Builders Exchange of Michigan: How did you earn your first dollar?
Jessica Novack: By washing dishes at a restaurant when I was 12. My first real job was at an ice cream shop.
BX: What drew you to the construction industry?
JN: The construction industry is not where I saw myself in the long term. My parents were in the trades and that is not what I thought I saw for myself. I went to school for accounting and needed a job, so I started putting applications out and Windemuller was one of them. They took a chance on me.
BX: What does a typical day look like on the job for you?
JN: A typical day on the job for me consists of being in my office taking care of paperwork for my projects or being out on the job site walking through with the general contractor or my foreman to solve problems or answer questions that come up. Spending time at the job sites is one of my passions, as I like to see the construction for what it is and where it’s going. I like being able to drive around and tell my family that I had a hand in building that building or project.
BX: What’s an exciting project you’ve completed recently?
JN: One of my favorite projects that I had a hand in was Mari Vineyards Winery. This was a project I did the design work on and watched come out of the ground. It was so cool to see the intricacies of that building and the details that went into each and every space. We are also currently renovating a building downtown called Old City Hall, and it has been an amazing and challenging project from day one, but it has some amazing details and finishes. I’m very excited to see how cool it will look when finished.
“Spending time at the job sites is one of my passions, as I like to see the construction for what it is and where it’s going.”
BX: What makes Windemuller special?
JN: Their willingness to help people in their careers, and the fact that they’re not biased to experience. They will train you on where you want to go in the company and stand behind their employees. They care so much about safety and making sure their employees go home to their families. I feel blessed to work for such a caring company.
BX: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever heard?
JN: If you want something, work your ass off to get it. Show people that you are able to do the job and be patient with the result. If you’re not patient, you may not get to where you want to be in your career.
BX: If you could master one new skill right now, what would it be?
JN: I would love to master the art of communication. I think that is something that everyone learns throughout their life, and speaking professionally is an art. It takes a long time to master in all different situations.
BX: What were your goals when you began your position at Windemuller? How have you achieved them?
JN: When I began at Windemuller, I didn’t know what my goals were. I started out with no position, then was promoted to a receptionist. In that position, I figured out my duties and tried extremely hard to take on even more so that I could move into another position, not really knowing what that would be. A break came for me when our Electrical Designer left and I was offered the position. In talking with my bosses, I wanted to set more goals and that was to be the first female project manager that Windemuller had ever had. I went back to school and worked very hard to prove to my colleagues that I was worthy of that position.
BX: What advice would you give to other women who would like to go into the same career field you’ve chosen?
JN: Look towards the future, figure out what you want in that career, and take the steps to get there. There will always be people who don’t think you can do the job that you know you can. You have to make sure you fight for what you want. Be confident in who you are and what you can achieve.
BX: What can other members of the construction community do to encourage women to participate in the construction industry?
JN: I think the construction community should be open minded to having women in the field and in managerial roles. There is a misconception in the field that women can’t do what men can, but I don’t think that’s correct. We may not use the same methods, but utilizing women for their different points of view and abilities is important.
“Look towards the future, figure out what you want in that career, and take the steps to get there.”
BX: What challenges have you overcome and what experiences have you had to get to where you are today?
JN: The fact that I am young and a woman in a man’s world has been challenging. The first project I walked on to as a project manager, I was so nervous because everyone in the room was a man, and twice my age, so I got a lot of “what are you doing here?” looks. We ended up doing a great job on the project.