Women in Construction: Q&A with Briana De Kalb

 |  Sundt People

Briana De Kalb has over five years of experience in the construction industry on both the civil engineering and design side. De Kalb earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University and has her Professional Engineer license in Oregon. She served as a field engineer on the award-winning Sellwood Bridge project and has now signed on as senior project engineer on the I-5 Rose Quarter project in Oregon.

Q: What initially sparked your interest in construction?

A: Growing up I always knew that I wanted to be a civil engineer, so I got my degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University. It wasn’t until my last two years when I joined OSU’s AGC Student Chapter that I really got a glimpse into what it meant to be in construction. I eventually got an internship on the Sellwood Bridge project and that experience solidified my desire to pursue a career in the industry. During my internship I realized the significance of what we do – to be able to help build things that are bigger than any of us, projects that have the potential to change lives and improve communities. We’re impacting generations with our work.

Q: How and why did you decide to work for Sundt?

A: Like I mentioned, I got an internship on the Sellwood Bridge project and eventually that turned into an opportunity to be hired full time at Slayden (Constructors). (Slayden was Sundt’s joint-venture partner for the Sellwood Bridge project.) I worked there until the Sellwood Bridge was wrapped up and then went to work at a water treatment plant for a while. One of my major goals at this time was to get my PE, so I also spent some time working on the design side where I could learn that side of the industry and develop a more holistic view. After I got my PE, I was talking to Dustin Murphy — sr. project manager at Sundt — and he mentioned that Sundt had gotten the I-5 Rose Quarter Preconstruction contract and there was an opportunity for me to join the team. The decision to work with Sundt again was a no-brainer.

Q: What successes have you had in your role, or what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?

A: My biggest moment so far was on the Sellwood Bridge project when I was given subcontractors to manage. The fact that I was trusted with such an important task helped me gain so much confidence in my skills. It was challenging but so rewarding.

In my current position I was given the opportunity to dip my toes into scheduling and bidding. I was given scopes of work to bid over the past year and that has been really rewarding because it’s allowed me to expand my knowledge and think about aspects of the construction process more methodologically. That opportunity solidified that I’m on the right path in life with my career.

Q: What challenges exist for women in the industry and how can those be addressed? 

A: We definitely need more women in construction. Representation is so important, and I think the best way to encourage more women to join us is by amplifying the voices and experiences of the women currently in the industry.

Q: Have you had any mentors along the way who have inspired you or helped you in your career journey?

A: I’ve had a few awesome mentors, particularly people I worked with on the Sellwood Bridge project. My supervisor right now, Dustin Murphy, has been an amazing resource. I could always rely on him for guidance and to answer any questions I had when I was just starting off as a field engineer. In general, it was so beneficial for my career to participate in an internship where I wasn’t just pushing papers, I was actually able to get hands-on experience. I could tell that the Sundt team trusted and respected me as a professional.

The other person I can think of is Amy Yount who was the quality manager on Sellwood. Having another woman in construction that I could look up to and help me navigate this male-dominated industry has been so helpful.

Q: What advice would you give to a new generation of women as they enter the industry?  

A: If you’re really thinking about it, don’t hesitate to take the chance. This industry isn’t as intimidating for women as it may seem from an outside perspective, especially at Sundt where everyone is so helpful and welcoming to anyone and everyone. Just be confident and go for it because there are so many amazing people that you’ll come across and so much potential for you to positively impact people and communities with the things you help build.


Read more about our amazing women in construction and how they’re making an impact on the industry.