A different set of skills

July 13, 2017
Sarah Schulz on the job

Sarah Schulz on the job (photo by Liz Banfield).

Ask Sarah Schulz what’s in her backpack and you’ll get a rare answer:

“A hard hat,” says the University of Minnesota senior studying construction management in the College of Continuing Education.

As an intern and now a part-time project engineer with Parsons Electric in Minneapolis, she had the opportunity to work on two U of M projects—the new Bell Museum and the renovation of the Tate Hall. “I really enjoy being on site,” she says. “That’s where the project comes to life.”

Schulz, who grew up in Plymouth, MN, developed an appreciation for cityscapes from her father, a landscape architect. While driving around, he would point out projects he’d worked on—highways, retaining walls, bridges. “But I really like commercial buildings,” she says.

Still, after high school and a year at a private college, Schulz wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. But after transferring to the U, she took a career-finding course that helped her explore options.

“I found construction management and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.

As a woman pursuing a career in commercial construction, Schulz is in the minority: women occupy just 9 percent of construction jobs.

“It was one of my biggest concerns going into it. You have to wonder if you’ll be respected or if people will take you seriously...but I’ve had positive experiences,” she says.

Schulz, who received a scholarship from PCL Construction aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities in the industry, says she seeks out women in her field to get their perspectives. (Their advice: Be assertive and stand your ground.)

“More women are getting into construction,” she says. “We bring a different set of skills, and people are realizing what assets we can be.”
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A version of this story originally appeared in Legacy magazine, a publication of the University of Minnesota Foundation