The Built Blog recently sat down with Lilian Magallanes, a technical account manager at Bluebeam, to discuss her career in construction and what advice she has for people looking to get into the industry. Lilian started at the company in 2013 and has helped Bluebeam better understand the issues, challenges and achievements of our customers.
Built Blog: Lilian, how did you get into the industry?
Magallanes: I never grew up saying I want to work in the construction industry, but I remember the exact moment I decided to be part of it. I had moved out on my own and I was desperate to give my small kitchen a fresh look. I unknowingly had gone through the design process, but as I was painting my 1980s kitchen cabinet door to a soothing grasshopper green it hit me: “It would be great if I can get paid to do this for others.” So I went back to school with a renewed focus to get my B.A in interior design.
Built Blog: When did you graduate?
Magallanes: In 2007. Right in the middle of the recession. I found a job at an architectural firm as an assistant project manager. The idea of working for an architectural firm was so attractive to me, because it was this new world that I had entered. It all started with that moment with those grasshopper green cabinets—that really was a moment that defined my life, looking back on it.
I learned about the construction and the design process. I did everything and anything I could in that firm to learn as much as possible. I helped with building the interiors library, I connected with a lot of vendors, learned a lot about FF&E—furniture, fixtures and equipment. I worked with a lot of project architects and staff, and helped them with the contract administration phase of the project, and with our RFI and submittal processes, maintaining those documents coming in and going out.
At the same token, I had opportunities to go on the jobsite and be exposed to the construction site, and connect with a construction team, and be a part of those process. That job led to working for a bond project. I sort of evolved into a project manager role with resource recovery. This is where my role collided with facilities, construction and design.
Built Blog: When did you get interested in technology?
Magallanes: When I started working with the BIM team at the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). I was exposed to how technology can be leveraged in construction and design and how it was providing the owner a 3D representation of their finished projects, which enabled them to make decisions early in the design process versus in the field. I started to learn the value of data, the value of standards and how this data that was being brought into the 3D model was impacting decisions.
Built Blog: How did you end up at Bluebeam?
Magallanes: I think the reason that I decided to come for Bluebeam is one, I needed a job. The bond project contract was coming to an end. Two, I had a very good manager, Michael Cervantes, may he rest in peace. He was the one who saw something in me that I didn’t see at the time. He was the one who suggested, “You should apply as an industry specialist for Bluebeam. They’re looking for someone who has experience, they’re looking for someone who’s excited about technology, who’s excited about their product.”
Just the last year before this happened, I played a key element into bringing Bluebeam Revu into our design team. When I discovered Studio I thought, “This would be great for our milestone reviews.” Because we were having all the consultants come over to the bond office in Downtown LA, and we would set up the war room and have different printouts for every person to come around and add their markups.
Having that experience, that love for the product, how easy it was to learn, how exciting it was to be able to have something in the cloud to collaborate. That enthusiasm along with a passion for the industry since I was a kid … I didn’t think I’d qualify for the job at Bluebeam at the time. I just kept doubting myself. But I came for the interview and I got the job. Six years later, I’m still having fun.
Built Blog: What advice would you give to other women looking to break into the AEC industry? What’s the best thing they can do?
Magallanes: What has worked for me is show up, do the work, and don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves.
When I worked with facilities directors in my previous role, I was almost always the only female in the room. I realize looking back that my consistency and that trust that I helped build, helped me have a seat at the table. I wasn’t exactly welcome at their campus because I represented the district office. Nobody wants somebody from the office snooping around, but they saw I wanted to help and I had a job to do.
Through the time of building those relationships, I remember going to the monthly directors meeting, and I would always sit in the back or against the wall. I never felt that I was part of the group. The moment where I felt welcome and embraced, was when a group of them turned around and said, “Lilian, sit at the table.” That’s when I felt that I earned their trust through hard work and consistency.
At the end of the day, I want my work to speak for itself. Not my background, not my ethnicity and not my gender. My work. My advice to other women getting into the industry is just that. Just do the work, be consistent. Emotional intelligence is another factor. Don’t speak when you’re angry. Walk away or think it through, don’t react to the first thing that’s being said.