A few years ago, I was talking with a new friend, and she asked me how I got into construction management. I told her my story, and she said, “So construction is in your blood!”
Heather Gay is the Program Manager of Construction Management at Dunwoody College of Technology, a referee with the Minnesota Rollergirls, and will be offering hands on instruction to Girl Scouts attending the first ever Girl Scouts River Valleys’ Rosie’s Girls day camp this summer. Just like us here at River Valleys, Heather is passionate about opening girls up to new possibilities. At the two-week day camp in partnership with Dunwoody, girls will have the opportunity to express themselves creatively in their exploration of the skilled trades. It’s a place where girls can get their hands dirty, take positive risks, and try new things. I reached out to Heather to find out what led her to her position in a trade that is dominated by men, and you can read her girl-powered story below:
I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a Girl Scout, I went to Camp Foxtail for many years. My favorite year at camp was called “back to the 90’s – the 1890’s”, where we made all sorts of things and I learned all about the pioneer life.
My mom was the hands-on person in the house – she used to ask for things like hammers and saws for her birthday. My dad, who is a poet, is the creative one in the family. As a kid, I got to work on re-roofing our house, installing new flooring, painting, and all sorts of outdoor work.
In my senior year of high school, I started working as a “parts runner” for a plumbing contractor. (“Parts runners” organize and deliver materials to construction projects.) I got good enough that I was asked to do more, so I started helping with inventory and project costs – we had to make sure the projects stayed within budget.
I moved to Utah for college, and after six months, I realized I wasn’t ready to be in college, so I moved back to Las Vegas and started at a construction company in Las Vegas. After 2 years, I was running their biggest projects and telling 50+ year old superintendents what to do! I decided to go to college at Minnesota State University – Mankato, and graduated with a degree in Construction Management.
I loved my job that I got after graduation. But when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, I asked my employer if I could volunteer to be part of the team that was sent down to work on hurricane recovery for FEMA. It was approved, and I spent months in Louisiana helping assess schools for damage and helping the schools get the funding they needed to rebuild. I fell so in love with New Orleans that I began working with a nonprofit called Historic Green, and started going on annual service learning trips with students at Dunwoody over spring break. We focused on green building recovery, and the students and I had a complete blast doing rebuilding work!
In my role as Program Manager of Construction Management at Dunwoody College of Technology, I work with construction companies and the community to help guide what we teach, and prepare our students to be successful professionals. I especially like to focus on projects such as Women in Construction Week, our annual Construction Expo, and our first ever Girl Scouts Camp, Rosie’s Girls!
At Rosie’s Girls, girls will not only get a chance to develop their skills as a welder, carpenter, designer, and electrician – they’ll also learn more about themselves with activities focused on finding their strengths and recognizing the amazing impact girls can have on the world. They’ll get to connect with other girls their age as they participate in unique sessions that teach them that they are just as powerful as those power tools they’re using! Read all the details on our website, and register today!
P.S. Don’t be deterred by the price tag – as with all of our events and camps, financial assistance is available so that all girls can enjoy this incredible opportunity!
Natasha Brownlee – Other than chatting with Troop Leaders and planning events, Natasha also works with Gold Awards and runs the In the Loop blog! Her background is in curriculum development, programming, and creative writing. She has bachelor’s degrees in Peace Studies and French and a Masters in Gender, Development & Globalization and has worked with various girl-centered organizations in the US and abroad. Natasha loves traveling around the world, practicing yoga, and hanging out with her dog, Rooney!