Women in Construction – Mac Alberts

Mac Alberts is a Project Manager for Ryan Companies, and currently manages a Senior Living Community of 213 units of post tension concrete and one level of underground parking out of Austin, TX.

by by Michelle A. Cilip

What struck me most about Mac was how, if I hadn’t known what her role is already, you could have told me I was talking to a C-Suite executive and I would have believed you. She was dressed in a blazer and heels and looked ready to walk into a corporate meeting. What I had expected was what she told me she typically wears on her site visits; cowboy boots, bootcut jeans from Buckle, and a half-zip with a collar. But that’s the kicker; as a Construction PM, it just depends on the day. You’ll dress up some days and work in an office, dress down others when you’re at the site, though there is one thing that you can count on: no two days will be the same. And that’s what keeps her coming back day in and day out. Each day is different, and each day brings new challenges. This job is probably not for someone who craves routine and dislikes solving complex problems, but to someone like Mac, that’s the draw.

Mac grew up the daughter of the owner of an electrical subcontractor (and racecar driver), so she grew up around the trades. As many kids will do, she gravitated towards her fathers path, and decided she wanted to go to college for Engineering. Imparting his wisdom as fathers will do, he insisted she apprentice for him so she could have some real world experience. Followed by a change in her college major plus two internships before landing at Ryan Companies, Mac’s path of doing the work and learning to speak the language through experience has put her in a respected position. A position, in a field, that has stereotypically been filled by men. Does that have an impact on Mac? She doesn’t think so. Is she treated differently because she’s a woman? Differently, maybe, but not worse. If anything, the level of respect goes up (as a general statement), and while that might be in part due to her level of experience and education, it’s also a testament to Ryan Companies. Encouraging the career paths for women in construction is something they are phenomenal at, according to Mac.

So what if you don’t have a friend or family member in the field? She also had the benefit of her neighbor’s mother, who was a lead estimator for a small general contractor, well-respected in the community for her skills, and an inspiration for Mac.

So for young women wanting to learn more about careers in construction, it sounds like the foundational elements are already there; find a mentor, and/or someone to look up to, and work in an environment, for a company, that builds you up and supports you. That could apply for any job, though, so what are some unique things to consider? First, figure out what you really want to do. Construction isn’t simply building structures and managing projects. Mac advises you to talk to an advisor and see what careers are out there that would fit for you, because whether it be Capital Markets, Funding, Financials, Marketing Team, Property Management Team, Design, Superintendents, Project Manager, construction firms and full service real estate services like Ryan Companies need people in all of these roles.

There’s so many different facets of construction that people don’t think about, and Mac thinks we can get a lot better at broadcasting those opportunities. Another potential bonus: a 9-5 behind a desk is definitely not what to expect if you’re a Construction PM.

“You are never going to have the same day, and there’s always going to be something; a new challenge, every single day. Whether it be interpersonal, whether it be means and methods of a building, whether it be figuring out the financials or dealing with a new technology. There’s always something new and different every day that you show up.”

While the advice for women looking to get into construction is similar for anyone looking to get into any career; talk to people who have done the job, explore the career options that fall under the construction umbrella, apprentice or intern to get that experience; one thing women working in construction, particularly in the field, should remember: always make sure you have a post-hard hat-hat to pop on at the end of the day!

A huge thanks to Mac Alberts for her time and insight, for opening my eyes to the vast array of opportunities for women in construction, and for introducing me to Stoggles (my first pair has already shipped)!