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Rudolph & Sletten project exec says women in construction can 'pave their own way' | Dump Trucks Charlotte NC

Permission granted by Kelli Quinn

This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry. Click here for past conversations.

Kelli Quinn, senior project executive at Rudolph & Sletten, has worked in construction for nearly 30 years. She currently leads many high-profile commercial projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Here, Quinn talks with Construction Dive about her career choices, her favorite projects and the importance of finding a mentor.

CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What do you do in your current job?

KELLI QUINN: My key role is overseeing project teams and providing leadership and mentorship. I provide leadership both internally and externally to support our clients/owner, design teams, our subcontractors and project team end users. I also assist with business development by maintaining a connection with business relationships I have developed. I also support and lead teams through project pursuits.  

What led you to choose construction for your career?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and I watched the suburb build up (more like explode) around me. I started Iowa State University in the Engineering College and spent my first two years undecided in what engineering degree I would focus on. 

Kelli Quinn
Permission granted by Rudolph & Sletten

I am not one that doesn't like having a lack of direction, so I spent those first two years in college using the career center, talking to various professors and attending career fairs to help me narrow down my focus. It didn't help that Iowa State had 16 engineering degrees to choose from. 

By the end of my sophomore year, I focused and narrowed my path to the Civil and Construction Engineering department. I declared Construction Engineering with a building focus when I started my junior year in college. I knew I was really excited about construction when I went on my first tour of a high-rise building under construction in Des Moines.

I do have a confession: one of the reasons I was so late to declare my engineering focus was that my Dad was hoping I would go into computer engineering. My Dad knew there were so many career opportunities in computers, but I didn't find joy in coding or the computer field. So I was hesitant to declare construction engineering as my major since construction wasn't a traditional career for women in the early 90s. I was blazing a new trail that I wasn't sure my parents would support. 

My parents did support my decision, but they didn't really understand my choice to pursue a career in construction until they visited my first project out of college. It took a tour to my first project under construction for my parents to understand my passion for solving problems and how rewarding it was to see how our team's efforts produced something tangible. My first project out of college was to columbus oh dump truck company on a new hospital project in Fremont, California. It was very satisfying to build a project to bring new health services to a growing community. 

What are a few of the projects you've most enjoyed working on and why?

This is a tricky question to answer since I have enjoyed all of my projects for very different reasons. Building healthcare projects has proven very rewarding personally. I have worked on three hospital projects in my career, each very rewarding. 

But there is one hospital project in particular I found to be my favorite: Kaiser Santa Clara Hospital in Santa Clara, California. That hospital was built in two phases over five years. I was the project manager responsible for both phases of construction. 

Kaiser is a great client that really appreciated the columbus oh dump truck company we were doing on site. The entire project team had great columbus oh dump truck company chemistry and worked well together to deliver a great building. We really developed trust with the client, designers, subcontractors and built a great building for the community. 

I visited the hospital recently. I loved a chance to see this hospital building being put thorough its paces so many years after we completed it, and see the building support the community.

Another project that I really enjoyed working on was challenging for many different reasons. The client was a large confidential high-tech columbus oh dump truck company that wanted a trophy legacy building in the Silicon Valley. I was never one in my career looking for that "next big project," but the challenges this project presented did intrigue me. 

Due to the project size and scale combined with the highest quality standards I’ve ever encountered, this was by far the most challenging project of my career to date. As one of the project executives, I was responsible for the kitchens, cafeteria and dining area build-outs. It was more than 200,000 square feet. My scopes were the first areas completed and set the tone for delivering a design that demanded perfection.  

What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?

I would strongly encourage women to consider a career in construction. Especially today, since the number of women in the construction industry has tripled since I started my career in 1993. My advice to all women going into the construction industry is that you can pave your own way. Don’t feel like you have to be restrained and stay within a box. 

Women are very respected are treated as equals in this industry. But you do have to stand on your own and find your people. I spent the first 20 years of my career where my mentors and role models were men because that is what I had available to me as I grew my career. 

I love now that there are so many women in the industry as strong women role models, especially in the mid-level and senior-level leadership ranks. When I say "find your people," I would advise reaching out beyond your columbus oh dump truck company and developing professional relationships with other women in this community. These relationships will help to create a strong community of women in the construction industry and provide that mentorship we don’t always know we needed.  

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