A Rising Star in AEC

Interview with engineer Katie Wood of Turner Construction
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Katie Wood is a rising star in the construction industry: she has worked on several high profile projects for Turner Construction since graduating from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in civil engineering in 2015. Her past roles include estimating, BIM/VDC engineering, and MEP engineering. Her previous roles in preconstruction and operations have exposed her to a range of projects, and she’s currently assigned to the LA Stadium & Entertainment District in Inglewood. In 2018, Wood won a Bluebeam Industry Innovator award for her work on digital pull planning at LAX.

Bluebeam Blog: What led you to want to become an engineer?

Wood: I love numbers, simply put. Even as a child, I have always known that I wanted a career that involved math. Combined with the tangibility and hands-on aspects of the construction industry, I knew that construction engineering was the fit for me.

Bluebeam Blog: What excites you most about the industry?

Wood: Construction is notorious for being a low-tech, slowly progressing industry. To me, this is exciting because the opportunities to revolutionize traditional construction practices are boundless. Improving these practices not only benefit the active participants in the AEC world, but it also has a positive ripple effect on local economies, material sustainability and more.

Bluebeam Blog: What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

Wood: My favorite project has been the LAX Midfield Satellite Concourse project. Set to be complete in 2020, it is a $1.3 billion design-build job with our joint venture partner, PCL Construction. Some of the best mentors that I have had the pleasure of working with are part of the team at LAX.

Bluebeam Blog: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?

Wood: Every year, our industry tools are becoming more agile, more accurate and more automated. Thanks to that, I believe the AEC industry will continue to see a push in data harnessing. Data is a critical resource for advancing our industry—there is huge value in analyzing historical market and project trends as well as predicting what is next.

Bluebeam Blog: What role will technology play in the changes?

Wood: Technology is the change. Resources for business intelligence and machine learning are active in our market now, and I foresee these resources expanding rapidly.

Bluebeam Blog: What’s the hardest job you’ve ever had—no matter the industry or timeframe?

Wood: The hardest job I have had so far was being a virtual construction engineer at LAX. Diving into the world of BIM, there was a lot of new software that I had to learn quickly. But that challenge paled in comparison to running my first coordination meeting with my trade BIM detailers. With less than a year of industry experience, I questioned my ability to manage and control seasoned detailers. However, I learned pretty quickly that my job wasn’t to be a BIM tyrant, but rather to be a facilitator for problem-solving where everyone brings ideas to the table. The job was still incredibly difficult due to unique design challenges, but the lessons I was able to take away from my time as a virtual construction engineer have been invaluable.

Bluebeam Blog: Do you have any advice for young women who want to become engineers but look at the field and think it’s going to be so difficult, there are so few females, etc.?

Wood: Without a doubt, working in a male-dominated industry is challenging. But if you are considering a career in engineering, then you must the kind of person that enjoys a challenge. The best advice I can give is to be a champion for yourself. There is great power in knowing your value and expressing your ideas. To learn this ability, align yourself with compassionate people that demonstrate this quality. Then, after you become a champion for yourself then you can become a champion for the next generation of women entering the AEC industry.

Bluebeam Blog: What would you say has been responsible for your success? Hard work? Innovation? An open-minded approach?

Wood: Success is a very generous word—I’m still in the early stages of forging my path in this industry. In my time as an engineer though, I would say that my passion for learning drives my work ethic. The internet is the greatest tool for getting information instantaneously, but I still prioritize learning from the people around me that have real-world experience.