Paying it Forward: Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in Construction

08 of March of 2023

My name is Morningstar and I’m a senior project engineer PLW Waterworks, and I’d like to share my journey into the construction sector, the difficulties I encountered, and the lessons I learned along the way. 

My educational background is in mechanical engineering, where I received both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Science and building things have always piqued my interest for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I would spend hours tearing things apart and reassembling them, wondering how they worked and how I could make them work better. This led me to pursue a degree in engineering. But it was during one of my Master’s classes when we were tasked with improving a product, and during this project I found so much joy in making something work better for the user that I knew I made the right career choice.  

Getting Started

I was born and raised in Nigeria and decided to stay in the United States after studying there in college. I was lucky to have secured a job with PLW Waterworks fresh out of college, but didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. I was assigned to a remote water treatment project and had never previously worked on one before. Although the project was a bit intimidating for a newcomer, I’m never one to shy away from a challenge. 

Whenever I start a new project, I always try to observe first and figure out how I can contribute, which was exactly my approach in this case. I started to get the hang of things pretty quickly and was learning a lot and asking a lot of questions. One of the most important aspects of this project for my professional growth was the fact that I was fortunate to be working with people who had been in the industry for a long time. I took advantage of the knowledge and expertise I had around me and tried to be a sponge soaking up all the information I could learn. 

When I moved to San Antonio for my most recent project, I was able to use the knowledge from the previous ones to jump right in. Don’t get me wrong, though, there was still a lot a lot to learn! But since I was working with such excellent teams and leaders, I was able to get going right away. Thanks in large part to Webber’s commitment to nurturing emerging talent, I was always given the freedom to speak up, ask questions, and learn from my mistakes.  

Communication is Key

Communication is one of the most significant lessons I’ve learned through my journey thus far. Prior to entering the industry, I didn’t realize just how important communication would be in my day-to-day work. When I first started, I had to manage numerous vendors, calls, emails, and follow-ups, and I didn’t think twice about taking someone’s word at face value assumed my work was done. This was not quite the case. I learned quickly that I had to figure out how to strike a balance between trusting someone, giving them space and following up so that we have what we need when we need it. Because everyone has different processes and ways of working, navigating the world of communication and relationships necessitates a great deal of collaboration and compromise. 

Construction is a Man’s World…for Now

Construction is often said to be a man’s world, but while this is still true in a lot of ways, the sector has evolved a lot. When I first started in the industry, there weren’t many women in construction. I would often find myself to be the lone woman on a project, which wasn’t particularly unusual for me given the fact that I came from a male-dominated academic background. In many cases, it didn’t bother me or wasn’t something I thought of on a day-to-day basis, but there have been a few moments throughout my career that made it clear that I was still a bit of an outsider. For instance, when others would assume someone else was in charge and would ask that I run it by “the one in charge”, when in fact, that was me! 

It was in these moments that I really found my voice and gained confidence. I learned to stand up for myself and make it clear to everyone who is in charge. I was also incredibly fortunate to have managers who supported, reinforced, and backed up my decisions. It was from them that I learned to have confidence in my decisions and to not let anyone stand in the way of what you believe in.  

Allies are incredibly important to find in any career, but especially as women in a male-dominated field. Recently, Webber formed a group called Women of Webber with the aim of bringing women working within the company together to create networks and discuss ways we could increase representation. Not only has it amazing to see how many women work at Webber in all the different projects and areas, but we have slowly but surely started to see more and more women in the field. Currently, I have three female engineers working alongside me on my new project, which is more than any other project I’ve worked on before.

Forging a New Path Ahead

I think back to my days in college and seeing panel after panel of men engineers and wondering “Can I do this? Is this a place for me?”, and because of this, I want to be an example to young women and girls who are interested in engineering and construction and show them that they do belong. In any sector, I think it’s so important for young women to see other women doing what they aspire to do. 

As I gain experience in the industry and field, I am able to give back and start leaving a legacy by inspiring more women to go after what they love. Some of the greatest joys of my work have been mentoring young talent through internships and attending career fairs to encourage and show the next generation that we are here to stay. 

I believe that diversity and inclusivity are essential to the success of any industry, and construction is no exception. Women have a unique perspective and way of thinking that can add value to any project. It’s up to us to support and encourage more women to enter the industry and help them succeed. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and excited for what the future holds in the construction industry.

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