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Women in Construction Week: Interview with Urszula Jarzabek

Urszula Jarzabek started at KBE in 2015 as an Assistant Coordinator/Assistant Project Engineer.  Her career in the construction industry began in 2009 when she was an intern at the New Britain Building Department.  Urszula earned her B.S. in Architectural Engineering Technology from the University of Hartford.

What’s the biggest challenge(s) you’ve faced in getting to where you are?
The construction business presents a lot of challenges, relationships being one of them.  This can be relationships between coworkers, subcontractors, owners, and the design team.  Another challenge is document control.  As a project engineer, you must make sure you have the proper documentation process throughout the entire project and ensure you don’t make any mistakes because mistakes are not cheap in construction.

What advice would you have for other women pursuing a degree in this industry?
My advice is not only for women, but for anyone who wants to work in the construction industry.  My number one piece of advice is that you must like what you are getting yourself into until you try it.  So, get as much hands-on experience as you can before decided on a final career path.

Construction is a very stressful career, so I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone that is sensitive in character.  Oftentimes you must go toe-to-toe with big personalities and you need to be strong.

What resources helped you out the most – a mentor, education, or hands-on experience?
This is a short answer – experience.  You gain the most valuable experience by working on different projects with different owners and teams and learning from coworkers.  I try not to repeat mistakes that either my coworkers or me have done in the past.

Why did you choose a career in construction?
I always thought I wanted to be an architect because I love to paint, and I was passionate about construction of buildings and how they were built.  But one day I was presenting a school project in class and an architect said that he could take my plans and build the building.  I realized then that i’m very detail oriented, whereas architects look at the big picture.  That’s when I realized that construction is my passion.

What impact do you hope to leave on the industry Do you feel like you’ve paved the path for other women? How do you inspire them? Are you mentor yourself?
I am not sure what impact I will leave on the industry yet – I think it is too early to say.  Looking back at my days at Capital Community College, I was the only female with an architectural major.  As I progressed in my education, I started noticing more women pursuing a degree in construction.  I feel like this is when the boom started, and I can say I was part of this historical moment where the construction industry welcomed more women.

I have three children that look up to me as a role model.  I don’t know what path they will choose for their careers, but it will be nice if one of them follows in my footsteps and reaches goals that are higher than mine.  I just want them to see that a female can break into a male dominated industry and still be successful.

What is your favorite part of your career?
My favorite part is seeing a project through from start to finish.  I love that I see the behind the scenes perspective during construction.  People that are not in the business don’t know how much of a headache everyone goes through to get something built.  I love the “inside scoop” that you get when you work in construction.  My other favorite part of my career is working with the KBE family.  I like the people that I work with, and for that I am lucky.

Urszula on the jobsite

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the field since you started?
The biggest change I’ve seen is the growth of technology.  We went from paper to tablet within 3 years.  Processing all the construction documents through BIM360 cuts down the time of document control, so long as the architect on the project uses BIM360.  This has a huge impact on the project schedule.

How has KBE supported you as a women in construction?
As part of the KBE team, I’ve had opportunities to work on projects and visit the job sites where I know KBE has my back.  As a working mother, KBE is flexible to accommodate my needs when it comes to my children.  I believe KBE supports their women teammates 100%.

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