For this year’s Women in Construction Week (WIC Week), we’re exploring the many ways in which women build innovation at McKinstry. For Raven Wiley (pictured above), education has been key to developing her career. Raven is currently a commissioning intern in our Dallas office through McKinstry’s B.L.U.E. Internship Program, and she’s studying Instrumentation & Electrical Technology at Kilgore College while also working on McKinstry’s energy efficiency project at the very same college.
We recently spoke to Raven about her internship, what drew her to McKinstry, what it’s like to be a woman in construction, and much more. Here are excerpts from that interview:
Q: How would you describe/summarize your internship and current position at McKinstry? Why did you choose to intern at McKinstry?
Overall, my experience with this internship has been very eye-opening to the many possibilities McKinstry has to offer. It got me thinking about the many ways that I could possibly contribute to this company. I’ve also been able to do quite a bit of traveling to visit jobsites, which is something that I may not have been able to do without being blessed with the opportunity to work for McKinstry. I’ve always just wanted the make a lasting mark for the good in the environment. This experience has helped me figure out what an amazing woman I am apart from just being a mom, and I no longer feel bad thinking that way about myself. If I could sum this experience up in one word it would be: AMAZING! Two words maybe: LIFE CHANGING!!
Q: In terms of furthering your education and career development, what has it been like to work at McKinstry and with our Dallas team specifically?
Right out of the gate I felt encouraged to broaden my knowledge about the commissioning field, and motivated by watching the awesome women and men around me work with such passion and dedication for McKinstry. Before I started my internship, I never realized how small I was thinking, but now I feel as if a fire has been lit inside of me to think broadly and use my imagination.
Q: What’s it been like to work on a campus improvement project at the school you’re currently attending?
I was very involved during the first phase of commissioning at Kilgore College. I participated in the walk-through, was educated on different observations, helped with entering things into the checklist and wrote and took pictures of issues that were compiled in BIM360. Also, since I’m a student, I have insight on some buildings on campus that’s helpful during discussions. I know that in certain buildings it may be cold in the winter and boiling hot during the Texas summer, but to actually be able to go into the mechanical rooms, climb on rooftops and investigate building issues is a whole new world. I have no background in anything HVAC-related, so every day is a new learning experience for me. Fun fact: this experience has taken me onto more rooftops than I ever thought I would be on in life! Also, it is so rewarding to know that I am a part of a team that’s making a difference in people’s lives. This internship has shown me how vital clean air is for your livelihood, especially if it is in a space where students and faculty spend the majority of their days.
Q: As a young person starting your career, what drew you to studying Instrumentation & Electrical Technology and this specific industry? What are you hoping to accomplish within this industry?
I have always been the type of person who isn’t afraid to try or do something “out of the norm” of what society deems is “appropriate for a woman.” Who drew me to Instrumentation & Electrical Technology was, first, my mother, Rene’ Wiley, and also my instructor Mrs. Alesha O’Steen. Seeing both of them accomplish what they had in their careers, as wives and as mothers while still having the time and passion to encourage and guide students and leave a lasting mark on their lives is just incredible to me. I hope to encourage and leave a lasting impression in someone’s life. I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and through my actions and guidance I would like to show them and everyone else that you are capable of being successful at anything in this world. The only thing that can keep you from reaching your purpose is you. Overcome your fear and doubts in yourself, and the possibilities are endless.
Q: How would you describe your overall internship experience?
Balancing my personal life, school and work started off like my first time riding the Texas Giant (a local roller coaster). I had the anticipation of finally being able to implement some of the skills I learned in school, and I also had the knowledge that I would obtain from people who have been honing their trades for years. The fear of not being prepared or educated enough to handle the internship was a lot like the feelings I had when coming up to the first drop on that roller coaster. After the initial plunge—a lot like the safety belt I had securing me and the other people on the ride—I have a team of very supportive and encouraging people around me to guide me and keep me on track.
Q: Since it’s Women in Construction Week and International Women’s Day, what’s one thing you’d like the world to know about women in construction? Do you think there are any major misconceptions about women in construction?
I have heard a number of things from people over the years, especially when they learn about my educational background. I would like the world to know that, yes, women in construction do know the job description and everything that our jobs will entail. If we wanted to do something “easy” we would have done that. Contrary to popular belief, I am not afraid of getting dirty or sweaty. Showers wash everything away at the end of the day.
My first thought after arriving at McKinstry was that everywhere I went, I felt comfortable. I felt like for the first time I wasn’t being judged by my gender, that everyone had the same expectations placed on them, and that everyone was seen as equally capable.
Q: The theme of this year’s WIC Week is “women building innovation,” which we see in action every day here at McKinstry. How do you feel that you’ve personally built innovation during your time at McKinstry, and how have you seen other women you’ve worked with do the same?
I feel that I have brought innovation to McKinstry by presenting them a woman, myself, who has an education and a skill-set that they’ve maybe never seen before. I feel like I’m relatable and have an understanding for certain people and trades that’s unique. It’s inspiring to walk into the Dallas office and to see Lindsay Garner and Lisa Fourte in their corner, taking calls and taking care of business. Ditto with seeing Lisa Loupe walking into the office, glamorous and taking charge in a male-dominated field. Rossy Allen, one of the first women I met at McKinstry, is incredibly organized and made sure that my first day ran smoothly. Andrea Stone was just the smiling face I needed during my first doubt-filled days. Last but not least, Kelly Kirkland is someone who I clicked with right away, who could stand up in front of a room full of people and exude such confidence.
These are only a few of the innovative women at McKinstry who I’ve met so far. Just being in this field to me is bringing innovation to a lot of minds that were closed to the idea of women in this industry before, and that’s not counting the substantial. education and experience women in construction bring with them.