Women in Construction Week Panel: Featuring Lori Dunn, Operations Manager and President of The Swinerton Foundation Board

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   March 08, 2018
Women in Construction Week Panel: Featuring Lori Dunn, Operations Manager and President of The Swinerton Foundation Board

To commemorate Women in Construction week from March 4-10, we're proud to highlight the talented women at Swinerton who lead the way in the construction industry. As part of Women in Construction week's mission to emphasize the growing role of women in the industry, we're highlighting the thoughts from female leaders at Swinerton on the construction industry and much more. Today's Q&A session features Lori Dunn, Operations Manager for the Bay Area Building Division and President of the Board of The Swinerton Foundation.

In your opinion, what is effective leadership in the modern age?

First of all, I think it’s most important to lead by example. Furthermore, to be an effective leader, I think it’s important that you never ask your teams to do something, you wouldn’t do yourself, and that you always do what you said you were going to do.

How has the pursuit of higher education furthered your success? 

My degree is in civil engineering, so I think it was critical that I had the technical skills, to complement my written and verbal communication skills.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your career and how did you overcome it?

Probably the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was youth and inexperience. My advice to young people is to be patient. The reality is that our industry puts a lot of value into experience. I made sure that I learned as much as I could on every project. All of those lessons learned made me a better Project Manager.

If you had one piece of advice for women looking to find success in your industry, what would it be?

I think that men and women have different management styles, and not one is better than the other, they are just different. My advice would be to embrace your own management style, and don’t feel like you have to change your style because you are a female in a male dominated industry. I definitely feel like I bring a different “flavor” to the management team in my division, and most importantly, it is appreciated.

How do you find an equilibrium between work and your personal life?  

I think our industry has come a long way in terms of supporting a work life balance, since when I started 20 years ago. I find that when I prioritize important things in my personal life, it actually makes me more efficient and productive in my work life. 

What advice would you give to people starting their careers in construction right now?

Always be willing to learn. No one expects you to know everything, right now.

What’s exciting for you in your career right now?

I have been in the Operations Manager role, for over a year now, and one of the most exciting things is helping to develop our younger employees. I remember as a Project Engineer, my entire goal in life was for people to look at me and say “She knows how to run a job.”, and now I would like to think I am helping the next generation develop their skills and talents, so they can run their own job one day.

What do you think are the most important changes happening in the construction industry?

I think that all of the BIM modeling and preparation during preconstruction, to build the projects in our heads, before we hit the project site, is part of the important changes that are happening in the industry right now. It allows us to be more efficient, while we are saving time and money. It’s a great value add.

Why has Swinerton been the right place for you to build a career?

I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that Swinerton has given to me. I have had the chance to help build some of the most amazing buildings in San Francisco and the Bay Area.