Breaking Barriers: Women in the Field
What does it mean to be a woman in the field in New York City? Join Structure Tone New York’s Superintendent, Kiera Brady, VP of Operations, Stacey Dackson, and Project Manager, Eileen McCarthy, as they share their experiences, their insights, and the challenges they faced building some of NYC’s most iconic projects.
Kiera BradySuperintendent, Structure Tone New York
Stacey DacksonVP, Operations Manager, Structure Tone New York
Eileen McCarthyProject Manager, Structure Tone New York
Welcome to Building Conversations, a construction podcast powered by the STO Building Group in honor of Women in Construction Week, today’s episode features three women who have helped bring some of Structure Tone New York’s most iconic projects to life. Join Superintendent, Keira Brady, Project Manager, Eileen McCarthy, and Vice President and Operations Manager, Stacey Dackson to hear more about their experiences as women in the field.
Kiera Brady (00:36):
Hello, welcome to the Building Conversations Podcast. I’m here with Stacey Dackson and Eileen McCarthy. And I’m Kiera Brady. I’m a Super for us here in New York, and I’ve been with us almost nine years. I started out as an RP and then rotated in as I’ve stayed in as a superintendent in operations.
Stacey Dackson (00:56):
And I’m Stacey Dackson, Vice President, and Operations Manager here at Structure Tone. I’m here going on 18 years this January, and I’ve always been in an operations role from Superintendent to General, Super Project Manager, Director of Special Projects, and now Ops Manager.
Eileen McCarthy (01:14):
Good morning. I’m Eileen McCarthy. I’m a project manager here in New York City with Structure Tone. It will be 22 years in February that I’m with the company, and I came in as a PM and I’ve been a PM my entire tenure here.
Kiera Brady (01:27):
Awesome. All right. So building off of that, what inspired you guys to start in construction and then also just continue and pursue a career in construction?
Eileen McCarthy (01:35):
I don’t know if it was necessarily inspired, but my dad was in another aspect of the construction industry and I remember being knee-high to a grasshopper and listening to stories about steamfitters, iron workers, plumbers, carpenters, you name it, and p.s. then I end up in the business. So I think it was by osmosis, but I like just seeing something go from zero to completion. And I think that, that once I got into it, I was on the paperwork side for many years as an admin, worked my way up. So I saw the paperwork side, but I also saw the building side go on and I knew that that’s where I wanted to go and, and I made it to the building side of things.
Stacey Dackson (02:17):
My career in construction is really circuitous. I had never had any intention of getting into this industry. It really became a function of economic forces of when I graduated graduate school. My thought was that I would go into the public sector, that was where most of my internships were, and thought I would stay within research and development and just writing series of reports and papers on traffic and things of that sort as I worked my way through the Port Authority and DOT. So by 1995 or so, we started to have a softening of the economy and of course public sector immediately stops hiring. And at that point, point, I had to pivot and go into private sector. And it was logical to go from – I was pursuing a career in industrial engineering in the public sector, which was doing feasibility studies and economic comparisons for different infrastructure projects for the Port Authority. So the decision was to go into the private side and actually build, and that is how I got here.
Kiera Brady (03:23):
There you go. Like I said, I’ve been here almost just about nine years and I’ve seen a lot of changes throughout my time here. But you guys being 10, 20 years in the industry, even more industry in the industry, what changes have you guys seen throughout your careers?
Stacey Dackson (03:41):
I definitely have seen many more women now joining, which is refreshing to see. But still a deficit in the, in the field, right, tradesmen, definitely seeing a lot more trades women. But from a project management and superintendent point of view, certainly still a ways to go, but there has been vast improvement over the past 20 years.
Eileen McCarthy (04:00):
You saw them on the owner’s, you still see them on the owner’s side. The architectural side or the designers, which I call the soft side of the business or the hard side of the business. You are seeing more. Although occasionally I still will get a comment like, wow, you’re the first woman I’ve worked with in, in the business. Just like, God, what planet were you on?
Stacey Dackson (04:20):
Eileen McCarthy (04:21):
I don’t think I’m that rare. That kind of took me back and it was a lighting vendor because I was pounding them about delivery dates: where’s this, where’s that? And actually got the owner of the company in there: young gal, her father started the company. So she’s working her way up. And I think she was rather intrigued because as I hit the floors and I’m talking to somebody, answering questions, meanwhile answering her questions, she was just like: “My God, where’d you come from?” And I was like: “Been here for 35 plus years in New York City doing this.” So I’m not new. And you do see more of them, you see more women in the trades still very much in the minority. And God bless those women. I mean, it’s like, I watch them, and I give them a lot of credit.
Stacey Dackson (05:07):
Well, it’s funny that you say that, Eileen, that being like some people you meet are meeting you as a woman in the field for the first time in their entire careers. And these are not people that are just beginning in their careers either, right? They have some mileage on them, right? And it’s funny because I met for lunch one of my clients, and she was saying to me that myself in a VP role, it’s like an enigma in New York City that I’m one of less than a handful of women that have hit the VP role that actually occupied an operational career. And you sit back, and you say: “Oh my gosh. You know, is that like great or is it a little sad?” Right? That it’s that there’s so few that are in these roles.
Eileen McCarthy (05:46):
I think it’s a combination of both.
Stacey Dackson (05:49):
And then even here in the organization, right, there’s such a deficit between like our age group. So look at myself and Eileen and then and Kiera, right? And looking at that span of time. Where Eileen and I sit, and then the next, in the leadership there is a big gap in age. And I think it’s really strictly because of the fact that it’s just not as encouraged in school.
Eileen McCarthy (06:10):
Stacey Dackson (06:11):
In the timeframe that where we are. So now it’s a greater encouragement, a lot more outreach. And a lot that open-mindedness towards a pursuit of the career.
Eileen McCarthy (06:21):
Right. There was none of that when I started. I mean, I started out, as I said, paperwork, worked my way up, admin. Then I was given a chance to go out in the field on a base building job in Hartford, Connecticut. Back the mid-1980s. What I knew you could put in the thimble. The gentleman who worked, who was running the project said, go take a blueprint course. I did. And I just bought a pair of construction boots and spent time out in the field and actually got mud boots too, because it was a base building site so, I was in clay, sometimes I would get, it was a little bit lighter then. But I’d get stuck, and I have to get pulled out. But I went out, asked questions, watched, listened, learned. The men, I say men because that’s collectively what I have been dealing with for all these years, have been my best teachers. And I even told you that at St. Pat’s go out, pick their brains, spend time with them, ask questions.
Eileen McCarthy (07:09):
Everybody wants to talk about what they do. And they’re very open to, obviously not when they’re in the heat of battle, but they will take the time. They’ll explain it if you’re actually engaged, they will take the time and they’ll teach you. But looking at it, I mean, I was the only one for a long, long time. The only one. Just keep moving, and I don’t even think about it. I just did it.
Stacey Dackson (07:35):
Well that, I think that’s what came part of the metal to pursue it and to keep on going through it was just shaking it off and keep on going forward. You’re on board with me or you’re not, and just keep going.
Kiera Brady (07:46):
So that’s actually a very good segue for our next question. So, like you said, being one of the only women on your job site in the field, I often get like, how do I find being a woman in the field Is, are there difficulties? What do you, what do you experience on a day to day? For me, like you said, we were at St. Pat’s together, so that helped me time. I was 22 and I was like, oh, this is great. There’s a woman PM here. That’s awesome. And I can ask you like, random, is this all right? Or just random questions. So for you both, did you have a specific instance where you felt it was difficult to be a woman in the industry? And how have you overcome those obstacles and challenges?
Eileen McCarthy (08:22):
I don’t know that I could call out a specific one. I know a lot of times it was the perception. Typically when, and I’m sure you had the same experience, Stacey, you’d start a job, you’d have to do your kickoff meeting, you’d get the subs, they’d come in and they’d all just sit there, like around the table and nobody’s saying anything. And I would just go through my little spiel, this is what I expect, this is what we’re going to do. And they’d all just sort of look and go, uh-huh. All right. Well, when I was younger, I would fight against that kind of attitude coming back towards me. Or if somebody was just like blowing me off, so to speak, not really answering the question or whatever I found as I’ve gotten older, I’ll wait, I’ll sit back. Because eventually they have to come back to you, and you’ve got the answer.
Eileen McCarthy (09:10):
You already know the answer, or you’ve already set everything up to proceed with whether it be work or organization or making sure submittals are running through, everybody’s doing their job on our side of the barricade. And when you get that, like I said, now I wait and it’s just like, okay, I’ll wait. You’re going to come back. And they do. So overcoming that, I once had somebody when I was in my mid-thirties say to me, and he was a southern gentleman: “Miss Eileen, it will get much easier for you when you get older, and you have some gray hair.” He was right. He was right. It, it did get a little bit easier. But also too, I think once people know that if you’re a straight shooter, you’re fair, you’re out there doing your job, your reputation proceeds you. And once that happens, and I mean in a good way, once that happens, that actually carries you. Yes. It carries you through.
Stacey Dackson (10:02):
Well, reputation is everything. I had the benefit of growing up in an extremely patriarchal household. So we had very defined roles in the house. So going into a man’s industry, which part of why I pursued it was to irritate my dad. It was really, I had the benefit of knowing, let’s call it “my place.” So starting off and being a little on the docile side, right. Listening more than I spoke, which I recommend for anybody starting off in the industry anyway. Right. Really kind of just approaching it with a little trepidation. Right. Just taking it slowly and then speaking and then being impactful when you did speak.
Stacey Dackson (10:45):
And it was never really over talking, never having to prove that you knew everything or that you knew more than everybody else around the table. Because at one point it wasn’t just that you were the only woman on the job, it was that you were the youngest on the job.
Eileen McCarthy (10:59):
Yes. Right. Both factors.
Stacey Dackson (11:01):
So we had double whammy of just how much do you know? And you’re a woman and you don’t belong here. So it was really kind of approaching it slowly, methodically. And then when you did actually strike, you struck.
Eileen McCarthy (11:13):
And I think to your point, my mother had an expression, give your ears a chance. Well, that’s very true. And usually when I see somebody just constantly talking and nattering, it’s like, oh, this is going to be an adventure . But you just step back, listen, and spend the time. Yes. And a lot of times if you just listen to everything and all the conversations going around you, you can usually ferret out and make it pick out the parts that you need to do and you can execute. From that point, it’s not hard. It’s just, and the other thing is when I’m sure you’ve done it, Stacy, and I know you saw me do it, if there was a problem, you’d get all of the entities in, whether it be the architect, the plumber, the electrician, get everybody in there, say, okay, these are the plans, this is the way we have to go, but I’m concerned about this. And then just stop talking because ultimately the men in the field are going to solve the problem better than, in my opinion, any architect engineer, because they’re hands on, they’re living it. Well,
Stacey Dackson (12:08):
We Our job is to be the-
Eileen McCarthy (12:10):
Stacey Dackson (12:10):
Get everybody into the room and they duke it out. It’s bringing the right people into the room at the right times. Bringing the architect in at the right time. Yep. And that’s what I think really creates the benefit of women being in the field, is really understanding that, because we don’t need to always speak to be heard. Right. And we allow room for others.
Kiera Brady (12:29):
Like you’re the bridge between the trades.
Kiera Brady (12:34):
So next up with our lovely busy day-to-day that we experience each day, how do you balance your family and your outside interests outside of your career?
Stacey Dackson (12:44):
It is extremely difficult for myself. I am married, and I have two step-kids and I have three dogs. And it’s, it’s difficult. It’s not easy. I got married late in life because my career was kind of dominating things and I allowed it to. Right. So you sow your seeds, and you have to lay in your bed. Right. So it isn’t, it isn’t so simple. And when you’re trying to develop yourself in your career, you want to be the first on the job. You want to be the last on the job. You want to be there all the time. You want to be able to catch everything. And some of it is a little self-imposed. Right. You are a bit of an underdog. Right. As a, as a woman in the field, they’re not counting on you to succeed. Right. Right. And there are some that are hoping that you don’t, so therefore you want to be on everything. So therefore all bases are covered at all times. And much to the chagrin of your family and personal life that goes by the wayside.
Stacey Dackson (13:42):
So it’s something you have to be cognizant of to balance things and unplug and pull yourself away and realize that you are not going to be able to control everything really, really. If you can lasso the moon, you would have already. And so it is, it is not very simple. That is the long and short of it.
Eileen McCarthy (14:03):
And I, I don’t have anybody at home. I’m single, but that is just as hard. Because Kiera has seen the hours that I would put in, come in on weekends. And just again, to your point, you’re trying to stay ahead, making sure everything’s covered. I also think it’s the way women, girls are trained when we’re growing up, you have a recipe follow the recipe. So it’s kind of ingrained in us. There’s a certain way that you process things. Where there have been studies on this where it’s not like men in sports where you’re in the locker room and everybody’s, you know, “yay.” And everybody’s a team and whatever. You’re, A lot of what we do is singular. Not saying that I’m singular on a job, but it’s just how you process things. So the unplugging, I will tell you when I was younger was very hard for me, me to do.
Eileen McCarthy (14:51):
I remember going on vacations and I wouldn’t leave work until 11, 12 o’clock, go home, three hours of sleep, and then get on a plane and go someplace. So I’ve had to kind of had to pull myself back. And this week has been particularly a challenge. And last night I was a little bit late, but I chose to, and then I said, okay, taking this train, do what I can up until that point. And then that’s it. I’ve got to just, like you said, unplug. The other night I got home, I was so tired, and I watched a Hallmark movie for two hours. So that was really unplugging. But it was great, and it was just, it was kind of the, the little bit of a break and just total escapism that I needed. So I could go back yesterday.
Kiera Brady (15:33):
It out very easily to bring work home with you.
Eileen McCarthy (15:36):
Oh my stars. We all do.
Stacey Dackson (15:37):
Stacey Dackson (15:40):
What’s, at what point in your career did you stop waking up in the middle of the night and springing out of bed?
Stacey Dackson (15:46):
Does that ever happen?
Eileen McCarthy (15:51):
Many times on jobs and I don’t know why, I’ve always just focused in on light fixtures. Because as you both know, those are critical to the job. And they’re usually chasing me around the bedroom at night, which is kind of a, it was a visual for you, but it’s just because you wake up and think, oh, but if I do this and I do this and don’t. We can get an overall dimension and just let it fly will be okay. But it’s just, and I’ve always found that I solve a lot of problems when I’m doing laundry. Don’t ask me what sorting laundry and solving problems. But your brain is schooling out. You’re not even thinking about it consciously. And it’s like a flash comes.
Stacey Dackson (16:27):
Some of those mundane tasks, allow you that catharsis. So you think things through and catalog and shift things into what’s important, what’s not important, what I’ll get to.
Kiera Brady (16:39):
All right. So we’ll change gears just a little bit to some leadership styles. So how have you guys developed your leadership style in this male dominated industry of ours?
Eileen McCarthy (16:50):
I don’t think it’s anything conscious. Kiera, I’ve watched a lot of people as I was coming up, always had four male bosses. I did have one very strong female at one point in time and just watched how they processed things. But they were always well ahead of the curve, like 10, if you think you could be five steps ahead of somebody, they were 10 steps ahead of you. So if you could almost catch up and match with that. I think it’s also your personality type, too, and how you approach things. People say, well, how do you deal in the fields? It’s like a lot of common sense, that usually helps. Some child psychology. So I don’t know that, I mean, I didn’t set out to do it, it was just, but it, like I said, be fair, be straight and listen usually if you do that and then it’s like, have them help problem solve and pull people in that way. I, I think that that’s kind of evolved for me, me case in point, I’m walking out and I have an electrician calling me. He says the Audrey experience and, and we have four lights now. I said, okay, did you scale the drawings? No. Okay. Scale the drawings. Count the track heads. I have to run down to the office, I’ll be back and then tell me what the lengths of the tracks are. So he’s like, okay. I said, I’ll talk to you later too. And that was it. But I don’t know, I don’t, it’s not something I, I don’t consciously think about it or how did I evolve? It just happened.
Stacey Dackson (18:16):
I guess you just, you’re not organic,
Eileen McCarthy (18:18):
Right? Yeah. You, you just kind of, I don’t know, morph into it, or move into the, you know.
Stacey Dackson (18:24):
Yeah. How you, from my leadership style, as it’s morphed from myself also, it’s, what I have since learned is called servant leadership. So I didn’t know what it was until it was all of a sudden described. And I was like, okay, what is, I understand it. So from a servant leadership point of view is to really be serving your people, right? So you serve and you think about it in the, in the context of the field. We get the subs together, we’re serving them. How do I make your job easier? Right? What, what do you need from me to facilitate your work? And then in co concert with that, now talking from a people point of view and who I’m managing, how do I help you optimally perform? What do you need to succeed? Make these things happen? What do we need to do to set you up so that you have proper access, whether it be CMIC and various other things so that you can be working optimally at all times. And that’s how I see it. So it’s never a point where you’re working for me, how am I helping you?
Eileen McCarthy (19:28):
Kiera Brady (19:29):
What’s that called again?
Eileen McCarthy (19:31):
Servant Leadership. I’ve never heard that. But that’s, it’s very true. And I think once you’re there, you’re, you’re doing it Anyway. I never thought of that’s what I’m doing.
Stacey Dackson (19:39):
That’s, that’s what I’m saying. So all of a sudden you hear something described and, and all of a sudden it’s given a title. Right. Everything’s given a title. But that’s really what I think works well. And then it’s also just being a little fearless, right. Knowing your people have a backstop that the buck does stop with you. And don’t worry about it. Giving them the latitude and the strength
Eileen McCarthy (20:00):
That also that you have their back.
Stacey Dackson (20:01):
That I have. You don’t worry about it. You go and do your thing and we’re good.
Eileen McCarthy (20:06):
And I think the other thing is too, if you make a mistake where something happens and it, you have to, there’s as I tell everybody that works for me or with me, that’s what they put erasers on pencils for. We all make mistakes. Okay. I thought I had one last night and I was talking to myself, but it seems like it’s turned itself around. But I got all my paperwork in order, talked to the super this morning, talked to the – it’s just a matter of making sure you’ve closed all the loops, you’ve looked at all the issues we’ve gotten, everything solved. Okay. Now we can pull the trigger in order these, for these three floors. I need the super on the upper two floors to measure for me. And then I need the young fella that’s doing on the second floor as well as ground to do the same for his floor. So I think organization also falls into that too and how you process things. I mean, Kiera, you know how organized I am. And she used to just chuckle.
Kiera Brady (20:59):
Yes, the baby plans.
Eileen McCarthy (21:00):
Right? The baby plans. Yes. I’m very big on baby plans.
Eileen McCarthy (21:04):
And binders and the men on the job site, when we were at St. Pat’s, I go, well, I can’t find it. I wouldn’t even look. And I would just go up, pull down a binder and just put it in front of them.
Kiera Brady (21:14):
So how have you adapted with technology?
Eileen McCarthy (21:16):
It’s a challenge. Although I do have to say, I love the thing on PlanGrid when you can pull the drawing up weight and I’m looking for a light fixture type. And I go, can you, can I type in the three letters and it’s like three matches and then I expand it. I’m getting faster. I’m getting faster.
Kiera Brady (21:32):
Do you do the overlay because, or do you still do the super, your hand print the paper out and you do the supersede?
Eileen McCarthy (21:38):
Oh no. Well, I haven’t. They had to break me of the drawings that broke my heart. Because I killed a lot of trees.
Kiera Brady (21:44):
Not just stacks and stacks and every issuance. It’d say superseded by blah, blah, blah blah.
Eileen McCarthy (21:51):
We’ve had so many changes on the job that I’m on that now with the, forget about it. I mean we would need structural steel support for the point . What? It takes a lot when you’re so used to the paper, right? Yes. However, it’s hard to break the habit. How, however, we have thousands, for instance, on this job, we have thousands of light fixtures. And I told the lighting vendor, I said, you can’t give me one package because these are all over the, the building. Give me it by floor. I want a table of contents. Everybody thought I was nuts. But then when they saw there was a method to my madness. I said, we’ll approve them this way. I did, however, make copies of all of those. I have the master binder. I broke it up by the three supers and the three electricians.
Eileen McCarthy (22:28):
And then the best part was the, the one of the foreman, he was the last one to get it because he had five floors and it was, it was herculean, and the pages are tabbed. It was duplicate. I made three sets, one for the super, one for the foreman. And I had the young kid do and document control with me helping me out. And once he saw what I needed, he knew, and I would write the tabs out and we would get it all organized. And Rick says one day to Brian, the other foreman, he is like, where’d you get that book? And, he’s like, flipping through it. And Brian says, oh, Eileen gave it to me.
Kiera Brady (22:58):
So we’ve all been lucky enough to be on some awesome projects. We’ve talked about St. Pat’s, which was my first project, first Structure Tone and that was with Eileen. We casually got blessed by the Pope. It was great. So what are your most memorable projects or, moments during your career in general?
Eileen McCarthy (23:13):
I need to think about that one. No. There so many. Well, St. Pat’s was very cool. I mean, yeah, it’s an icon in New York City. I mean everybody knows St. Patrick’s. And yeah. We were blessed by the Pope. And what was really weird was when to see the Pope Mobile come down the street and the whole street just, it was just this hush. It was amazing.
Eileen McCarthy (23:35):
It so cool. It was really something. But there was one day, I don’t know if you were in the church with me or if this was before you got there, Kiera, remember when we had the side aisles all scaffolded and I was, was up there. I was with one of the painters or whatever and some group was rehearsing. Because very often they would come in, the organ would be playing, or they’d have different choirs come in. and this young woman sang Ave Maria acapella. We all just froze in our tracks. And then to have it done in church, it was just, it still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. It was really amazing. The other jobs, and I’m not minimizing them, they had their own challenges. They had their own positives. It was just nice to see bigger jobs go through to completion or in, in, I’ve done many hotel rooms in my career, heads and beds. When you saw the newspapers hanging on the door, you knew once they flipped the room and they were selling it, we did our job. So I don’t think you can top Ave Maria acapella.
Stacey Dackson (24:33):
That’s great. So I’ve been on other types of projects. So you’ve been very lucky, Eileen, to have some very iconic projects under your belt and comes a lot of stress. Right? These deadlines are crazy. I’ve worked on some sizable projects myself and then a lot of small ones, which are extremely difficult as well.
Eileen McCarthy (24:54):
It’s the same moves no matter whether it’s big one or a small one.
Stacey Dackson (24:56):
So very difficult. But I guess one of the most memorable, which I have many. Some are negative, and some are positive. So this is like a really weird one. So for A&E Networks, we started our job, and the architect was coming up with these really very flourish-y designs and it was going completely out of budget and like out of budget by double the amount of budget originally. Oh dear. Earmarked for the project. And with that they fired the architect in the midst of my demo of, of the buildings. Right. So we were putting two buildings together on 45th Street going from third Avenue down to second Avenue down to third Avenue. Wow. So on a slope. But we were combining the two buildings together, breaking open the party walls, making access between the buildings and making it a big campus for a and e networks.
Stacey Dackson (25:48):
So I’m in the midst of all of my demo taking out radiators here and there because we were going to do chill beam and a whole other type of chiller system up on the roof. And I get a call: “Stacey, how far did you get on demo?” I said: “Well, I’m already down to the, I’m down to the first floor. Did you take out all, did you take out all the radiators?” I said, “The radiators are leaving the building right now. But I did leave a few on each floor.” So I did maintain the riser and I had to leave a few on each floor because we were going to go through some seasons, and we were going to freeze the building.
Stacey Dackson (26:19):
Great. Because we have to put them all back in again. I said, well, they’re already gone. And with that cancellation of the architect and the firing of the architect, there was a little bit of time now to get a new architect on board, which was Mancini Duffy. I had gotten engaged earlier that year and I was kind of kicking around getting married and I was like, oh God, I don’t have time for this. I have TCOs, I have things to do. I mean Yes. Normal stuff, right? Yes. You have conversations about, of course, thankfully my husband is in the industry, so someone understands. And so I had six weeks that the client says, we don’t want Stacy to leave. We want her to stay here because we don’t, we’re going to have walkthroughs. They’re going to be doing different scans of the floor. We’re facilitating the new architect for them to draw everything completely new. So they have six weeks with which to deliver the job to Mancini Duffy to give us actual drawings. So I sat on the site, said to my husband, all right, we’re going to get married. He’s like okay. And I said, I have six weeks to plan the whole thing because the architect gets on board within six weeks, and I have to pit rubber to the road. So we’re going to do everything now and we’re going to get everything squared away
Eileen McCarthy (27:34):
And you will have a good time.
Stacey Dackson (27:36):
So I planned everything. We didn’t get married during that time, but everything was set up. And then I was looking at the schedule based upon when I was going to receive those drawings based on the bid, based on the buyout and the purchasing and the TCO. I was like, the TCO should be in the bag by June. We’ll get married in August, I’ll have time to finish the punch list and we’ll be into the next phase. Because it was a multi-phase project.
Eileen McCarthy (27:59):
Did it work?
Stacey Dackson (28:01):
The TCO never happened until December, but I still got married in August. But it’s those that, but that was just like a memorable moment for me of how, just trying to figure out back to your, how do you balance your career and your life, you don’t just tuck it in wherever.
Eileen McCarthy (28:18):
So remember that Kiera when you’re doing TCOS.
Kiera Brady (28:20):
Yeah. Good to know.
Stacey Dackson (28:24):
They do come and go.
Kiera Brady (28:26):
So really just feeding off of your most memorable, what have been sort of your, that’s been some challenging, challenging stories, but some challenges that you guys have faced in your careers as well.
Eileen McCarthy (28:39):
Kiera Brady (28:40):
Where to start?
Stacey Dackson (28:42):
A lot of challenges. Challenges like have manifested in, in different types of ways as far as just really being taken seriously. Right. Like I’ve had my fair share of misogyny off of clients that wouldn’t talk to me.
Eileen McCarthy (28:57):
Oh, I, I can’t say that I’ve had that so much. For me, it’s been delivery of items, making sure that you could get stuff done. If you have it, you can build it. And the pandemic just has just blown things to smithereens. And it’s starting to cycle backwards a little bit better now. But, how do you build it if you don’t have it? And then you have a client stand there and say, well I want it. Well, okay, I want a lot of things too, but we don’t have it. So I don’t know. That’s kind of a hard question to answer because I don’t think you ever stop and think about how you’re doing it.
Kiera Brady (29:34):
Just get through it.
Stacey Dackson (29:36):
Well, you met with some of those challenges, right? So you have some clients, and you have owner’s reps that certainly paint a picture that’s a little different than reality. And then you have to walk things back a little bit and kind of dash hopes and dreams or at least explain why something
Eileen McCarthy (29:54):
Stacey Dackson (29:54):
Right. So it’s, it’s I think you, you meet the challenges with just truth.
Eileen McCarthy (29:59):
Stacey Dackson (30:00):
Right? Yeah. And, and you need to serve the information as hot as possible. Right. That it’s not, you don’t let things go cold when there’s bad news. And you try to just gain that trust of your client in the face of the adversity. I mean the supply chain and everything with covid has been completely upside down.
Eileen McCarthy (30:15):
Kiera Brady (30:16):
It’s always like the most random things too that you’re like, who would’ve thought, you know?
Eileen McCarthy (30:20):
Kiera Brady (30:21):
Purple cabling would be a problem.
Eileen McCarthy (30:24):
Right. Yeah. We did have some problems with cabling on our job. It was a long lead. The light fixtures, many of them, we were out of the pandemic, but a lot of them had already been ordered previously. Because this, this job went through a buyout and some, a new owner came in: stopped the presses shelve everything. New design. So some of the stuff or some of the items we already have had in house, but you don’t just pull stone from Italy, it has to come off a mountain
Kiera Brady (30:55):
Eileen McCarthy (30:57):
Wood floors, so that’s been, that’s been a challenge, but you don’t think about it. You just keep moving, go to try and find a plan B or this is what it is, this is when it’s coming. You just have to keep, like you said, serve it and just keep being truthful and letting everybody know. Communication is always key, and I think women are much better at that in a lot of ways. It’s not our information, it’s everybody’s information. At least that’s how I’ve always felt on the job.
Kiera Brady (31:25):
It’s not like you’re holding it back to then drop a bomb. It’s like, no, here’s –
Stacey Dackson (31:29):
Well there’s an important point that you bring up Kiera. That there are many people that try to keep it to themselves. And you think you going to resolve the problem yourself. And my advice I give to my whole team, if you can’t resolve it within 24 hours, hand it up. Like give it type of thing.
Eileen McCarthy (31:43):
And manage down.
Stacey Dackson (31:45):
You have to just spread it around because other people can, can rally and try to help solve that problem. But for you to harbor it and you can’t fix it immediately, then stop holding onto it. And it’s not an admission of weakness, it’s not an admission of incompetence. It is just a problem that needs more than just the leg work.
Kiera Brady (32:03):
Okay. Awesome. So the next step we have we just kind of spoke about this earlier of what changes you guys have seen, we’ve seen during your careers. Where do you think that there are opportunities for improvement when it comes to women in construction? Getting young women involved, kind of drawing people to the lovely careers that you both have had?
Stacey Dackson (32:27):
I think it’s really educating people to understanding how dynamic and how lucrative the, the position is, right? To work in the field. The constant problem solving it is so interesting. The things that you’re presented with, the experiences you have. Who would ever think that, I mean, not that it’s so outlandish that you’re working at St. Pat’s that you’d meet the Pope, but it’s just like, it’s insane. This is a story for the ages.
Eileen McCarthy (32:50):
Stacey Dackson (32:51):
Right. And those types of nuances are so interesting and so many stories that you can regale at a cocktail party. Right. That everybody’s surrounding you the whole time because they can’t even believe what you do every day. And, and these, these little stories that are just so, they’re just so colorful they’re so interesting. but I think also what would maintain and retention, right? It’s one thing to attract another thing to retain is really talking about flexibility. You know, where Eileen and I are coming off of a generation where we yielded to work, right? Work did not yield to our lives.
Eileen McCarthy (33:26):
Stacey Dackson (33:27):
And there has been a huge shift towards more enjoyment of your personal life and putting that as paramount versus your work life. Or really, really having a true balance, if you will. So I think that answering the call of today is in instituting some a little bit more flexibility. If you have a doctor’s appointment, taking the day and working from home, there is a, a modicum of work even working in the field that you can work from home.
Eileen McCarthy (33:57):
Stacey Dackson (33:57):
Yes. You can make your phone call.. Same things that you’re writing your desk in your field office and things like that. So to provide that flexibility I think would give a little bit more of an attraction, I think.
Eileen McCarthy (34:11):
And it does work because Monday, I worked from home this past Monday I worked from home and I actually had to go through our gal that does the expediting here in the office with the DOB had created a share file, but there were over 60 documents in there and I literally had to click into each one. Well there’s usually invariably somebody clutching at my ankles any given moment of the day, you start a thought, you can’t finish it, the phone’s ringing, somebody comes up, they’ve got a problem with the lights and it’s just constant. And then there’s, as you said, more colorful events. I should have a GoPro camera on my shoulder. I am a sitcom waiting to happen. Nobody’s discovered me yet. And because some of the stuff that happens, really, it’s like, to your point at cocktail parties, when you tell people, you’ll have them just hysterical when they listen to some of these stories because it’s just, and the characters that you’re dealing with.
Eileen McCarthy (35:02):
So it was just wonderful when I sat at home and I went through all 60 files, I had 12 pages of notes, didn’t have a printer. And but I made it by hand because now I can go back and tie in, make sure I knew we had all the DOB perfs on the site, which we’ve done. I’ve already cataloged them. But there were a couple that snuck in that it was like, I missed him and I’m like, oh dear God, the DOB comes in and we’re not up to date. I don’t want to put us at risk. So it was just nice to have that quiet time to think because man, sometimes in the field. But yeah. If you have that flexibility, not all the time but just like a one-off.
Kiera Brady (35:39):
It’s like a catch-up day.
Eileen McCarthy (35:40):
Yes, it was.
Stacey Dackson (35:41):
Yeah. I mean I remember our, my catch-up day would be working Saturday afternoons.
Kiera Brady (35:45):
Stacey Dackson (35:47):
That was, that was the flexibility. Your Saturday. Yes.
Kiera Brady (35:50):
I have to catch up on that stuff. Yes. I’ll come in tomorrow. Yes-
Stacey Dackson (35:53):
Eileen McCarthy (35:54):
Yes. And then on Saturdays you didn’t have as many questions or it’s a different energy on a job site wherever knew it. It truly is.
Stacey Dackson (36:01):
It’s a time and a half day. It was a time and a half day for paperwork. Look at which I can get done.
Eileen McCarthy (36:05):
But even the trades, you didn’t really hear from them. They just came in. No, they worked. Yes. And they went home. So you knew you were going to be clear to just not have anybody coming in with all the questions.
Kiera Brady (36:16):
Yeah, that’s true. We’ve spoken about this before, the importance of mentorships for me, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to you guys as far as just sounding boards and what do you think about this? What, what has your experience showed you? I have different PMs I’ve worked with Paul, Scott, Maltby, and it’s all great to have all these people because it’s, you all have built these amazing careers at structure tone. So for you guys who kind of are your go-to mentors, when you hear the word mentorship. Who do you think of?
Stacey Dackson (36:47):
For myself now and, and where I currently sit within the organization, I look at my co-operating managers, operations managers to see just how they are managing their teams. I lean a lot on Dan Finnegan just to get his leadership and his insight because at times his vision is a lot clearer and a lot different than mine. That’s sometimes one of the traits I have is that I get too into the weeds and sometimes I cannot see the forest through the trees.
Stacey Dackson (37:19):
So just being able to rely on someone just to do a reader’s digest real quick download and get a different perspective, that gives me a little bit more color to how I manage things. But coming up in the industry, it was few and far between, right? So it would really, mentorship and sponsorship were things that were unlabeled. Didn’t have a labeled
Stacey Dackson (37:43):
Right, right. Yeah. So you would just observe and so you’d observe certain people that were doing things that like, oh no, that is certainly not working, so I’m going to click the call. That does not work. Do that too. See other people and just say, my God, the way that they have the gift of gab and the way they’re able to manage a meeting and keep everybody engaged and you just watch those little nuances and body language, and you just observe. And that’s really where my mentorship came from. It wasn’t having a sounding board; it was more from an up observational point of view.
Eileen McCarthy (38:16):
Yeah. I would say. But that’s the case. And I mean, I’m that many more years older than you Stacy, so that really didn’t exist when I was just starting out in the field. I mean, I had people say, go unload a truck. And he wasn’t kidding. No problem.
Eileen McCarthy (38:30):
So it’s been that kind of thing. So it was by observation again, watching it wasn’t necessarily called out. There were my friend Phil and he worked for Structure Tone for over 15 years. And I saw him when I was on the owner’s side and I just watched how he ran things and how he moved and it was just, huh, I’m hooking myself onto this guy’s belt and going along for the ride. And I did, and I learned, and I was on the client’s side, and he worked for Structure Tone, but I learned so much in watching him.
Kiera Brady (39:03):
And yeah. Like the right way of doing things and getting it done.
Eileen McCarthy (39:06):
Right. Yeah. So it was really more observation. There wasn’t anything specifically called out. I’ve very often had younger women in the company if they’ve had an issue on a job site they would either call me or someone would say, call Eileen. And I would just listen and tell them how I thought they should handle it. And then I’d check back in with them, and I’d say: “How’d it go?” And they said, you were spot on. Yeah. I did that and that it, it worked. I said, good. So, but it was just by process of elimination for me many years of just experience how I handled something and passing it along. So there’s always that in one way you don’t even realize you’re doing it. It’s the paying it forward,
Stacey Dackson (39:46):
Paying it forward is, is absolutely the most invaluable thing that you can do. And, and if you’re not doing it, it’s a huge disservice. And to do have the things that we didn’t necessarily have advocating for salary, talking to people about it, coaching them through those negotiations. I still can’t negotiate for myself, but I can negotiate for everybody else.
Stacey Dackson (40:10):
But it’s important to have that sounding board and let somebody know that you’ve, they’ve been there, and they’ve been doing that. Yeah. And giving them a little sobriety to the things that they’re going through.
Kiera Brady (40:20):
It’s funny, like, as far as organically happening, we have mentorship programs here. My mentor was Paul Sian, and the first two years of working here, I avoided him like the plague. Like, they kept saying, you need to reach out to him. I was like, no, this is so weird. Like, I don’t know him. And then he came to St. Pat’s and then he’s been stuck with me for six years.. But then it again, you just saw how he operated and then you were, I was drawn to him like, all right, this guy knows what he’s doing. But when he was assigned to me, it was like, this is so strange.
Stacey Dackson (40:49):
But there are so many people that have been in my, my time here at Structure Town that have been impactful to my life. Yeah.
Kiera Brady (40:55):
Stacey Dackson (40:56):
So I can’t even like name everybody like Kevin Mulvey. I didn’t have Kevin Mulvey, he was my project manager when I first started. I don’t know if I’d ever lasted.
Kiera Brady (41:04):
Stacey Dackson (41:05):
And taking cues from him was, was huge that I still do. And even to this day when it’s like national bosses there, I’ll reach out to him and just say, you’re the best boss I’ve ever had.
Kiera Brady (41:14):
That’s awesome. All right. So I think we’re at our last question, which I’m sure you’re both thrilled about
Kiera Brady (41:30):
What is the best career advice that you were ever given? And if you could give career advice to young women in operations, what would that be? Eileen, do you want to go first?
Eileen McCarthy (41:40):
Sure. I guess the best career advice I could give would be to know your project, know the drawings and be organized. If you’re organized, you can do anything. Case in point, reaching up and pulling down a binder without even having to look at it. It’s a double-edged sword. Then people will see you as the go-to person. But you need to know what your job is about all the paperwork, understand it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to spend time with the men in the field, men, and women in the field, but ask the questions of the actual tradespeople because they are the ones, they’re the ones that’ll help you get through it. You still have to engage, obviously the architect and the engineers, but it’s, it’s the people that, that are out there doing the work every day. Those are the ones that’ll be the best ones to help you. I would always say go to them for advice.
Stacey Dackson (42:29):
I agree with that, Eileen leveraging their experience. And that makes you that much smarter. I would know most of the things that I know today without watching their execution and just having those casual conversations. Yes. Being with them in the trenches, working the overnights, and really gaining their trust.
Eileen McCarthy (42:48):
Or I would even say to them occasionally, all right, this is what’s going on. Make me smart.
Eileen McCarthy (42:54):
Teach me. Yeah.
Stacey Dackson (42:56):
And you get so much from that, right? Just to have, as you were talking earlier in the podcast about getting people to talk about themselves and what they do. And everybody wants to talk about that forever. So, and it’s easy to start gleaning all of that information from them.
Eileen McCarthy (43:10):
Stacey Dackson (43:10):
And everybody walks away smarter and understanding. I think a bit of advice that I would give is to be patient. Many people coming into the industry and all industry really are only looking at what the next role they’re going to have for their career when they’re not well seated in the one that they have now and the position they have now. So my advice is to enjoy the position, really exploit that position for all that it’s worth, and not be so focused on what’s happening next year, the year after, and where the promotions are sitting. Enjoy the role, enjoy the ride. It makes you that much more prepared for the next role that you do have.
Kiera Brady (43:49):
Awesome. Thank you Stacey and Eileen for all your time today. This was an awesome conversation and I think will get out to a lot of people, and it’ll be great.
Stacey Dackson (43:58):
Thank you, Kiera.
Eileen McCarthy (43:59):
Thank you, Kiera.
Thanks for listening to Building Conversations. For more episodes like this, you can find us on Spotify, apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Audible, and the STO Building Group website.