Assistant Project Manager Anna Schab's Journey Into a Male-Dominated Field
Why did you pursue a career in a traditionally male-dominated field? When did you first know you wanted to pursue this field? Was there someone or something that inspired you?
Before my junior year of high school, I felt confident in pursuing a career in teaching, preferably ELA or an equivalent for high school students. That was my comfort zone at the time, and I felt very settled in that path. Up until that date, I hadn’t been at the perfect juxtaposition point of “what do I want my future to be” and “what are my present and past experiences that would influence my path”.
At that critical moment, I began attending chemistry classes during my junior year of high school with my teacher (Dr. Corinne Cressman). What I envisioned for my future was turned on its head. I was just so enraptured seeing an incredibly smart, driven woman teaching high school chemistry and sharing her passion. It felt so powerful to see a woman in STEM and led me to believe that my mother’s career in chemistry/hematology and my father’s career in engineering I had always admired growing up, were that much more within reach.
With that mindset in place, I concentrated my energy even more on STEM-related academics and activities. I was truly privileged to have Worcester Polytechnic Institute accept my application, where I met countless women in the STEM world as educators and as students. Befriending fellow female students and participating in STEM education with them was one of the most supportive and encouraging environments I had within academia. Going through schooling with these women, particularly those I went through the Civil Engineering Major with, I was consistently impressed and mesmerized by their collective focus, passion, and joy in what they did. With the support of those around me, I felt confident going into the field of construction because I realized over the course of my college education that I felt at home within projects, within a team, and solving problems.
What is the biggest challenge of being a woman in the construction industry?
Unfortunately, being a woman in the construction industry is still quite a niche experience. Within the General Contractor (GC) world, there are not too many of us, and within the Trades, it feels like there’s even less. I think the biggest challenge within the GC world for a woman is not falling victim to the stereotypes/unwritten expectations that surround being a woman in the STEM world and to practice disciplined self-advocation. Within this industry, it can be difficult to stay true to your own person, particularly as a woman; there are times in the past when I found myself wanting to make things easier by mirroring the behavior of those around me to “fit in quietly”. I’ve found, at least in my personal experience, that I am happier and more confident not camouflaging myself but rather putting my best foot forward and connecting/collaborating in the best way for those around me, including myself, regardless of gender bias.
What do you find most rewarding about construction?
I feel so lucky to be in a field where the product of your work can be visualized with no effort. Speaking to my experience in the vertical construction world, whether it’s been renovations or ground-up construction, there is an indescribable feeling of personal satisfaction in seeing the product of your time and energy. Not to mention that construction is such a team-focused and collaboration-heavy field that it feels that much more rewarding to celebrate the efforts of those around you.
What does a typical day look like as an Assistant Project Manager?
As an Assistant Project Manager with Landry/French, I feel truly lucky to be on the Project Team I’m with at Rock Row in Westbrook. It’s a large project, and I feel confident in the knowledge/experience of those around me as Landry/French team members and within the Trades. At this time, we are kicking off with steel erection at the Medical Office Building, which is a major milestone and involved a lot of coordination efforts by all members of the OAC Team. Typically, my day is full with submittal/RFI review for all planned work, meetings with Trade Partners, meetings with members of the OAC Team, and collaborating with my Project Team onsite for any day-to-day operations that need extra attention.
What brought you to Maine?
I have been interested in moving to Maine for quite a long time; I grew up in Massachusetts and spent countless trips with family and friends up to Maine during all seasons. It always felt like a second home; as many great outdoor lovers have said, the accessibility to outdoor activities, whether in the mountains or along the shore, is innumerable. Every time I visited, I always left with the thought, “why don’t I just live here?”
How much of an adjustment is it professionally coming from Boston to the Maine construction market?
Construction in Maine, compared to Boston, is different on a project-based level. The types of projects can be different; the size of projects can be vastly different – but I think something I have found immensely comforting in making my move from Boston to Maine is I still feel “at home” within this industry based on the people. The projects are different, the work may be completed differently, and there’s things that may be more important in Maine than in Boston or vice versa – but I’ve found that in my few months in Maine, I still feel professionally and personally, I’m in an environment that I’m actively learning and growing. I’m still within a company, a project, and a team – everyone who cares about what they do. And that can’t help but be infectious.
What tips or advice would you offer to other women considering entering the construction industry?
To women who are considering entering the construction industry: do it. Whether in a GC capacity, architectural/design, OPM, Trades, etc. – I believe there is room at all these tables for women to make their mark. Learn from those who have come before you, and don’t believe the rumors that you have to “fit in quietly”. Provided that you are acting true to yourself and acting in the best interest of the collaborative efforts of yourself and whoever makes up your team, everyone wins.