Lamia Porter on Why Curiosity is Key in Estimating

 |  Sundt People

Lamia Porter was part of Sundt’s first all-female design-build team and she continues to break barriers for women in the field through her passion and dedication to the art of estimating.

Only 16% of estimators in the construction industry are women, and Lamia Porter is one of them. Porter is one of Sundt’s lead estimators and she is paving the way and inspiring other women to consider a career in construction. She was part of the preconstruction team on the Cal State Fullerton Student Housing Expansion project, which was Sundt’s first all-female design-build team. Porter has also worked on other notable projects in California such as the Emerson-Bandini Elementary School, Marston Middle School and Gompers Preparatory Academy.

How did you get into the construction industry?

I went to the University of Montana in Missoula and actually started out as a physics major. But, a year and a half in, I realized I didn’t have the passion for it that I thought I did. I was drawn to the idea of more hands-on applications in engineering, so I transferred to Montana Technological University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering. It was then that I realized how much I loved working through “real-life” scenarios like looking at construction blueprints and getting to design sites and planning the site work and utilities and so on.

During my time at Montana Tech, I participated in the Associate Schools of Construction (ASC) bidding competition that happens in Reno, Nevada every year. We ultimately won first place in the heavy civil division, which led to the opportunity for me to do an internship in Phoenix, Arizona with a concrete subcontractor. That was my first initiation into estimating, and it also turned into my first full-time job as a career estimator with that same company right out of college.

How did you find your way to Sundt?

Sundt has a great reputation and a big presence in Phoenix, so I became very familiar with the company while I was living there. Though my husband and I ended up moving to San Diego, Sundt was one of the first companies I thought of when starting my job search. I interviewed with Jamie Frye, vice president and preconstruction manager for the California District. We had such an amazing chat, and I really loved everyone I met throughout my interview process. I knew right away that this was the place for me.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing a job in the construction industry or just starting out in their career?

Take the time to really understand every detail of your work and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I find a lot of value in getting on the phone with subcontractors, asking questions and getting insight on their specialty. Developing genuine curiosity and putting in effort to understand each step of the process will take you far.

What do you love most about your job?

Getting to work on design-build projects and the opportunities it opens to collaborate with others, internally and externally. From architects to engineers to owners, each member of the team brings something unique and equally important to the success of the project. Something special about Sundt is that there is always great collaboration between the preconstruction teams and field teams, which isn’t something you see at every company.

What is one of your career highlights?

Getting to see the projects I’ve worked on in preconstruction being built is always a highlight. Also, as an estimator, being able to buyout a project within the budget especially in these market conditions is always a win.

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