March 04, 2019

WIC Week 2019: Steffanie Schrader



What led you to a career in the construction industry?

I initially thought I wanted to be an architect, so I obtained a CAD 2-year degree to get in the door and get my feet wet. I didn't end up going into architecture, but I found great success using my CAD degree to start in the fire protection industry. I did very well as a fire protection designer for 14 years, until I reached a point where I was getting into estimating and sales, which I did not enjoy. I then had the opportunity to move to Barton Malow as a project engineer through my friend Amber Gnann (Healthcare Director, SER). I found that I really enjoyed the organization, standards, and software aspect of that job, and through a lucky turn of being in the right place at the right time, I was able to join the VDC team. I've really found my niche with this group!

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman working in construction?

When I was a fire protection designer, it was challenging to go in the field and be one of the few women on-site. Fire protection is still very male-driven, so I was an oddity. I never experienced any overt harassment of any type, but I did have to sometimes wrangle someone's attention if I brought a male colleague with me somewhere. The GCs tended to automatically assume that my male colleague was in charge. I've found it much easier on the GC side. I think this has a lot to do with overall progress, and a younger generation of men that are more used to treating women as equals in this field. It's also been wonderful at Barton Malow. We have so many women in leadership positions throughout the company. It really feels like a culture of equality and opportunity.

What do you love most about your career?

I love that I get to do so many things in my position. After so many years, I am comfortable with a great deal of knowledge about the industry (although certainly not everything!), which allows me to navigate working with both project teams and my colleagues in the Systems department. I really feel free to focus on my strengths, while constantly learning new skills. When I am able to use my knowledge and skills to help another employee work smarter and more efficiently, I feel really satisfied.

What advice would you give a woman starting out in the industry?

Don't ever doubt yourself. This industry is full of so many opportunities, unrestricted by gender. Find your aptitude, interests, and skills, and pursue them. There is nothing in this industry that you cannot do with knowledge and proficiency. Also, confidence and friendliness will get you in a lot of doors.