As an extension of Women in Construction Week (WIC) – The Construction Careers Council has a mission to celebrate, educate and promote the roles of women within construction. The Council set out to shine a light on the women who currently work within the industry here in West Michigan through our “Women Who Build West Michigan Series.” The goal is to inspire and educate specifically young women but also those interested in being a part of our next generation of construction workforce.
I sat down with women across West Michigan to discuss their career path, the work they do, what they like and don’t like about their role, what motivates them and much more. Our conversations were authentic and the women I interviewed have a wealth of stories and tips to becoming successful.
Our second interview was with Stephanie Snowden. Stephanie is a project manager and marketing manager at Snowden Builders. She got her degree from Grand Valley State University in business administration. Stephanie has used her business acumen to become a prominent member in home building industry and the President of Professional Women in Building Council (PWB) of Greater Grand Rapids.
Name: Stephanie Snowden
Company: Snowden Builders
Title: Project Manager
Questions (Q) – Mac Dodds
Answers (A) – Stephanie Snowden
Q: You are a project/marketing manager at Snowden Builders, what does that mean? What does a typical day look like for you?
A: That’s tough. I work for a family-owned business and do a lot, so I wear many hats. We are a small residential builder of high-end custom homes ($1M and up). With a small business, I feel like that is common. So, with that comes a lot of responsibility. I provide direct communication with customers, handle a lot of scheduling, estimating, contractual work, facilitate customer selection and manage the project from start to finish. But what I love is that no day is the same, I know my work is directly correlated to the success of the company.
Q: Was there something during college or from your childhood that drew you to the construction industry?
A: “What’s funny is I had an entrepreneurship class in college, and we had a project where we would find a problem with a business and create a solution. There were energy codes that were changing during the time, and I knew that, from hearing from my dad who was a builder- So I decided to do something related. I talked to all kinds of builders and others in the industry, learning and creating connections. And looking back it was like I was preparing myself for the industry. That was when construction started to pique my interest. At the end I felt empowered even though I had no idea what I was doing, I knew I had the skills to be successful in the industry. I had the motivation and drive to make this company (Snowden Builders) grow. And since then, it’s grown into a passion for the construction industry.”
Q: What would you say to someone with no experience, or awareness about careers in construction, to encourage them to join the industry? And if you want talk about that intimidation aspect that kind of hinders the construction industry.
A: That is a great question because it’s scary. Different is scary and can be terrifying. Not knowing is scary, failure is scary, and rejection is scary. But I feel like the biggest thing is knowing your worth and value and capitalizing on that regardless of the industry. Reframing your thinking can be beneficial since it is easy to see the industry as “male dominated” or think, “I don’t know as much.” Instead, start thinking “I’m awesome in this, this, this and that,” and take those strengths and find a company that needs to utilize them. Knowing that you can help and being confident about that is huge.
Q: Tell me about the PWB. Tell me about that.
A: Sure. I have been president since early 2019. The PWB consists of women who work in or around the residential building industry in the Greater Grand Rapids and West Michigan area. Our role is to collaborate to find opportunities to promote and support the industry through professional development, education and networking. We also act as a resource for those that may want to get into the industry or learn more.
Q: How can someone join the council?
A: Go the HBA Website and there is a tab for the PWB. Fill out an application there or email me about joining. Honestly, I hope more people do because it’s an amazing group and has changed my professional life for the better!
Q: Have you seen any change with women in construction, and is it becoming easier to be a woman in this industry?
A: “That’s a great question, and I have. In the past five years it has changed more than it ever has. I am seeing more women on the jobsites, more educational programs for women and more projects and awareness for women in the industry. Their value and contributions are being celebrated and recognized a lot more. It is more about work than gender. However, I do feel like we can be better about providing resources for women in construction. Some get stuck and ask, “Where do I go?” I know we can improve and that’s exactly why I joined the PWB. I want to be that lifeline and so do the other women on the council. Going forward I think we will continue to see this gradual change and shift to a more diverse industry. Around 11-12 percent of the industry is women, and I would love to see that number double because of the value, strength and opportunity there.
Q: What are basic skills someone should have before joining the construction industry? Or what advice would you give to someone just starting out?
A: Be teachable. Be a sponge- that is huge. You may have certain things you can bring to the table; you will want to learn as much as you can. That’s another thing I love about this industry- there is so much to learn, so try to learn as much as possible. Also, find someone you admire or respect within your workplace and learn from them. It is okay to be under someone’s wing and be open minded. The number one thing on the top of the list, however, is learning about critical thinking skills. You must be able think through things when working with all the different people. It’s something a lot of people lack, so you must be able to understand different perspectives. You learn to look at things in a different way, which improves your problem solving and communication skills overall. Also, know that it is okay to make mistakes! That is how you learn.
Q: What’s one thing you would like to say about Women in Construction Week to young women in West Michigan.
A: For women in the construction field currently, it starts with us. Share your experiences, find someone or resources to share your stories and the path you have taken. Find opportunities to get the word out that this is an awesome industry to work in. If there is an opportunity, please participate. You never know who you could inspire or connect with. Everyone has a unique story, and you never know what can happen when that one story or person can change the direction of a little girl’s life for the better. She says, “Wow that’s just like me.” You could inspire or motivate a young woman without you even knowing it.
As for the Women in Construction week – you’re on the fence about construction. Don’t be afraid, job shadow or reach out to another woman in the industry. There are women here who are more than willing to be that resource and make a difference. You should never be afraid to pursue something because it may be a little different or a little scary. Do it because of that instead!
I had a great time sitting down with Stephanie. She has a wealth of knowledge and has a great outlook on life. Stephanie is a leader through and through. She wants to help, connect, guide, mentor and encourage women to join the construction industry. Stephanie is a great leader because of who she is and her ability to be both confident and open-minded. If you are interested in learning more about the PWB you can visit the HBA website or reach out to Stephanie directly: email@example.com. I wish Stephanie, Snowden Builders, and the PWB nothing but the best.
Please continue to stay up to date with our Women who Build West Michigan series and if you have someone you know in the construction industry you think should be recognized or has a great story, reach out by visiting our website: Construction Careers Council | West Michigan Construction Talent Council