Alanna Gismero is our New York office’s go-to person for project management, administration, facilitation, coordination, and business operations knowledge. Her work at PMA includes airports/aviation, rail, and water projects. Alanna has done invoicing for mega-projects, deployed her human resource and employment law knowledge, and developed and implemented policies and procedures with a focus on joint ventures, administrative operations, facility management, and project controls.
What got you interested in this industry?
I began my career doing office manager work with Frederick R Harris, which is now AECOM. The project manager for the Second Avenue Subway conceptual design asked me to come on to the project and mentioned that the design would take six years. And my question was: six years to draw a straight line?” But now, as a result of that experience, I look at the world in a whole new way. You know, there’s a tunnel that goes under a river. Where? How did it get there? The physics that goes into it. It’s pretty magical how it all comes together.
Fast forward 20 years later, when I was looking for a new position, the business development executive for Harris said. “Oh, you should reach out to my brother-in-law, Bruce [PMA Executive Director Bruce Stephan],” and the rest is history!
Are there certain challenges you feel that you’ve faced being a minority in this industry?
I grew up in a man’s world but the women who raised me had me well prepared for that world. I am confident that I really did not struggle because of my sex. If anything, it made me stronger because of the women who came before me, and I was able to slip in confidently. I feel like the women that came before me had broken down these walls and smashed some glass ceilings. They built the road, and we are paving it. We are making it an easier road for women to travel.
I do remember being 1 of 2 or 3 women around a table dominated by men 20+ years ago, and now today, I sit with more women than men most of the time. Back then, it was definitely a good old boys kind of club, and it was a lot more raucous and that never bothered me so much. And again, I think it’s just the way that I was raised so I was able to relate.
Was there anyone who mentored you at any point during your early days either in college or in the workforce? If so, can you tell us more about that?
It’s unfortunate that I didn’t have a really strong female mentor. I was set up with one, but in the end, she was too busy. But I had a lot of great men mentors than I am still in touch with to this day. I really was able to spread my wings in this industry thanks to my male colleagues who accepted and respected me because of my skills.
Did you act as a mentor (either formally or informally) for another woman during their early days in the industry? If so, can you tell us more about that?
I was never formally designated a mentor, but I had a lot of young women that worked under me and part of what I used to say is, “when you walk into a room, or into a manager’s office, speak in a professional manner, and have confidence.” Also, I advised them to be serious in their approach; to dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. Always network, and cultivate relationships. This is your foot in the door.
Do you have any general advice you would give anyone trying to enter or grow in the industry?
This is a big industry. There is almost nothing you can’t do. Find an interest. If you’re interested in the environment, in saving the world, this is the place to be. Join women in construction groups. Be engaged in the industry. There are so many facets to it.