The Women of Rafn

• Debbie Anway
• Project Engineer
• Rafn Company

Over the years women have taken on more and more roles and responsibilities that were once dominated by men. Most people think that there really is no gender barrier in this modern age. We see women CEO's, women serving in high ranking capacities in the military, and we are even on the brink of the first real shot at a woman becoming the next President of the United States of America. So why aren't women flocking into the construction industry? So why is the construction industry still overwhelmingly male dominated?

It isn't because of a lack of opportunity. The construction industry is as hot as it gets in the Puget Sound area. And it appears that construction work will continue to flourish for at least several more years. What would draw a woman into this wonderful world of creating the structures that we live, work, and play in? Well, here is the story of how a few women were drawn into this world. This is the story of some of the women of Rafn.

Let's start at the top. Heather Bunn is Rafn’s Vice President of Business Development. Her love of construction started very early in life with a father in construction. She grew up on a ranch learning to love the outdoors and working with her hands. Studying architecture during high school, Heather began planting seeds for a career in construction but she also nurtured her love of horses which won out for a time. After pursuing English Literature in college, she began working at a construction company to pay the bills. She started as a laborer, and elevator operator, moving on to carpentry and running large equipment. Heather loved the challenges and opportunity to not only work with her hands but develop her math and design skills as well. She learned estimating and began on-site engineering, after which project management seemed the natural progression. Managing projects introduced Heather to the customer. She learned the value of a good customer and how to develop healthy relationships with them.

Kay Wilson is a Project Manager who has been at Rafn for ten years. Kay came to construction from the development and capital campaigns side. She moved from planning to managing capital construction projects, bringing her strengths as a creative problem solver and collaborative team leader to the construction process. Kay excels in working with her clients and the whole construction team for a successful project outcome.

Chelsea Inglis came to Rafn with a fully developed career in construction but her journey began at an early age. It all started when her homebuilder father enlisted her help on all sorts of projects, particularly whenever she was grounded, which was frequently. But Chelsea got the bug for working with her hands and after some business school, some bartending, and even some plumbing, she launched into a carpentry apprenticeship program and worked her tail off. The path for Chelsea continued in varied directions but her love of construction didn’t waiver and she worked her way from carpentry to project engineering and eventually to project management.

My career started as an industrial engineer. After working for a contractor to the Navy in Bremerton and then for a consulting firm in Bellevue, I began my second career of raising 5 children. As their independence grew, so did mine and I was eventually ready for my adventure into construction. I found Rafn through my husband who works for a large mechanical contractor. He knew what a great company Rafn is and when I saw a position open for a project assistant position I knew I had found my start. Rafn helped support me through the construction management certificate program even though I began just as construction slowed in 2009. I studied at night and applied what I learned during the day, beginning project engineering on smaller projects as I progressed. My journey continues with two very large apartment projects under my belt. Of course, I’m not done yet; there are more construction adventures ahead and new achievements to conquer.

We are just a few of the women at Rafn. I could go on. But what do the women of Rafn all have in common and what keeps us pursuing our careers in construction? We are conquerors. We thrive in an unconventional environment and enjoy the challenge of proving ourselves through hard work, determination, and a smile. We are not afraid to work with men, learn from men, and to teach men. We use creativity and look for ways to complement our teammates. We love lifelong learning. As technology changes construction changes as well and we must always strive to keep up to date. We love watching concepts become reality and seeing blueprints become buildings. We revel in the variety of tasks presented to us and thrive as we multi task our way through them. We embrace problem solving; both the process and achieving the eventual satisfactory outcome.

And who doesn't love working with such a diverse group of people? We cross paths with everyone from laborers to owners, delivery drivers to architects, and superintendents to insurance inspectors. Interpersonal skills are key to success in the construction industry! As we learn and grow in experience our confidence grows too, and a confident woman can accomplish anything.

Working in construction is a multi- faceted world combining collaboration, learning, personal growth, leadership, and goals worthy of the hard work it takes to achieve them. It’s a great career for a woman. Do you know someone who is ready to discover it?

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