The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is celebrating its 25th “Women in Construction Week,” and OpenSpace is proud to support our women customers and, of course, those on our own OpenSpace team. We thought we’d take the opportunity to shine a light on the experiences and success of some amazing women we’ve been lucky to meet through our OpenSpace Community Pathfinder program.
Kirsten Ratzlaff, Safety Officer at HR Pacific
Kirsten Ratzlaff’s family always encouraged her to chase her dreams. With that support and the knowledge that a traditional four-year degree wasn’t for her, she spent time traveling, quenching her thirst for adventure.
Back home after her travels, a number of Kirsten’s male friends were working in the trades, making twice what she was at her waitressing job.
“I thought to myself: If they can do it, so can I.”
Kirsten enrolled in a Trades Discovery Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), where she was able to survey 22 different trades. In the end, electrical work was her match, and she chose to put her new skills to work in construction. With many years in the industry under her belt, she’s dedicated to helping more women step into her field, even teaching the next generation of electricians at BCIT.
“When I started out as an electrician, I didn’t work with any women. Even in school, I was usually the only girl in my class. Now I have so many girlfriends who are electricians. The world of construction and the trades have come a long way.”
Kirsten and OpenSpace
Now working as a safety officer at family-owned builder and contractor, HR Pacific, Kirsten has been using OpenSpace for several years, primarily to document and share updates with weekly progress reports. She also believes that, long term, the software will have many more applications at HR Pacific.
“[OpenSpace is] really multilayered, and it will be interesting to see what it shows us over the course of years.”
Read Kirsten’s full Pathfinder story for the valuable advice she has for women in construction.
Anna Johnson, MEP Superintendent at Turner Construction
Anna Johnson chose to study engineering in college in part because she wanted an education that would lead to careers with job security. After early career aspirations of designing and building theme parks and being a facilities engineer with NASA, Anna discovered international construction services company, Turner Construction, at a job fair.
Anna knew right away she found a great match with the construction industry, and with Turner. She started as an Assistant Project Engineer, and as she continued learning and developing her skills, she advanced to Project Engineer, moved to Lead Estimator, and then pivoted to MEP Superintendent, finding satisfaction in a more “boots-on-the-ground” role. Anna also happens to be the only female superintendent on her team.
Anna and OpenSpace
Anna used OpenSpace for captures and management on a large data center project and said it was instrumental in successfully documenting the over 600-acre site.
“I’m always looking for opportunities in all facets of my life to lead and inspire when it comes to using new technologies, so I’m a huge advocate for OpenSpace.”
Read Anna’s full Pathfinder story to see how she’s helping lead the way for integrating technology in the construction industry.
Sarah Ortiz, Project Engineer at VECA Electric & Technologies
When she was a senior in high school, Sarah Ortiz enrolled and excelled in an advanced placement computer science class, leading her to Santa Clara University in California and pursuing a computer engineering degree.
While Sarah worked hard at Santa Clara, she began to doubt if computer science was the right choice, wondering if sitting at a desk all day coding was really what she wanted. It all fell into place when she landed an IT and project management internship with electrical contractor, VECA Electric & Technologies. She enjoyed all the work thrown her way, including getting out of the office for site visits. After graduation, she accepted a full-time position at VECA.
Sarah and OpenSpace
One of Sarah’s first projects at VECA was an overhaul of electrical systems at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, specifically the airport’s conveyor belt systems. The company tapped Sarah to pioneer OpenSpace on the project. Previously she was taking numerous photos of the conveyor belt areas, uploading them back at the office, and manually linking them to documentation.
“OpenSpace has been a game changer. …How can you compete with [360° images]?”
Sarah was instrumental in VECA’s decision to expand OpenSpace for their reality capture. We appreciate how excited she’s been to share OpenSpace with others on the team. Read her full Pathfinder story and discover how she uses the tech to keep projects on schedule.
Rhonda El-Hachache, Assistant Project Manager at W.E. O’Neil Construction
In high school, Rhonda El-Hachache excelled in math and science and knew she wanted to apply her talents, especially in physics, to her future career. Later in school, civil engineering really sparked her interest. Rhonda was delighted to gain admittance to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and declared a major in civil engineering.
As she progressed in college, Rhonda was leaning toward a geotechnical path, until she attended a job fair on campus, opening her up to the world of construction. She was surprised at the number of construction companies at the fair, and her interest was piqued. Landing an internship at W.E. O’Neil Construction changed everything.
“It was so rewarding to see results day after day. I really got to be part of that daily progress. It was so rewarding to see it right before my eyes and to know that I was contributing to it. That internship really solidified things for me. I realized I really, really liked it and wanted to continue in construction.”
Rhonda and OpenSpace
Post-college, Rhonda is now working full-time as a senior project engineer at W.E. O’Neill, and is grateful to have found a career that offers a balance of computer tasks and on-site work. She finds inspiration in the daily progress of each project and the collaborative environment, including coordinating the use of OpenSpace.
“It’s so useful to have OpenSpace captures so we can look at past work and make sure something got done. And any time we’re not able to be on-site, we can use OpenSpace to know everything that’s going on.”
Read Rhonda’s full Pathfinder story to learn more about her experiences in construction and her passion for collaboration and sharing knowledge with others.
Pauline Schoech, VDC Coordinator at Brasfield & Gorrie
Pauline Schoech describes her time in high school as “ordinary”—she enjoyed school, tested into AP classes, and enjoyed time with friends and family. Since she was strong in math, her mother encouraged her to study architecture.
Pauline wasn’t sure she could see herself pursuing architecture, and then one day, her older brother brought home a set of plans from his construction job.
“I thought they were the coolest thing, like a mixture of art and math. That’s what pushed me to start thinking of construction as a potential career path.”
With a full scholarship offer from Georgia Tech, Pauline headed to Atlanta. While Tech is one of the top engineering schools in the U.S., it didn’t offer a construction program, so she chose a major in civil engineering. In her final year, Pauline landed an internship at general contracting firm, Brasfield & Gorrie, which led to a full-time offer after graduation. Starting as preconstruction manager, then project manager, Pauline made the jump to the virtual design and construction (VDC) team.
“I absolutely love VDC, and it’s the area I intend to focus on going forward. I get to play with all the fun, new technology that helps projects to succeed.”
Pauline and OpenSpace
Pauline was introduced to OpenSpace while working on a 57-acre project that required 15 project managers and nearly 600 workers to be on-site every day. She and the team used OpenSpace to keep everyone on the same page.
“By the end of the week, you get a really holistic view of what the job looks like without having to spend eight hours a day on the site walking and taking photos. [OpenSpace is] a great way to showcase the project and all the progress we’ve made without incurring the expense of people constantly traveling down to Florida.”
Pauline is proud of how her innovative use of OpenSpace has helped give colleagues across the country a view into what her team is accomplishing on the ground.
Read Pauline’s full Pathfinder story to learn how her experience with OpenSpace and other technologies give her faith that people are willing to learn and try new things.
Beka Graham, Project Engineer at Joeris General Contractors
From a young age, Beka Graham knew she wasn’t meant for a job that required being tethered to a desk. She also was obsessed with HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” especially seeing the homes come together and the emotional response of the homeowners when they saw them for the first time.
In high school, Beka’s interest in building and construction grew. At a school career day students were asked to dress up as their “future career”—she came to school wearing a tool belt and steel-toed boots. Beka didn’t appreciate that people assumed her plan was to become an architect and quickly corrected them, saying she planned to be a construction worker. Since then, she’s been passionate about changing the stigma that women should be designing instead of building.
Beka next headed to Texas A&M to attend their top construction science program and loved the hard-working and driven people she met. While there were only a handful of female students when she was a freshman, she was pleased to see those numbers substantially increase in the following years. At a university job fair, Beka interviewed with Joeris General Contractors and was hired as a project manager. Her new role was the thing she was looking for—definitely not a “sit at your desk all day” job.
“It’s very interactive; I meet a lot of new people and I’m constantly learning.”
Beka and OpenSpace
One of Beka’s responsibilities at Joeris is taking photos for site documentation, which she initially was doing manually. When Joeris rolled out OpenSpace, not only did she have complete visual documentation of the site, it opened a whole new world of collaboration for Beka.
“The more we use OpenSpace, the more I can’t imagine how we ever got by without it.”
Read Beka’s full Pathfinder story to see how she plans to continue growing in the commercial construction field, plus buy her own house one day and of course fix it up on her own!
Moving the needle
With about 11 million workers in construction in the U.S., women make up just a little over one million. At OpenSpace we’d like to see that needle move, which is one reason we’re thrilled to collaborate with each of these Pathfinders, who inspire more women to investigate the possibilities of a career in construction. The industry has so much to offer, including:
- A diverse array of rewarding, fast-paced job functions from the trades to VDC management to inspector to engineer to anything that inspires you.
- A much smaller gender pay gap with women earning about 95.5% of what men earn, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- A high demand for new workers, and an initiative announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo to double the number of women working in the industry over the next decade.
Learn more and get involved
Are you inspired to enter the construction industry or looking to advance to your next construction role? We pulled together some information and resources dedicated to women in construction. For starters, head to the NAWIC website to learn everything about this year’s Women in Construction Week and check out their glossary of helpful education resources.
If you’re a woman in construction interested in reality capture, consider joining our team! And whether you use OpenSpace or not, we would love to welcome you as the newest member of our Community. Step into your future using these helpful links: