stay and also landmarks to admire. The construction industry is a combination of science and art.” Claire works in the Building Information Modeling (BIM) / Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) department as a VDC Specialist. One of her recent projects was the Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Modernization in Portland, Oregon. The building won a national Award of Merit in the Rehabilitation/Renovation/Restoration category from the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) in their annual Design-Build Award Competition.
“The image of the construction industry is heavy duty, dirty sites, and male-dominated, which is not absolutely true.” Claire cites many positions available in preconstruction, estimating, scheduling, and her own department, BIM/VDC that are more office-based. “I am proud that I can be helpful to my colleagues and relied upon with the work that I am given.” She believes the balance between men and women in not only technology, but construction, creates a more harmonious working environment. “They complement each other and provide different perspectives.”
Sonali Kumar Ph.D., EDAC
– Virtual Reality Developer/Planner
“I have always had a passion for innovating new ways of doing things and bringing people together through building.” Back home in India, Sonali’s father owns a construction company which was a constant source of inspiration for her to design and build structures, and eventually pursue a career in architecture. “My interest in technology started with an interest in collaboration. In the construction industry, there are many stakeholders involved in a project and therefore, communication of information between the contractor, subcontractors, architects, and client becomes vital for the success of the project.”
One of the accomplishment’s Sonali is most proud of is the development of video game environments for healthcare facilities during her doctoral research. “It was a great feeling when doctors and patients viewing the 3D models would really be able to visualize their new hospital; get excited and actually understand what was being built rather than stare blankly at blueprints and try hard to make sense of it.” She also used the same technology for the development of housing for the elderly and disabled. “It was very rewarding to see the impact of my work on people.”
“As women we have to learn to believe in ourselves and our capabilities. It is very important to enjoy what you are doing – whether it is technology or construction. Once you enjoy what you’re doing, you will always yearn to learn more and improve which will ultimately lead you to become an indispensable expert in your field.” She believes it is important to introduce technology as early as possible and emphasize the huge role it will play in the future. “In today’s time, it is extremely important to get a global perspective on a project for it to be a success.”
– CIO, Senior VP
Kasey’s interest in technology began in high school. “My junior year I had a choice to either take advanced math or a computer class. I elected to take a computer programming class and even joined a group of computer geeks, like myself, and created a club called the ‘Hack Pack’.” In college, she took technology classes as a hobby, but soon realized it was the field she wanted to pursue. “Before I knew it, I had a degree in Management Information Systems.”
“There are many roles in the technology industry...some are technical, some are strategic, and some are collaborative." One of the things she likes to share with young girls is that you don’t have to be a ‘genius’ to work in this field. “There is a gender imbalance in the construction industry, but there is also a desire to change that and bring more diversity into our industry. This means there are greater opportunities for women who can come in and show that they can do a great job.” Kasey has prioritized getting out and speaking at non-construction industry events so women can see that both industries are exciting places to work for.
When Kasey started with the company, the construction industry was behind most other industries with its use of technology. “I am proud that I have been able to build a team with the reputation of being a key enabler to helping our business differentiate itself and accomplish their business strategies.” She has made IT a strategic partner at Balfour Beatty, not just a provider of back-of-house technology.
Sree Kala Kadiani
– Assistant Manager for Integrated Projects
“I was fascinated with buildings as a kid and chose architecture as my major in college. My focus during school and working as an architect in India has always been the ‘how it works’, the practicality and mechanics of building construction. That’s when I shifted gears and chose construction management as my career path.” Technology in general contracting was just developing when Sree started her career in construction. “With the experience of using architectural software, I could very easily adapt the technology in construction and lead further development of this technology.”
Sree believes the image of the construction industry is still that it is a man’s world and that it is very difficult to enter into that world. The communication between the “project site” side of construction and the “office” side can be a challenge. “I had to work as part of the ‘boots on the ground’ team to understand their approach to construction and how technology can improve the efficiency of construction. The experience of working on the job site project team helped further my career in construction.
Completing the Parkland Hospital BIM coordination process as BIM manager for the $700 million replacement hospital is one of Sree’s proud accomplishments. “I believe confidence in self and believing in your capabilities will help you succeed in any career path you choose.”