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Hardaway Construction project manager advises women not to ‘get in your own head’ on path to success

Angela Gismondi
Hardaway Construction project manager advises women not to ‘get in your own head’ on path to success
HARDAWAY CONSTRUCTION — Amanda Guadarrama, a project manager working at Hardaway Construction in Nashville, Tenn., has been in the construction industry her whole life. Although she thought she wanted to pursue a career as an architect, she felt like she belonged in construction.

There are many barriers facing women in the construction industry but there are also many opportunities.

“They might not see it, but I think women coming into construction, we have an advantage,” said Amanda Guadarrama, a project manager with Nashville, Tenn.-based Hardaway Construction. 

“I think women are good multitaskers. I think we pay attention to detail. It’s just in our nature. We have that intuition that we have to kind of do more than just one thing at a time.”

Guadarrama grew up in the construction industry and her dad had his own subcontracting business. She spent summers working at the family business and thought she wanted to be an architect.

“I went to school for architecture had an internship at an architecture firm and just quickly realized that this isn’t really me,” Guadarrama said.

When she was in college in Illinois, she was able to get herself an internship with a general contractor who was building a student services building at a campus.

“I went to the jobsite and basically asked if they needed an intern and they told me ‘no’ and that they already had one lined up for the summer,” Guadarrama said. “I went back every week until I talked my way into an internship. That’s kind of what pushed me to be in construction management.”

 

Finding her place

She said she realized that was where she felt like she belonged.

“I didn’t want to be someone behind a computer designing it. I wanted to help put it in place and solve problems when issues come up in the field,” she recalled.

She worked for a general contractor in Texas before moving to Nashville. She has been in the industry for 12 years and has worked for Hardaway Construction, a 100-year-old company, for the past two years.

“I manage a couple of projects at a time,” said Guadarrama. “I manage the project from beginning to end, so I help with some of the pre-con stuff, scheduling and then manage the schedule and construction and budget throughout the duration of the project until we turn over the project to the owner at the end.”

Over the years, she has only worked with two female project managers. While it is a male dominated industry and she has faced some challenges, she said it has gotten progressively better.

“We’re in this weird transition of what I would say is the old school construction mentality where some of the older superintendents they will give you a hard time, whether you are a male or a female it doesn’t matter…and they aren’t as open to working with a female,” Guadarrama said.

She has an assertive personality and while it can be an advantage it can also be seen as a detriment.

“I am one to speak my mind,” she said. “If I felt like I needed to speak up I did and I wasn’t afraid of it. I think a lot of people appreciated it and then realize that I am there because I’m knowledgeable not because of any other reason.”

 

Making it work

She did have a piece of advice for women thinking about entering the field.

“It can be intimidating, don’t get in your own head,” she said.

Besides being a project manager, she is also a mom with responsibilities at home and that can be difficult as women are often seen as the primary caregivers.

“When I first found out I was pregnant I was really nervous that it was going to affect my performance but naturally we just make it work because that’s what we do,” Guadarrama said. “We morph into this motherly type of person but also make sure that we still stay on task. I think it’s the pressure that we put on ourselves as women to make sure that we can do it all: we can be the best mom, we can go home, we can cook dinner, we can do the bathing and reading the stories and the putting to bed, but then get up the next morning and still go and do it all over again and still hit our deadlines.”

There are times that are busier than others.

“If you’re not in the industry you don’t know but the end of the project is the most demanding,” she said. “Typically, you have this ‘S’ curve where it picks up, slows down and then picks back up at the end of it. As project managers we have certain deadlines and reports that are due at the end of the month.”

She added, “I think everyone knows that if you are passionate about your job and you care about your career growth you’re going to do whatever it takes…You know that it’s only a moment in time, there is a light at the end of the tunnel…This isn’t going to be every day.”

Although her husband is also in construction and has a demanding schedule, they work together to support each other. 

“I think it’s a good thing for women to really know that they can have the best of both worlds,” she said. “You just have to be really good at time management and you have to know what your priorities are.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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