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Career Quick Look
Salary: $73,700* Education:
Years in Field: 4 A.A.S. in Architectural Drafting;
B.S. in Construction Management in process
City/State: Philadelphia, PA View Kathryn Taylor's Resume

"Just seeing a project go together, that's always a good feeling - especially when it's a really difficult project," Kate says.

"Some of the men, what I guess you would call the 'old-school' types, might be a bit apprehensive at first" about working with women. "But once you've gone in there and proven yourself, then it's fine."

Getting Started: I always thought I wanted to be an architect," Kate says. "So I went to a technical school as a precursor to that." She enrolled in the two-year Architectural Drafting program at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and after graduating Kate went to work for a pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete manufacturing firm called High Concrete Structures, then left for a short term position with an architectural firm - only to discover that she didn't like it at all. "Fortunately," she says, "I was able to get my job back at High Concrete."

As a CADD Operator for High Concrete Structures, Kate was drawing everything from plans and elevations to details, connections, piece drawings and the hardware they used to connect the concrete elements of parking garages and office buildings. "We basically draw up the connections, then let the engineers run the numbers, to make sure the designs would stand up, and make the appropriate changes." On the basis of this experience, Kate was recently hired to work for Parkway Corporation, Philadelphia's largest owner and operator of parking garages, as a project manager.

Education: After high school, Kate enrolled at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, PA, where she studied Architectural Drafting for two years before graduating in 1994. "It's very general," Kate says of the program, dealing with all aspects of architecture, "so you get a sense of what it's all about." Fortunately for Kate, when the architecture position didn't work out, she was able to transfer her drafting skills to work in pre-cast concrete and engineering.

Now that she's got a few years of work experience under her belt, Kate plans to pursue a Construction Management degree at Drexel University, starting this fall. (A four-year Bachelor's degree - but with her credits from Thaddeus Stevens, Kate will enter the program as a third-year student). The degree will help solidify her qualifications, so she can go further in project management for construction and engineering.

Greatest Professional Achievement: In a relatively short time, Kate has already been rewarded for her talent and achievements in the field, based on her early projects and performance. "I'm just proud that I was able to make the jump from drafter to Project Manager without all the degrees and the hoops you normally have to go through," she says.

She feels proud of all the projects she's worked on - and in Kate's line of work, the results of her efforts are literally concrete. "It's really nice to see something come together and know that you've done it well," she says.

Barriers: Though she heard the warnings about going into a male-dominated technical field, Kate says her own experience has been very positive. "I've never really found any barriers, fortunately," Kate says.

At Thaddeus Stevens, Kate was one of only about 30 women in the population of 500 students, and she admits it was difficult at times to be in a smaller, closed environment - unlike students at more mixed, traditional colleges. "That could be hard, sometimes," she says. "But once you get out in the field, it really isn't a problem."

Working with Men: Working in the traditionally male-dominated fields of engineering and construction, Kate says she has had an extremely positive experience, overall. "Some of the men, what I guess you would call the 'old-school' types, might be a bit apprehensive at first," she says, about working with women. "But once you've gone in there and proven yourself, then it's fine."

In her experience, professionalism and a positive attitude are the keys to establishing good work relationships. "As long as you can perform," Kate says, "you really don't have a problem."

Advice for Women: Kate returns to Thaddeus Stevens College occasionally to speak with female students about their career goals, interests and concerns. She says many young women find themselves in a technical program where they're vastly outnumbered by men, "and they don't feel as if they belong there." Her biggest piece of advice is "to stick with it," she says. "Once you get out into the field, I think you'll find that it changes." If you tend to be "logical and methodical," as Kate describes herself, you might find the problem-solving and detail-oriented nature of drafting, engineering or project management to be a very good match.

Typical Workday/Environment: "Basically I go in and I travel to different sites around the city. I oversee the general construction on different projects," Kate says. "At the moment, we're converting a series of garages that are cashiered to make them automated. I'm in charge of getting new facilities updated, along with the general construction aspect, which means updating the office areas, seeing that the new countertops and equipment are installed."

"I'm usually out most of the morning," Kate says, while her afternoons are spent working on designs or planning meetings. "It's just a lot of different things," she says. "But I really enjoy going out on the sites. I like the project management aspect."

Career Ladder: A drafter might start out earning $15-17 an hour, and depending on their interests, might choose to advance within the engineering or architectural fields. Some, like Kate, discover they like working an assignment from the birds-eye view. "A lot of people I've talked to started out wanting to be architects or engineers, and they found that they preferred project management," Kate says.

For project management, she finds that people come from all different backgrounds - drafting, construction, engineering, etc. Typically, you start as an assistant project manager or project engineer, "where you do lots of the grunt work," Kate says, but still earn $40-50,000 a year. With a few years' experience, you can move up to project manager, then executive project manager, and in some cases beyond. "A lot depends on the company that you work for," Kate explains.

Professional Associations: None

Hobbies: In her off-time, Kate serves as a volunteer with Philadelphia's Independence National Parks Department. She enjoys sports and has played volleyball for several years. Kate has served as a mentor and speaker for the women's student network at her alma mater, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and is also a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Construction Project Manager based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

 


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