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Anayeli Martinez Real blazed the trail to her dream job | Dump Trucks Charlotte NC

See all the women featured in our 2019 Women in Construction series here.

When Anayeli Martinez Real set her sights on a career in construction, she didn’t have a network of connections or insider knowledge to guide the way.

Raised by a single mother in a low-income neighborhood, Real is a second-generation immigrant and the first in her family to attend college. And even after she began taking college engineering courses, she had few role models.

“Choosing a predominantly Caucasian and male career, I felt like people were like, ‘Who the hell is this Latina girl?’ I didn’t feel like I had anybody I could relate to.


As her 11-year rise through the ranks at Kiewit Building Group demonstrates, Real has possessed the makings of a trailblazer all along. With a panache for problem-solving, a strong columbus oh dump truck company ethic and the courage to put herself out there, she has cleared her own path to success, which she encourages others to follow.

Curiosity-driven exploration

From an early age, Real has never been afraid to ask questions. “I was always curious about functionalities and why things were created the way they were.” 

Playing with Legos and excelling in math and science evolved into an interest in engineering and construction, so she began taking college courses while still in high school through the Bridge to Success program. The experience fed her desire to obtain a college degree, and Real began seeking out the answers and connections she needed to find her way. The director of Bridge to Success put her in touch with the recruiter for the college of engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who put Real in touch with contacts in the construction industry.

“It was a lot of research,” she said. “I would ask a question about something because the previous person put a seed in my mind. 

It was also a lot of hard work. The summer between high school and college, when many of her peers likely were enjoying their last moments of freedom, Real was job-shadowing. Through an assignment with a project engineer for a local construction company, she “fell in love with the complexity and fast pace of construction” and decided to pursue a degree in construction engineering when she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that fall. 

Building knowledge, fostering relationships

Despite a challenging academic schedule, Real interned year-round at Kiewit Corp. and sought knowledge from everyone — something she recommends for anyone starting a new career.

“The key is to start asking questions early on, because you’re new and it’s okay," she said. "If you’re afraid, it becomes harder and harder. Go out into the field and talk to everyone — the craft guys, plumbers and carpenters. Learn what they do. They will respect you so much more and you will gain so much knowledge.” 

Her hustle paid off when the Omaha, Nebraska-based construction and engineering company offered her a full-time position nearly a year before she graduated.

As Real’s responsibilities grew, her problem-solving skills served her well in earning the respect of clients, subcontractors, designers and craftsmen in the male-dominated industry.

“When you introduce a woman into the situation, sometimes they look to other folks in the room for direction, but that needs to come from you,” she said. “You have to gain their respect. But a craft guy is going to challenge you in a different way than a designer.” Real’s solution? She learned what was important to each of them, then educated herself on those topics.

That inquisitive spirit has helped propel her career. She served in several engineering roles at Kiewit before being promoted to estimating manager and, just recently, client services manager in the company’s commercial construction district.

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