March is Women’s History Month, which begins fittingly with the celebration of Women in Construction (WIC) week throughout our industry. Each year, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and its thousands of members across America take this occasion to raise awareness about the opportunities for women in construction as well as their growing presence in this field.

At Sundt, we’re proud to be a part of the celebration.

This month we’re highlighting a few of the many skilled women who work in various roles across our company, with a special focus on our operations in Portland, Oregon. These women took some time out of their busy schedules to share how they got here, their goals, their struggles, their hopes for the future—in a word, their stories.

“We need more women in construction who are in roles where they can mentor younger, incoming women; you’re more inspired when you see people who look like you.”

Briana De Kalb, Sr. Project Engineer, Oregon

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Assistant Controller, Arizona

Sarah has over 20 years of experience in accounting, with a background in healthcare and public accounting. Although she was new to the industry when she began her journey with Sundt in 2018, Sarah is proving that construction is accessible, no matter your experience. “Coming from an accounting background I knew very little about construction. Over the last four years, I’ve learned so much and have newfound respect for our project teams. It’s exciting to drive around town and be able to say to my family, ‘we built that!’”

Sarah believes girls of all ages should be exposed to the many career routes the industry affords women. “I feel that many girls/women may only think of construction as being the boots on the ground and don’t realize how many other opportunities exist. Getting out into middle and high schools and educating a younger generation on available career paths is crucial.” As for advice she has for women in, or entering the industry, Sarah is adamant that confidence in a male-dominated industry can take you anywhere. “Always give respect and demand respect from others.”


Sr. Estimator, Arizona

Sugandha grew up living in countries such as India, Kenya and Canada, but there was one consistency—her fascination with the buildings that made up these diverse cities. “The curiosity I had when I was young slowly developed into my love for structures, and it made me choose civil engineering as my field of study,” Sugandha reflected. Sugandha has been with Sundt for five years, but has worked in the industry for nine, starting her career with one of the biggest contractors in Canada.

Sugandha noted that during her first internship in construction, the whole class had less than 10% women, and that number seems to have slowly improved over the last decade. “The construction industry can still be intimidating for women, but we should find more ways to encourage them and demonstrate how inclusive it is. The younger generation, especially, can help us define a new path for women in construction.” As for actions that will change the industry, Sugandha believes the industry should continue to be more sincere about supporting and hiring a diverse workforce and partnering with women at a young age to promote STEM careers. “My advice to women entering the field is to be confident and humble. Your knowledge is your biggest superpower.”

“The advice I would give to women entering the field is to be your own advocate and lean on those around you. I’ve grown so much at Sundt, and I never imagined I would be capable of the work I’m performing today.”

Johana Patraca Jimenez, Field Engineer, Oregon

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Application Development Manager, IT, Arizona

Growing up in a small town in Northern Arizona, Jennyfer LaBuff was exposed to IT at an early age. She was hired by her local school district as a high school student to do the “grunt work”—installing and setting up computer labs and making cables were among some of her responsibilities. However, she developed an early appreciation for IT by doing these basic tasks, and still maintains that love for the industry 20 years later. Jennyfer was drawn to IT because of her ability to consistently innovate with technology: “Being able to innovate and stay current on the technology I’m working on was really important to me when searching for a job. In the 11 years I’ve worked with Sundt, I’m still learning every day.”

Jennyfer began her career at an architectural firm and came to Sundt where she has been a part of many upgrades, process improvements, automations and integrations. Now, she manages the development team. “There are all kinds of IT jobs, but the industry that you’re in can really change the aspects of the job. Even though Sundt has been in business since 1890, the company is forward-thinking and up-to-date with the technology we’re using.” Jennyfer has landed in two industries that are traditionally male-dominated, IT and construction, but is excited to see more women entering those fields. “My advice is to find people who can support your voice and be your advocate. Make sure that your opinions are heard and you trust your own knowledge.”


Sr. Project Engineer, Utah

Jennifer has worked in the construction industry for over five years, all with Sundt, but she began her career by serving as an Engineer Officer in the military. She has served in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq in positions such as Task Force Engineer Planner, Project Officer, and Platoon Leader in a combat engineer battalion. “I am an example that educational background does not limit options and opportunities that present themselves at later stages in life. There are opportunities beyond the traditional path of graduating and staying within the same industry your entire professional career,” Jennifer said.

Since coming to Sundt in 2017, Jennifer has held the roles of Business Development Representative, Senior Project Engineer, and now serves as a Project Manager on the Water Reclamation Facility in Salt Lake City. “There is a feeling of immense satisfaction being part of a project that will serve the community and businesses for 50+ years, improve the quality of life for multiple generations, and have a collective positive impact on society.” Jennifer hopes women entering the industry seek out mentors who they can look to as positive examples. “Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Stefanie Teller, Vice President of Admin Talent Development Melissa Moreno and Project Manager Ashleigh Eubank are my mentors. Uplifting young girls and women is intentional, not accidental; it must be done by everyone, not the few.”

“I come from a small community on the Navajo reservation and there’s not many career opportunities. For me, this is not just about women in construction, it’s also about my culture and background; it’s about younger kids back home seeing what I’m doing in this industry and believing—‘that can be me.’ I want to be a resource for them.”

Geri James, Equipment Services, Tempe


Project Controls Manager, Tempe

Melissa Love was initiated into the world of construction at an early age, some of her first memories being on jobsites with her dad and living in the homes her parents built. Now, she spends her evenings building skyscrapers out of Legos with her own children. Melissa worked as a project engineer for four years, as an estimator for over 10 years and is currently a Project Controls Manager for Sundt. “Preconstruction has lacked innovation and technology in years past. We are at this unique time where advancement in software and technology is now focusing on this initial part of construction, which is exciting for my role.”

Melissa loves her job at Sundt because of the foundation preconstruction sets for successful projects, and how it allows her to work collaboratively with different teams. “I have a passion for design and architecture, and in this role, I work closely with architects, designers and clients who provide a totally different perspective on the design and construction process.  In my role, I hope the tools and applications we have developed, continue to enhance that experience and allow for better communication throughout the preconstruction process.” As an industry, Melissa believes that we need to work on redefining what attributes create a successful position, especially high-level positions. “These roles have typically been held by men and we have defined their success with traits of those who held the positions prior. With an emerging female presence in construction, we need to recognize that women will bring a different set of skills, and incorporate them into what defines a position’s success.”


Project Engineer, Oregon

MacKenzie Brock is coming up on her fourth year in the construction industry. She is currently on the Willamette Water Supply Water Treatment Plant in Oregon as a project engineer, and has her sights set on working her way up to becoming a superintendent one day. She went to Colorado State University and studied finance and construction management, inspired by her aunt and father who work in the industry. One of her favorite things about being in construction is getting to leave a mark on the world with the projects she helps build. “I have a map that has a pin marking every location where I’ve built something,” she said proudly. “I love this job and I love being able to visualize the communities I’ve been able to positively impact.”

However, being a woman in construction isn’t always easy. “It’s sometimes frustrating being a woman in a male-dominated field because any time a woman experiences any kind of human feeling whether it be excitement, frustration, joy, anger, regardless of what it is, will often be labeled as ‘emotional.’ Whereas men get to just be excited, angry, frustrated, etc. As a woman, you feel you have to micromanage your behavior and pick and choose your words carefully so that your peers will respect you, but it’s not a fair standard. I try to go into every interaction with confidence and show that I can be a human being with emotions but that I am also competent and deserving of respect. With that being said, even with only 4 years of construction behind me I have already seen these scenarios improve.”