Stories of empowered women executing complex and technical projects



March 6, 2020

DPR's Vested Interest in the Workforce

DPR's Elke O'Neill and Joe Garza sat down with us to discuss the new adjustable fit PPE vest and the role it plays in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at DPR

Name: Elke O’Neill

Role at DPR: Preconstruction Manager for Northwest, Bay Area Women Who Build Steering Committee Member, D&I Task Force

Name: Joe Garza

Role at DPR: Regional Safety Manager for Central, Safety Leadership Team, D&I Task Force

Elke O’Neill began her professional journey with DPR Construction 18 years ago and now serves as a preconstruction manager in the Bay Area. Throughout her career and time spent as a project manager, she has carefully studied various aspects of the industry and sought opportunities to create a more equitable environment for women in construction. Elke utilized her experience to redefine, create and manufacture an adjustable fit PPE Vest to play a key role in furthering the conversation surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion at DPR and within the construction industry at large.

Joe Garza has spent a total of 25 years in the construction industry and has built a 17-year career at DPR. Currently, Joe is the face of regional safety for the Central region as well as a part of the Safety Leadership team and Diversity & Inclusion steering committee at DPR. With the ever-changing nature of construction, Joe wholehearted believes that one day the industry will be looking to DPR for ways to improve within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion space. He believes we will be industry champions and leaders in the D&I conversation.

Question: What events or experiences inspired you to create a new PPE vest option?

Elke: I was inspired to look into a more customizable vest option for women several years ago when I was working on-site as a project manager. I tried to find a vest that me fit better and wasn’t as baggy than what was available, and it simply didn’t exist. I decided to reach out to different vest manufacturers to see if there were any vests out there that had the same features being offered in a men’s vest, but in a smaller size, and I couldn’t find any.

Question: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on a jobsite mean to you? Do Safety and DE&I work hand in hand?

Joe: It means an equal playing field for everybody and nobody having to change themselves because a group or person walked into the room—we want everyone to be authentic to who they are. When a problem arises, we want to solve it with a variety of people and perspectives. Look at any of our jobsite gates and you will see a community; how they interact is the same way DPR should operate with our teams. We also have to consider psychological safety: setting people up to think and feel that they have the freedom to be themselves. Over time, safety has been shown to be a gateway to DE&I and to creating a safe space and culture to speak up, especially when we look for those diverse ideas and different points of view.

Question: Explain the process you took to design and manufacture a new vest.

Elke: This process started in 2018 after talking to a manufacturer to see if there was a smaller vest option available—there wasn’t. I partnered with a former DPR employee – Sandy Grayson – who previously ran the DPR store, and worked with her connections to create a custom adjustable vest for everyone in the field. We incorporated all the safety features, sewed an initial vest type for fit and brought it to where we are now. The overall timing took about a year and a half from concept to creating the first vest prototype, but we wanted to make sure we took the time to produce a quality product. We also utilized feedback from women in the industry. We made changes based on their comments.

Question: Who do you think this adjustable fit PPE vest will affect the most?

Joe: I had the opportunity to try it on and think it’s an amazing product. The ripple effect of this vest is giving the user the ability to feel included. It’s the notion that before I walked into a room, someone thought about me and how I wanted to feel—not just that I would be given what is available, but that what I was given would fit me. I’m a medium size, but most jobsites only have XL or XXL available, and that tends to slouch on my body. You start to feel underappreciated and diminished. Having a vest that fits to your body makes you feel comfortable and allows you to put forth your best self on a jobsite.

Question: What has the reaction been so far after announcing the rollout of this new vest?

Elke: The reactions to the new vest have been overwhelmingly positive - people can't wait to get their hands on one. I recently showed the vest to some of DPR's female field and craft team members in Austin, and they were visibly excited about having their own adjustable vests to wear on site.

Question: Where do you see the future of DE&I going at DPR? How do you think our stance will affect the industry?

Joe: The reality is we are being very intentional about how we are growing for our new employees, how we work with our hiring managers, and the way these changes will impact our teams. When you make DE&I top of mind, it creates unique filters to ensure we are really taking care of our people. I hope we get to the point where the industry looks to us for inspiration because of how well we have embedded DE&I into our culture.

To watch the new adjustable fit PPE vest in action, please visit our Video section on the website or watch here.

For questions or purchase inquiries, please email [email protected]

March 5, 2020

Builders at our Core: Nancy Martinez

Nancy Martinez currently works as a labor foreman and Black Hat Safety Supervisor.
Nancy Martinez's excellence and attitude have propelled her to being recognized as both a project foreman and a Black Hat Safety Supervisor in a historically male-dominated industry. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

These days it’s not out of the ordinary to see women working on construction sites—something that was a rarity when Emily Roebling oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 31 percent increase in the total number of women in the construction industry over the last decade. They are empowered to undertake roles previously not open to them. The story of one such female builder is shared in this latest edition of Builders at our Core: Nancy Martinez.

Martinez flexes her team integration muscles on a daily basis. As the leader of a self-perform crew in Virginia that works with dozens of superintendents and a slew of craft teams to maintain order and cleanliness on the job site, she helps keep projects on track and works to spread safety awareness along the way. Her excellence and attitude have propelled her to being recognized as both a project foreman and a Black Hat Safety Supervisor in a historically male-dominated industry. She attributes these achievements to an ‘I can do it’ mentality, simply stating, “We work hard, and there is nothing we can’t do.”

Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there.

Martinez: I’m currently in charge of the labor group for Building 3 on this job site. I heard about DPR from another team member, who happens to be my brother-in-law. I came from an outside contractor, cleaning hospitals, and I’ve been here since November of 2018. I started as a laborer, and as we grew and added more people, I became a lead for Building 1. From there, I became a foreman for electrical rooms and then ended up taking responsibility for the whole building.

I was also recently nominated to be a part of the new Black Hat Safety Supervisors program, which was an honor. The black hat signifies being a safety advocate for the people. We look out for everybody on the site, not just our specific craft team, and we work to spread safety awareness. We are vigilant about safety, which includes everything from making sure people have their PPE on to making sure everyone is tied off properly and has four points of contact.

Nancy Martinez points to a crew member on a DPR job site.
Martinez leads a self-perform crew in Virginia that works with dozens of superintendents and a slew of craft teams to maintain order and cleanliness on the job site. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: How does your team integrate with other teams? How do you work with each other or make things easier for each other?

Martinez: My team goes wherever we are needed. We coordinate with other craft schedules to clean areas when work is done, and we also prepare areas before work starts so craft team members know they are coming into a clean and safe environment. If there’s water in a pit, we figure out the most efficient way to get it out, whether it be pumps connected to a hose or shop vacs, or even a squeegee machine to squeegee it out. If a bunch of plywood needs to be moved, we walk it down three flights of stairs. We pick up trash, sweep break tents and make sure everything is clean and slip-trip-and-fall hazards are minimized so building can continue as it needs to.

Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?

Martinez: Honestly, there’s a whole lot. I helped turn over parts of Building 1 on this site, and it was exciting to be a part of that. We watch a site go from dirt to an entire building. There’s a huge sense of accomplishment that goes along with that. At the end of this project, there will be a big reveal, and I will be able to say I was a part of that. But I think my proudest moment was becoming a foreman. It was a recognition of my determination and the contributions I’ve made to the team. It’s a real honor.

Martinez oversees a crew member on a DPR job site.
Martinez helps keep projects on track and works to spread safety awareness along the way as a Black Hat Safety Supervisor. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Martinez: One challenge is managing so many moving parts. We have 23 superintendents running three different buildings, with each of them needing something different. Managing that takes some creativity. Everything else is cake. (Laughing) Before this, I was always a small fry. At first, I was terrified of being put in charge, but the superintendents I work with were able to guide me through how to handle everything, which made it easier. I just take it one room at a time.

Q: What do you love about construction/your job?

Martinez: It’s never the same work over and over again; there’s always something new. You can come onto a construction site doing one thing, and three years down the line be doing something completely different. The really great thing at DPR is there is unlimited potential for growth, and the work you do is recognized and rewarded.

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?

Martinez: Honestly, I think it comes down to self-determination. There’s not one single skill I can identify in my role. It comes down to the desire to do the work and to do it well. Anybody can push a broom. What really matters is how you go about doing it. Anybody can pick up a piece of wood, but it’s another thing to pick up a 20-foot two-by-four and walk it down three floors. You have to see the work to its finish and every little bit matters.

Martinez and a coworker lift  a sign together.
Martinez attributes her achievements to an ‘I can do it’ mentality, stating, “We work hard, and there is nothing we can’t do.” Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What advice would you give other women who want to get into the industry?

Martinez: We are in a predominantly male industry, and we work just as hard as they do. It’s vital that we have an ‘I can do it’ mentality. If guys can do it, we can too. I see other females in our industry—painters, finishers, drywallers, electricians, laborers. A lot of them do duct work. I’ve even seen a female steelworker. There is nothing we can’t do. You get out of it what you put in, and the opportunities are there for us, as well.

March 3, 2020

Breaking Down Barriers: Getting to Know the Pioneering Women in Construction

When Dolly Wisley showed up at a local construction company in the booming town of Overgaard, Arizona, the hiring manager assumed she was looking for her husband. She asked for a job application and was promptly turned down. The fact that Wisley had experience helping to build her family’s cabin, falling in love with carpentry in the process, didn’t matter. The year was 1938, and popular opinion still held that a woman’s place was in the home. We’ve come a long way.

Women have been a part of building since the early days of recorded history. A 13th Century Spanish site records women doing such things as carrying lime for mortar, digging foundation trenches, sculpting and painting. They weren’t paid well for their long days of hard work, earning half as much as their male counterparts, but they made significant contributions nonetheless.

In the late 1800s, Emily Roebling became the first documented “woman field engineer” in the US, overseeing the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge and being the first to cross it when it opened in 1883. She stepped in because her husband had become ill, and as women throughout history have learned, success means jumping in on the opportunities that present themselves. Forty-three years later, in 1926, Lillian Gilbreth graduated as an industrial engineer and became the first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers.

German window cleaners head to work during World War I. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical

Examples such as these were something of a rarity before World War II, when another huge opportunity came along. The shortage of male workers created by the vast numbers of men fighting overseas allowed women to fill in these labor gaps. Once viewed as incapable of performing mechanical jobs and heavy labor, women routinely began to operate cranes on shipyards and to work as riveters and welders in heavy equipment plants. Then, three decades later, a woman became the first female hard-hat boss to oversee an American skyscraper from start to finish. That woman was Barbara Res, who used the electrical engineering degree she obtained in 1971 to build a successful career in construction and engineering.

Over the decades that followed, more and more women entered the workforce, representing a shift in the traditional view of a “woman’s place” in society. This resulted in more value being placed on the unique perspectives women bring to organizations. Stanford lecturer, Fern Mandelbaum, teaches that women’s differences can be used as significant advantages. “Women are often considered better listeners, intuitive and innovative, who create more collaborative cultures at their companies.” As anyone who has ever visited a construction site can attest, robust collaboration is a critical component to delivering a successful project.

Workers learn to weld in an aircraft construction class during World War II in Florida. Photo courtesy of Everett Historical

Advances in technology and machinery such as cranes, forklifts, jacks and other equipment, have rendered any perceived shortfalls in upper body strength and mechanical ability no longer a bar to entry into the field. These days, construction sites work smarter rather than harder, and teamwork and collaboration are viewed as not only pathways to success, but also to creating and maintaining safe environments.

DPR Construction is proud of its female team members, who work in various roles, from superintendent to project engineer, and from MEP coordinator to craft team member. Women are more empowered now than ever to make significant contributions to the construction industry, a change that was hard won by standing on the shoulders of the pioneering women who came before. The plaque honoring Emily Roebling that hangs on the Brooklyn Bridge is a powerful reminder of this history.

A plaque honoring Emily Warren Roebling sits on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo courtesy of Luis War

October 23, 2019

Introducing 'Girls Go Build,' a Program Aimed at Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Who Build

In Delray Beach, FL, the City is working towards creating alignment of education with workforce needs, in an effort to retain talented workers and to prepare for future employment demands. With a desire to be a part of the strategic plan, DPR Construction teamed with the City and the Milagro Center to pilot the Girls Go Build program.

The seven-week program was developed to encourage girls to expand their math- and science-based learning, to increase their interest and enrollment in local technical high school programs and to shift attitudes about careers in technical trades. Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center—hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry.

Through leading sessions and workshops, volunteers from the local DPR team worked with about 20 middle-school girls at the Milagro Center, hoping to inspire the next generation of Women Who Build to enter the construction industry.

"The Girls Go Build program would not have been possible without the support of the DPR staff," said Janet Meeks, education coordinator with Delray Beach. "The fact that DPR already had some hands-on, age appropriate activities that helped the girls understand the construction industry was awesome."

Lina Nageondelestang, who serves as project manager in DPR's Fort Lauderdale office, headed up the community initiative.

"We were excited to jump on board to help (the City and the Milagro Center) put together a curriculum for the summer pilot program and then lead several of the sessions," Nageondelestang commented.

DPR was directly in charge of four of the seven Girls Go Build sessions. They included:

  • an introduction and overview session that included a marshmallow building activity (which "helped them learn the importance of creating a 'strong foundation,'" Meeks noted);
  • a toolbox build session focused on safety and tools;
  • a Chopper Tower session where the girls played a DPR-developed game introducing them to aspects of constructability;
  • a graduation/bench building session in which volunteers helped the girls build several picnic tables that are now in use at the Milagro Center.
Girls participated in a Chopper Tower session where they played a DPR-developed game introducing them to aspects of constructability.

Each DPR-led session kicked off with a conversation about the path each of the volunteers took to get into the construction industry.

"I think opening their eyes to the potential career opportunities that there are in the industry was the most rewarding part," Nageondelestang said. "Letting them know that, as girls, they actually can do construction and not to be afraid of it just because they are female."

Having DPR women facilitate much of the programming made a big impact, according to Meeks.

"The middle-school girls could relate and see themselves taking on similar roles," Meeks said. "It's powerful to see minority women in management positions, and these girls were fascinated by the career stories."

For most of the Milagro Center girls who participated in the pilot program, Girls Go Build offered them their first up-close look at construction tools and methods, as well as an introduction to potential well-paying careers that many had never considered before.

For most of the Milagro Center girls who participated in the pilot program, Girls Go Build offered them their first up-close look at construction tools and methods, as well as an introduction to potential well-paying careers that many had never considered before.

Student Elavanise Louis-Juste said she was inspired by the innovative program.

"I originally wanted to become a nurse. I like taking care of people and my mom takes care of people in Haiti," she said. "But now I like construction because I can build houses in Haiti for people, and I can learn the techniques of what to do."

The City considered the program to be a success, achieving the goals it had laid out.

"The program accomplished our objectives by exposing girls to the many different career options in the construction trades," Meeks concluded. "The biggest success was that one of the girls was going to go into the medical choice program at Atlantic High School and changed that track to the construction academy."

May 29, 2019

Rebuilding for a Better Future

Through the buildings we create, the people we grow and the communities we serve, DPR has a real opportunity to transform our world. We strive to be integral and indispensable, and we are fortunate to have motivated employees who like to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and put their core building skills to use throughout the year.

Last month, DPR offices across the country joined with partner Rebuilding Together to take part in the non-profit’s National Rebuilding Month. Volunteers included all-female groups, admin employees, craft workers and students who worked together to repair and ultimately transform spaces to better serve their communities.

SHEBUILDS showcases the ability of women in construction and design industries to assist and empower other women, even from their own backyard.

#WomenWhoBuild in San Francisco

DPR’s Women Who Build in the Bay Area participated in the third annual SHEBUILDS event in San Francisco. SHEBUILDS showcases the ability of women in construction and design industries to assist and empower other women, even from their own backyard.

Several women from IBEW Union Local 6 and the local carpenters union brought their apprentices and students to the site, where they joined around 40 DPR employees. Together, the all-female group completed a full day of hands-on-work and repairs at the Oakes Children’s Center, a non-profit school in the city’s Outer Mission/Bernal Heights district. The organization serves over 200 students who require an alternative, resource-intensive learning environment.

Together, the all-female group completed a full day of hands-on-work and repairs at the Oakes Children’s Center, a non-profit school in the city’s Outer Mission/Bernal Heights district. The organization serves over 200 students who require an alternative, resource-intensive learning environment.

“The newly painted spaces are bright, clean and so incredibly welcoming,” said Annie Crowder, director of Oakes Children’s Center. “The redwood bench/planter boxes are amazing, and I was especially struck by the way the carpenters patiently taught their apprentices and students how to construct the benches.”

With a goal of making the space safer and more inviting, work ranged from painting and beautifying the outdoor space, to electrical and lighting work. All levels of experience were welcome, and everyone played a role.

“The energy was amazing with all these women,” DPR Community Initiative Coordinator Rena Crittendon commented. “There was a lot of enthusiasm to get in there and get to work, and for people to stay as long as they did [nine or even 11-hour workdays] and keep going was really neat.”

“The energy was amazing with all these women,” DPR Community Initiative Coordinator Rena Crittendon commented. “There was a lot of enthusiasm to get in there and get to work, and for people to stay as long as they did [nine or even 11-hour workdays] and keep going was really neat.”

After a day to be proud of, Crowder added, “Overall, I could not have imaged a better day with more dedicated, strong, compassionate women who literally transformed our campus in a matter of hours. We are so very grateful for SHEBUILDS, DPR and all the wonderful volunteers for their service!”

Saying “Thank you” in Houston

A few hours away in Houston, volunteers thanked a military vet for his service by renovating his and his wife’s home.

Jeff Griffin, DPR’s self-perform lead for the Houston office and cochair of DPR’s Rebuilding Together initiative in the region, brought together craft and jobsite workers, project managers, project engineers, admin employees and others for an effort involving an estimated 240-plus volunteer hours over the course of two days.

A few hours away in Houston, volunteers thanked a military vet for his service by renovating his and his wife’s home.
"The before and after pictures are incredible," Griffin commented.

“In general, our people like to get out there and swing a hammer, dig a hole, paint, spread mulch, or whatever,” Griffin commented. “Everybody was excited about helping out and making the house look beautiful again. The before and after pictures are incredible.”

Rebuilding Throughout the Year in San Diego

Volunteers keep the momentum of National Rebuilding Month moving in San Diego. In May, DPR’s Preconstruction Team worked with Rebuilding Together to repair the house of a resident who has battled cancer for several years. Volunteers repaired drywall and flooring, painted, fixed a broken shower and performed other miscellaneous work to improve the safety and livability of the house.

We strive to be integral and indispensable, and we are fortunate to have motivated employees who like to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and put their core building skills to use throughout the year.

Sarah Williams, who heads DPR’s San Diego community initiative group, said hands-on projects generate a lot of interest and enthusiasm.

“Being a construction company, this is where we most like to use our skills, and people tend to get pretty excited about these opportunities,” Williams said. “There is just so much need, and it’s good to be able to find areas where we can really help out using our core skillsets.”

Community events help employees live out DPR's enjoyment core value.

The Sharp Santee MOB project team is looking forward to June, not only for the summer sun, but for the volunteer opportunities. At least 20 members of the project team, including DPR, the architect and design-build subcontractors, have planned to make repairs to a family home. Scope includes painting, electrical work, and landscaping repairs to make the home more habitable for a family in need.

With pride in her team, Williams estimates both projects combined will tally at least 400 volunteer hours.

March 8, 2019

Celebrating International Women's Day 2019

Being integral and indispensable to our communities has been part of DPR’s vision since its founding. One aspect of achieving this goal includes having offices that are representative of the communities where we work—offices where everyone feels included and diversity fuels creativity.

We asked employees, “what does diversity and inclusion mean to you?” and “how do you feel that your unique attributes, traits, characteristics, skills, experience and background are celebrated or valued at DPR?" We received answers from all genders, positions, and regions of the company; all were insightful and painted a promising picture of how a more diverse and inclusive world can flourish.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we wanted to share a few of the responses—we hope they inspire you as much as they have inspired us.

March 6, 2019

Giving the Industry a Nudge: Leading a Healthy Dialogue on Diversity and Inclusion

Empowering women has been part of DPR Construction’s entrepreneurial spirit since the beginning. When the company developed its first mission in 1992, “to be a truly great construction company by the year 2000,” it cited a tangible image to have minorities and women in senior level estimator and project manager positions.

“We’ve always aspired to be a diverse and inclusive company,” said Jody Quinton, who serves on DPR’s Management Team. “It’s inspiring to see the progress that has been made, especially over the last few years as more and more companies focus on raising awareness, providing training and driving change.”

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, construction companies, like DPR, have an opportunity to set an example and help nudge the industry forward with increased unconscious bias training and dialogue around what diversity and inclusion looks like for the leading technical builder as it expands its operations internationally.

In that vein, the Women Who Build of DPR met in Amsterdam at the Women in Construction Europe conference late last year. The DPR team, consisting of members from DPR’s U.S. and Amsterdam offices, met over the course of two days to not only discuss the progress that women have made, but also the tangible steps can be taken to make the industry even more equitable.

The DPR team, consisting of members from DPR’s U.S. and Amsterdam offices, met at the Women in Construction Europe conference to not only discuss the progress that women have made, but also the tangible steps can be taken to make the industry even more equitable.

“It helped spur conversations that I wouldn’t have participated in otherwise, and it helped me think about how I can be more proactive in my day-to-day work,” said Shelby Riddell, who currently works as the Southwest marketing lead but is transitioning into a new marketing leadership role for DPR’s Europe and Asia-Pacific operations.

Riddell found DPR when interviewing a woman for a class project who happened to be recruiting for the company. Upon learning more, she knew that DPR was a place where she could explore different roles.

“Having such diverse interests and limitless curiosity, this was hugely important to me,” Riddell said.

Mary Romeo happened upon construction in an introductory class in college and was drawn to DPR because of its reputation for operating differently and for pushing innovative efforts in construction. After volunteering with AmeriCorps after graduation, she knew DPR was the only company she wanted to work for and now serves as a preconstruction manager on a Data Center campus project near Amsterdam.

As DPR continues to establish a presence overseas, it continues its journey to actively support and promote women. Its operations in Europe reflect those values—within a year of operating from its base in Amsterdam, more than a third of its leadership positions are held by women.

Many of the women who build at DPR stumbled upon it serendipitously and come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, but all found themselves drawn to the spirit and strong values that DPR upholds. Rachael Broad, who initially wanted to be an architect before pursuing engineering, works as a project engineer in the Amsterdam office. According to her, DPR gave her more purpose and meaning than where she had previously worked.

“I felt that I had found something I didn’t even know existed and aligned with many of my closely-held values,” Broad said.

As a sponsor of the Women in Construction Europe conference, DPR led a panel discussion about unconscious bias and gave a skills-based training presentation on negotiation. The panel discussion was especially powerful as it gave attendees the opportunity to speak frankly about the challenges they face as women in a still heavily male-dominated industry, such as a lack of female mentors and prevailing stereotypes.

Attendees of the Women in Construction Europe conference said it helped spur conversations that they wouldn’t have participated in otherwise.

“My drive and natural leadership have been misunderstood as ‘intense’ or ‘bitchy’,” Riddell said.

Lael Blum echoed a similar frustration, saying she often has a difficult time being heard.

“It’s a fine line to tread between being confident and driven, and being perceived as tough and bullish. This is not something men have to compete with in the same way,” she said.

Romeo added that she wishes there was a greater spirit of women helping other women.

“I think women work so hard to get where they are that sometimes they forget to look back and help other women in the industry,” Romeo said.

As DPR continues to establish a presence overseas, it continues its journey to actively support and promote women. Its operations in Europe reflect those values—within a year of operating from its base in Amsterdam, more than a third of its leadership positions are held by women.

It is a business imperative to advance women both internally and externally, and DPR hopes that by providing more training, celebrating women who build, and participating in the conferences to create more open and honest dialogue, it will continue to help shape an industry where women are able to succeed no matter their position or employer.

Blum worked for a DPR competitor in the Bay Area before moving to Amsterdam with her family but found that she missed the construction career she had built.

“When I got a call that DPR was opening an office in Amsterdam I was absolutely thrilled to join a company I had long admired and get to continue in an industry and career I love while living in Amsterdam,” Blum said. She now serves as a project manager.

By DPR continuing to prioritize the advancement of women, it continues to lead and help change the field for the better. It is a business imperative to advance women both internally and externally, and DPR hopes that by providing more training, celebrating women who build, and participating in the conferences to create more open and honest dialogue, it will continue to help shape an industry where women are able to succeed no matter their position or employer.

“Working at DPR means you were part of an incredible team to make it happen. Construction doesn’t happen because of only one person, we’re only able to accomplish what we do because we work together so well,” Romeo said.

February 21, 2019

Builders at our Core: Annie Brown

In the latest installment of Builders at Our Core, DPR focuses on SPW Laborer, Annie Brown. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

A significant contingency of DPR Construction’s self-perform work corps are laborers, who do everything from loading and unloading building materials, to building and tearing down scaffolding, to cleaning and preparing construction sites by removing possible hazards—work they perform with the core value of safety serving as a guide.

One such SPW Laborer is Annie Brown, who works out of DPR’s Richmond, Virginia office. Her personal commitment to safety is informed by the belief that safety is everyone’s job, and she weaves it into everything she does. Her path has been driven by hard work and determination to “not only get the job done, but get the job done the right way.” She shared some of her insights on doing great work while keeping those around her safe on the job.

Q: What do you love about construction/your job?

Brown: I love being a part of the great things DPR has constructed and continues to. But I also love connecting with the clients and staff at our project sites. When I worked on the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Health PSR Operating Room Renovation, we used to pass out ice cream to the nightshift staff.

DPR’s Annie Brown believes the key to her success is focusing not just on getting the job done, but getting it done right. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s your favorite thing to build/type of project to work on?

Brown: I believe every project that I’ve been on has been and is a great experience, small or large, but I loved working on the VCU Health PSR Operating Room because I was able to see the transformation from start to finish. It made me feel great that I was able to contribute to the improvement of medical services, not only for the staff, but also for the patients.

Q: What are you most proud of?

Brown: I enjoy working for a company that continuously makes me feel like part of the team. Each one of DPR’s core values has not only projected into my career but also into my personal life. I’m reliable, a team player, a hard worker and very personable.

DPR’s Annie Brown gets personal satisfaction out of delivering quality work to DPR’s customers. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Brown: Making sure that each project has a clean and safe work environment. Because I’ve been through OSHA 10, I look out for safety. If I see someone doing something with more risk, I correct them. I say, 'Just letting you know. Just keeping you safe.' It's everybody's job.

Q: Over the course of your career, what is the most important thing you have learned?

Brown: Each project has its own unique way of doing things. Each project has its own challenges. As long as you work together as a team, you can overcome those challenges.

DPR’s Annie Brown espouses not only hard work and determination, but also working together as a team to get the job done. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Brown: You need to work hard and be determined, but the most important thing is to be a team player. You absolutely have to work together to get the job done.

From ensuring jobsite safety to building relationships with colleagues and clients, Annie Brown imbues her work with the values DPR holds dear.

August 1, 2018

Celebrating Women Who Build: All-Female Team Creates Positive Change in Community

This spring, about 40 women from DPR and across the industry came together to make much-needed improvements at Project Bayview, a home in San Francisco for women transitioning out of difficult situations, including homelessness, addiction and human trafficking.

As part of Rebuilding Together San Francisco’s second annual SHEBUILDS community project, the team of all-female builders, engineers, craftspeople and community volunteers worked to increase health and safety at Project Bayview, empowering women to become change-makers in their communities.

This spring, an all-female build team came together to make much-needed improvements at Project Bayview, a home in San Francisco for women transitioning out of difficult situations. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

Over the course of two build days, the SHEBUILDS team completed a series of improvements to the women’s home, including:

  • Turning an empty, unmaintained backyard area into an outdoor living space, including installing a new raised deck area and landscaping to create a safe, peaceful place for women and their children;
  • Building a platform for the washer and dryer to prevent flooding;
  • Installing a new pot-filler faucet and garbage disposal in the kitchen;
  • Patching holes, drywalling, painting, caulking and organizing throughout the home.

“The great thing was not only did we have skilled carpenters on this project, but also women who just wanted to learn more and wanted to give back,” said DPR’s Renee Powers. “We had an incredibly cohesive team of all-women builders working together to create positive change for other women.”

The team turned an empty, unmaintained backyard area into an outdoor living space, including installing a new raised deck area and landscaping to create a safe, peaceful place for women and their children. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

According to Heather Kusunoki, house manager at Project Bayview, some of the women living at the home joined the team to work on repairs, and were inspired working alongside and learning from the all-women team’s attention to detail and quality. One of these women now aspires to enter the trades after she finishes her program at Project Bayview, breaking a cycle of difficult situations and creating a new one: one of women empowering women to create positive change in their lives and communities.

Check out radio host Peter Finch’s podcast about the SHEBUILDS project, featuring DPR’s Vic Julian and Lea Rewinski here!

The team of all-female builders, engineers, craftspeople and community volunteers worked to increase health and safety at Project Bayview, empowering women to become change-makers in their communities. Photo courtesy of Matt Pranzo

May 11, 2018

Mother's Day Comes Full Circle for DPR's Gretchen Kinsella

In 2016, DPR’s Gretchen Kinsella gave birth to her daughter at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix (BUMCP), in one of the very same rooms that she helped build back in 2004. Gretchen is DPR’s youngest project executive in the Phoenix region, managing the largest project that DPR has ever built in the area—the $318-million BUMCP.

When she started at DPR as an intern in 2002, Kinsella’s first full-time project at DPR was Banner Good Samaritan Hospital (now BUMCP). She was given a lot of responsibility, because she asked for it. She continued to raise her hand for challenging projects as she progressed to becoming a project engineer, project manager and project executive.

And 15 years later, she chose an OB/GYN that delivers at BUMCP because she felt there was no better place for her personally to bring her daughter into this world. She was coming full circle, with the child she gave birth to at the site of the project she helped create.

Today, Gretchen reflects on her special moment, and shares how passion for her work empowers her to be her best self, making her the best mom that she can be.

Read Gretchen’s full story, “How to Ask for What You Want and Find Your Voice in a Male-Dominated Industry,” on ENR.