From Carpenter to Senior Project Superintendent: How Catherine Osborne Found Success Through the Trades

 |  Sundt People, Workforce Development


The construction industry’s workforce is aging out: a reality general contractors have been wrangling in recent years. With that knowledge, Sundt has focused on implementing concrete solutions to address the changing workforce, which includes discussing how we attract and retain more women in the field and in the office.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, while women are roughly half the workforce, they represent only 4% of the construction trades, while women in administrative positions make up around 10%. At Sundt, we’re proud that our craft workforce is made up of 7% women, and administrative professionals 21%, but we recognize that careers in construction should be more accessible and appealing to women.

We sat down with Senior Project Superintendent Catherine Osborne to discuss her career journey, the changing workforce and how she’s found success in all stages of her career.


Raised in the Trades

Catherine joined Sundt with more than two decades of industry experience. She began her career in the trades as a carpenter, where she eventually worked her way to senior project superintendent, but she still holds her journeyman card and general contractor’s license to this day. “I’m glad my family encouraged my siblings and I from a young age to seriously consider getting into the trades,” Catherine noted.

While she worked in the field as a carpenter, Catherine eagerly pursued additional construction management and building science education. She progressed from carpenter foreman to general foreman, leading survey and layout and was soon running complex structural concrete projects. “I was adamant about staying in the field for years to build a solid foundation as a technical builder. If you can run projects in the field as a lead, with a real understanding of the process and risk, it’s a tremendous asset when you transition to an administrative leadership role,” Catherine said.

By the time Catherine transitioned into the role of general contractor superintendent, she had a deep appreciation for the challenges each phase of a project brings, as well as a fresh perspective to contribute to project safety, success and culture.


“Many people have an outdated idea in their mind about what a senior superintendent is and how they behave, but that stereotype is simply not me. I believe one of the primary reasons I have been fortunate enough to have incredible success leading teams on large, complex projects is because I love coaching and elevating the voices of our teammates to foster an open, collaborative and positive environment.”—Catherine Osborne, Senior Project Superintendent


Catherine’s portfolio is now in the billions. She has built everything from theme park attractions, high rise residential towers, airport terminals and even zoo exhibits. At her most recent project before joining Sundt, she acted as the lead terminal superintendent and terminal planner for the $2.6 billion San Diego International Airport Terminal 1 Replacement Project.

As a Senior Project Superintendent with Sundt, Catherine also has the opportunity to help the California team pursue new work, which is another exciting challenge. “Being able to solve a client’s problems on paper, with the ability to influence design early, is such a satisfying part of the pursuit and preconstruction process. That’s also why I love the progressive design-build delivery method. Maximizing collaboration and maintaining a win-win attitude makes for the best possible construction experience for everyone involved.”


Why Carpentry?

Catherine was encouraged from a young age to pursue a career in the trades and continues to find appreciation for the skills and opportunity this journey brought her. “Being a carpenter makes you exceptionally self-reliant and gives you a different perspective. That, and the work also makes you physically strong. Why sit at a desk when you can get paid to exercise in the sun?”

Encouraging more young people to pursue apprenticeship programs in the skilled trades is one of Sundt’s major commitments. As we work towards this goal, it’s also important to note that there isn’t a huge pipeline to leadership for young women in the field because they only make up 4% of the trades. “Part of why I enjoy running big projects so much is because I can be a force for good and ensure that everyone on my project has an advocate and an equal opportunity,” Catherine said.

Her advice to young people entering the field? Find a mentor, someone that “you can confide in to help you navigate the industry.” The other is to join organizations, such as employee resource groups.


“Pursuing a craft career is a wonderful path to success and financial independence. Being able to learn while you earn a great wage, all without taking on any college loan debt, is a massive opportunity and it should be considered. I’m a carpenter, my sister is an electrician and my brother is a mechanic. We’ve all found fulfillment and financial success in the trades.”—Catherine Osborne, Senior Project Superintendent


A New Journey

When Catherine made the switch to Sundt, she mentioned she was impressed by our core values and leadership, especially that so many of our leaders come from the field. “Sundt celebrates builder culture and a tradition of unparalleled client service—that’s why I’m passionate about this industry. I love to build. I love addressing challenges. I love working with the folks in the field, the camaraderie and the satisfaction of annoying all of my friends when I drive through an area and say, ‘I built that,’ or ‘I hung every door on that building.'”

As we continue to navigate the workforce shortage, Catherine hopes more people consider the opportunity a career in the trades can offer. “The more our field teams and leadership reflect the communities they serve, the more collaborative and successful we can be by fully engaging all members of our teams. Everyone should be able to take part in this fantastic opportunity.”


Is a career in construction right for you? Consider applying for one of our openings.