Women in Construction – Spotlight: Chelsea Vaden
In an industry traditionally dominated by men, Ross Group is proud to employee strong women who contribute to construction. One such woman is Chelsea Vaden, one of Ross Group’s assistant project managers (APM).
Chelsea is strong-willed and exhibits an attitude of determination. She doesn’t believe in giving up, even when difficult situations arise. She is focused, willing to do whatever is needed to complete a project, and continuously learning and developing within the construction industry. By consistently going above and beyond in her duties, Chelsea has gained respect from colleagues and clients alike.
Overall, Chelsea does an outstanding job of ensuring her projects are organized and her field staff are properly trained and equipped, securing success across the board.
How did you get into construction?
I started out with another company doing administrative work. They had a small project out in the field and needed someone to keep track of time and file paperwork. When my supervisor saw I was dominant and strong enough to withstand all of what the field had to offer, it progressed. I was on more projects out in the field, and slowly but surely, I was learning how all the pieces went together in the field and I was delegated more responsibility.
What is it like being a woman in construction?
You’re constantly proving yourself. I don’t try to look top notch when I go on site. I don’t look for any attention outside of my construction role. So, whenever I’m on site I’m full-on construction and wear closed toed shoes, jeans, and a polo. I might have on the bare minimum mascara and throw my hair up. I intentionally minimize the potential of being a distraction. In construction, or any workplace for that matter, you expect people to respect you and whenever you walk onto a job site, and as a female, generally they don’t. On previous projects, questions have been asked like, “Is this your wife?,” or “Is this your sister?,” or “Are you with the cleaning crew?” It’s really offensive; however, at the end of the day, it just gives me more of a drive to prove that I’m here for a reason and I know what I’m doing. When I answer questions about what’s going on on-site or how something should be, they start to gain more trust in me and learn that I know what I’m talking about. That’s how I’ve gained respect.
At this point, I’ve created a name for myself and generally have respect when I walk on-site. In my current role as APM, people see my name on emails as I send out information. They know I am responsible for the work being done so when questions arise, they typically come to me. Additionally, since the field team respects me, everyone we work with, such as subcontractors, suppliers, owners, etc., tend to bring the same level of respect to the table.
There are more and more women in the industry, so regardless of whether you are an engineer, an APM, a project engineer (PE), or a project manager, we’re becoming more accepted in construction roles.
What’s one of your favorite parts of construction?
Definitely completing a project. It’s exciting to start a new project, but it’s way more exciting to finish it and see it through. When you see the finished product, it’s a sigh of relief and you think to yourself, “We did this. We completed it.” That small moment where it’s simply done and there’s nothing else to do but move on to the next one.
What are some of the key things you do as an assistant project manager, throughout a project?
As an APM, I’m writing subcontracts, reviewing plans, helping with bid procedures, closeouts, budgeting, pay applications, scheduling, weekly internal and owner progress meetings, and Profit and Loss reports every month. I’m also responsible for teaching/mentoring the PE role as well.
Have you ever experienced anything that was particularly funny or odd on a job site?
Something odd on a job site would be when you work on a historic building and it’s more or less a history project. There are things in the building that you’ve never seen before and you’re just kind of in a moment of awe thinking, wow, I didn’t know that back in the day they used this method or material. during construction, being able to compare methods used now vs methods used then and seeing how far construction and technology has come.
Do you have a favorite project?
Right now, I would say my favorite project was the first one I was given the reins to run myself. It was my first baby. I was out there as superintendent and as an APM, so it was a big deal to me. A highlight so far. Not that it’s going to be the biggest to come, but it was the first.
What are some of your career goals?
I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I want to perfect whatever role I am in and see where that takes me. I want to continue to excel, learn, grow, be coachable, and essentially be a benefit to the company.
Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
I have kids, so I spend the majority of my time with them doing whatever activities they want to do; roller-skating, bowling, or going to the park or swimming pool. Aside from that, I like to go thrifting and just hang out with friends.
What would you say to a little girl with a hammer in her garage with her dad, thinking maybe construction is something she’d be interested in?
Don’t let anyone discourage you and tell you that you can’t. Have the mindset and the determination that no one can tell you that you can’t do something.