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Bringing projects to life in a challenging field

Deborah Palmer, Managing Director

New York, NY

Deborah Palmer, Assoc. AIA, CPM, is Managing Director of PMA’s Mid-Atlantic region. She has more than 30 years of experience in the on-site management of industrial and commercial construction projects along with capital programs, to date totaling over $4 billion.

How did you get started in the construction industry?

While attending the University of Pittsburgh, I worked every summer as a “gofer” for a mechanical contractor. I learned a lot about mechanical construction, and the seed was planted! I knew construction had to be my career path.

I came up through the ranks when I began my construction career, starting in the field on the ladder’s very bottom rung. I worked for and learned from some of the best in the business. It was a considerable challenge. I became very focused on learning everything I could from the project superintendents, reading current and back issues of ENR magazine and studying project submittals and technical books related to construction techniques and engineering. I learned the business on the job sites, absorbing as much knowledge as possible, occasionally being taught to use various tools of the trade.

My early projects were on a power plant and in the oil processing industry. One of my more memorable project assignments was located in an oil field above the Arctic Circle in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. We lived in a camp built on the tundra and received Arctic survival training. I began the project as a contract administrator and advanced to project engineer to install oil processing equipment for SOHIO at their gathering centers. It was a fantastic experience, working in one of “the last frontiers.”

What do you love about working in the construction industry?

I have accepted challenges offered to me during my career and have realized tremendous success in this business—more than I had ever dreamed. I have benefited from working on projects all over the country, meeting and working with dynamic people. My education continues as this is a constantly evolving industry with respect to construction tools and techniques. And who doesn’t want always to be learning?

To date, my career journey has been unique and incredibly rewarding, and my list of what I still want to do and accomplish in this industry is lengthy.

What tips or advice would you give to women considering a career in the construction industry?

Currently, women still only comprise about 10% of the workforce in the construction industry. When I began my career, it was about 1%.

My advice to women considering a career in construction is to learn everything they can, stay focused, and remain strong. Reach high and work hard because it is so worth it!

Amanda DavyRomano, Director

Chicago, IL

Amanda is a seasoned project management and scheduling expert. She has been engaged in various projects throughout her career with PMA, from schedule analysis in support of claims analysis to project management and controls on multi-million-dollar construction projects.

How did you get started in the construction industry?

Growing up, I was a girl who enjoyed building cities and towns out of Legos. With a little nudge from an engineer uncle, I was introduced to engineering early on in high school, and by the time I got to college, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in engineering.

What do you love about working in the construction industry?

You get to “build stuff.” While I may not physically be out there in the field with a hammer and some nails, I get to be part of teams that bring projects to life, building things that people rely on. Every project is something new, and every day brings different problems to solve and challenges to tackle.

What tips or advice would you give to women considering a career in the construction industry?

Don’t let the fact that this is a majority-male industry intimidate you─accept it, and know that you have just as much to offer as your male colleagues. Choose what you want to do, work hard, and do it well. If you are doing something you enjoy, it doesn’t always feel like “work.”

Karina Pena, Associate

Boston, MA

Karina has significant project management experience in industrial and commercial projects ranging from $200 thousand to $29 million in the public and private sectors. Her skills include project planning, project controls, quality control and assurance, and facilitating communication between the owner and the project team.

How did you get started in the construction industry?

I have been passionate about the construction field from a very young age. I migrated from the Dominican Republic in 1999 with the goal to one day build a skyscraper. I have been working to achieve that goal ever since. I began my career in the construction field in 2006, where I attended a technical high school with a focus on carpentry. After graduation in 2010, I went on to college, where I received a bachelor’s degree in civil/environmental engineering with a minor in business administration from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Most recently, in 2020, I earned a master’s in management with a concentration in construction management.

What do you love about working in the construction industry?

There is so much to love about the construction industry, from the challenges that you have to overcome to ultimately seeing the results of your hard work.

What tips or advice would you give to women considering a career in the construction industry?

It will not be an easy journey, but it will be a rewarding one. Keep pushing forward. Take the turbulence as lessons for personal/career growth and the smooth sailing as a sign that you’re on the right path to achieve your definition of success

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