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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
This time last year, DPR Construction launched a monthly blog series dedicated to sharing stories of women who build great things in honor of International Women’s Day, International Women’s Week, Women in Construction Week and Women’s History Month.
Construction is a traditionally male-dominated industry that is only 9.3 percent women (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Since spring 2017, the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series has told stories of women who are successfully executing complex, technical projects for some of the world's most progressive and admired companies. The goal has always been to help connect and inspire women in the industry as they build meaningful careers—whether it’s as a project engineer, a superintendent, a project executive, an architect or an owner.
The experiences, challenges and ambitions of the Women Who Build featured in the series resonated with people across the country, who responded with encouragement, support and excitement. Many reached out to share how the determination, strength and spirit of women they read about positively impacted their day, life or career path.
DPR’s initial yearlong campaign culminates with a video, but the Celebrating Women Who Build blog series will continue, just like our efforts to create a strong, inclusive environment where everyone thrives.
When Pat McDowell was a kid, she thought she was going to be a “mad scientist” when she grew up. With a desk covered with pipettes, test tubes and beakers, she conducted her own experiments for hours and hours–never enough to satisfy her curious mind.
Today, she builds the laboratory and research facilities where life-saving medicine and therapies are brought to market. As a MEP coordinator at DPR, she specializes in complex and ever-changing MEP systems in life sciences facilities, made particularly challenging because of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements and procedures. In most situations, the products being created in the facilities she builds will eventually end up in a person’s body, giving her work extra meaning. To her, MEP systems are “alive,” and once they are installed, it’s just the beginning. McDowell’s passion lies in making sure the systems–whether it is mechanical, electrical or piping–are integrated so facilities run as safely and efficiently as possible.
McDowell joined DPR in 1994 after she graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with a degree in construction management, because she was attracted to the company’s entrepreneurial culture and opportunities for growth. Early in her career, she had trouble initially convincing customers and craft workers in the field that she knew what she was doing. She chooses to drive a DPR truck because she has encountered people who have difficulty accepting that she works for a general contractor and belongs onsite–especially guards at security gates–while she is driving her personal car. Over time, she built a reputation as a hands-on, well-respected builder, earning the trust of her teams and customers.
“There aren’t a lot of people who do what I do, who look how I do,” she said. “Trust and respect are built by helping each other. We’re all one team, so something as simple as giving people a heads up of what’s to come, so we don’t get ourselves backed into a tight situation, goes a long way.”
In her nearly 24 years with DPR, McDowell has grown with DPR, working on several large-scale projects, including:
UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, an award-winning 878,000-sq.ft. ground-up hospital complex renowned for its integrated project delivery (IPD) approach and state-of-the-art patient care.
McDowell remembers how in the early days of DPR, everybody worked across multiple roles, creating well-rounded talent and teams of dynamic seller-doers. After years of growth and change, she’s seen DPR’s unique, empowered culture remain intact and provide people with even more opportunities to develop and grow. Now, her focus is on sharing her experience and passing knowledge on to the next generation of builders.
Speaking at a Girls, Inc. after-school workshop about careers in the construction industry, McDowell told the group of third to fifth graders, “Never settle thinking that you know everything, because every day you can learn something new. Be curious, and always try to learn just a little bit more. You never know when you will have your next breakthrough.”
It is this constant curiosity and desire to learn, develop and grow that has driven McDowell throughout her entire career. And every day she goes to work, doing what she loves, she hopes to teach and inspire others to become the builders, engineers or mad scientists that they dream to be.
It takes courage to go with your gut, muster up the nerve to follow your passion and make a major career change. That’s exactly what Irma Jauregui did in 2005, when she quit her job as a first grade teacher in the underserved neighborhood of Compton, California to pursue a dream she’d had since college to work in design or construction.
After double-majoring in architecture and Spanish at Wellesley College, Jauregui became equally interested in teaching, and went on to earn her master’s from Loyola Marymount University in education. Growing up in an underserved community in East Los Angeles, Jauregui chose to teach in a similar area, where there was a shortage of teachers. Setting the groundwork for students to be successful throughout the rest of their educational and professional careers was her way to give back to the community, and helping talented students create better lives for themselves was her greatest reward.
“Teaching is a selfless career; you give so much of yourself to your students. For me, the design and construction industry was always in the back of my mind as my own personal interest and passion. If I didn’t explore it, I knew I would have regretted it,” she said.
The transition between two very different industries was bridged by her first project: a large expansion and renovation of a community college, as Jauregui connects especially with buildings that will become spaces for learning and educating the next generation. She joined DPR in 2015, attracted to the entrepreneurial culture where people with diverse skillsets and expertise could make a difference with their ideas and hard work. The team of smart people with strong values appreciated different backgrounds and experiences–and saw her first career in education as an asset, not a drawback.
As a project manager based out of DPR’s Newport Beach office, Jauregui now manages cost control on a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, completing in January 2018. In both fields of education and construction, proper planning and always keeping sight of priorities is crucial to success. Jauregui boils down both of her careers to helping people reach their goals, whether it is a first grader learning to read, or a large technology client building a corporate campus as safely and efficiently as possible.
This summer, as part of DPR’s pilot Build Up high school internship program, which offers under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite, Jauregui mentored high school graduate Jessica Reynoso. Reynoso, now a freshman at California State University, Fullerton, grew up in the same East LA neighborhood as Jauregui and even graduated from the same high school.
Seeing Reynoso’s passion, grit and determination to succeed in a civil engineering career despite challenging circumstances, is what motivates Jauregui the most. As Reynoso’s primary mentor, the two frequently talked about career paths, goals and life. The most important advice Jauregui gave her intern was to take care of herself.
“If you come from a challenging environment, and you are dealing with a lot of things at home, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself,” Jauregui said. “Self-care is so important to how well you can do your job, take your classes and move yourself forward every day. Even if you have to take care of your family, you can’t take care of them if you can’t take care of yourself first.”
Jauregui’s favorite part of being an educator was constantly teaching, learning and growing, something she finds at DPR as well. She has opportunities to teach, mentor and help others achieve their goals, while feeling constantly challenged to grow her expertise in DPR’s culture of continuous learning.
She looks back on the moment she decided to make the leap from education to construction with no regrets, and wants to help others overcome their fear of change or failure when they find their career calling their attention. It takes courage to pursue a dream–and she has more than enough of that to share.
As an architecture and interior design student at Auburn University, Kali Bonnell always asked, “But can you actually build that?” Seeing her natural practicality and interest in constructability, Bonnell’s professors recommended that she look into construction or engineering. Construction made sense to her. Because her grandfather was an electrician, throughout her childhood, she learned to appreciate all that went into building.
When she fell in love with construction management, she never looked back. Bonnell began her career at DPR in 2008 as an intern in Atlanta. After gaining expertise as a project engineer with DPR’s Special Services Group (SSG), which focuses on small to mid-size projects, Bonnell wanted to experience larger projects and traveled to Clemson, South Carolina to work on Clemson University’s 100,000-sq.-ft. life science facility, designed to support scientific research activities and engage students via training and education.
Early in her career, she found her biggest challenge was advocating for herself and feeling confident in what she was saying, especially when others disagreed with her. Growing both her skills and her confidence in DPR’s flat organizational structure, Bonnell felt like she had a say in what she was able to work on and how she was able to develop her technical expertise.
She raised her hand to move to Tampa, then Orlando, to work on advanced tech projects, telling her leadership teams, “let me take this, let me grow, let me learn.” Each opportunity helped build her experience to prepare her for the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute project, her first job as a full-fledged project manager. The 90 percent female design-build team of architects, designers, builders and owner’s representatives shared a vision for creating the 45,800-sq.-ft. comprehensive women’s center with the patient in mind. With the institute serving five unique women’s health service lines, each discipline’s professional and personal experiences informed the overall design of the project.
“It was the tipping point for me,” said Bonnell. “It was so impactful to see the smart, technical, hard-working women on our team, all working toward the same goal of safely and efficiently building an amazing place–the place we all go to for our checkups. We know how scary and stressful healthcare can be, and every detail was designed and built with the patient in mind.”
As she is now working on an HCA vertical expansion and central energy plant upgrade that will add two floors to an existing hospital in Florida, Bonnell believes that ultimately, her job comes down to understanding others’ perspectives and intentions. She constantly balances what other team members are planning and thinking to solve problems proactively, instead of reactively–a tenet that has guided her own career path as well.
It’s important to Bonnell to foster DPR’s culture even as the organization experiences tremendous growth. In Ft. Lauderdale, DPR has grown from 20 salaried employees in 2014 to 60 salaried employees in 2017, and increased its revenue from $15 million to $150 million in three years. Helping to spearhead people practices, Bonnell focuses on making sure that people develop and grow, get the correct training and are set up for success. Whether it’s going out to jobsites or talking to teams, she wants each person to know that his or her job is an integral part of building great things.
So today, when anyone asks the question, “can we actually build that?” Her answer is: yes.
After 1992’s Hurricane Iniki, the strongest and most destructive hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, Whitney Dorn (then a construction management major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) headed across the Pacific Ocean to help rebuild Kauai. The six months she spent pouring concrete, bending rebar, performing demolition, framing and working as a hod carrier confirmed for her that she was going to school for exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her career. She wanted to be a builder.
“I could really picture myself being in the construction industry,” she said. “When you’re working in the field, you can see the fruits of your labor. That, combined with the constant problem solving, is what really attracted me to what I do.”
She joined DPR after graduating, and spent the first 15 years of her career in operations. In 2008, she began leading DPR’s sustainability initiative to help customers develop and implement the best strategies through experienced people, a collaborative methodology, and custom tools to address the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic.
After five years of educating customers and DPR teams about building sustainable structures, Dorn transitioned back to an operations role as a project executive. She has since worked on notable projects, including a wireless phone company’s headquarters, Torrey Pines Science Park and a 73-acre corporate campus project in Irvine, California, which is completing in January 2018.
“There’s nothing like being on the jobsite. You spend so much time with your team, and you’re not only building great buildings, but building a great team at the same time,” she said.
Dorn sees trust and respect as the foundation for any highly functioning team. "It’s about respecting what all the different roles on a jobsite bring to the table, abolishing a lack of trust, and figuring out how to move forward in a positive way together." Using a football metaphor, she tells her teams that they can be the running back, and she’ll be the blocker, taking out the obstacles so they can do their best work.
She has taken out many of her own obstacles, as well. When she meets her customers for the first time, she often finds that they are expecting a man to run their project. She doesn’t take it personally; she moves forward by never questioning what she brings to the table and uses her own technical expertise to deliver her projects successfully.
“I know others are looking at me to see how I deal with situations, particularly the younger women. It’s very important to me to set a good example, and give them the confidence that this is a great career, something that they can do and make work for their lives,” she said.
Since 2003, Dorn has been mentoring youths through the San Diego ACE Mentor program, and is taking over as chairwoman this upcoming year. She also participated in DPR’s pilot high school internship program, offering under-resourced yet highly qualified high school students interested in STEM careers real-life professional experience on a jobsite. Dorn and other members of her project team mentored Jessica Reynoso, a high schooler from East Los Angeles who wants to become an engineer, exposing her to career paths available in the construction industry.
Through her work both “on and off the field,” she hopes the next generation of builders will find their moment–like she did while she was laboring in Kauai. She hopes they can see themselves in this industry, picture the career paths ahead of them, and know that building great things is what they want to do for the rest of their lives.