At Atkinson, we are proud to be made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and talents who thrive and succeed together. Our “Under the Hard Hat” series is designed to showcase the diverse people who make up the Atkinson team.
Atkinson is proud to support our LGBTQ+ employees and stands firm in our commitment to fostering an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and empowered to be their full, authentic selves.
We recently sat down with Emily Haddad, an assistant design manager for Atkinson Underground, to learn about her background and time with the organization.
What is your role at Atkinson?
As an assistant design manager, I collaborate with teams on pursuits and business development initiatives. This includes market analyses, identifying and managing opportunities, fostering owner relationships, and procurement processes.
What brought you to Atkinson?
I worked as a consultant in preconstruction and risk management for six years before coming to Atkinson. While at a Women in Construction conference, I met a member of the Atkinson team and was invited to tour Atkinson’s E330 Tunnel Project in Seattle. The tour made me realize how interesting it is to work below ground! Shortly after that I relocated to Austin to work with the Atkinson Underground team.
What led you to pursue a career in the A/E/C industry? Any early experiences that influenced your career path?
Initially, I started off in the social sciences, graduating with a degree in sociology and then completing my master’s degree in international development. After college I took a job in Brazil and was inadvertently introduced to the construction industry. I worked on a large government funded project constructing rainwater catchment systems in remote drought-prone regions of the county. I earned a PhD in Developmental Psychology in Brazil but maintained a job in the construction industry at the same time. I think merging these two worlds has given me a unique skill set within construction management and influenced my career path.
What are you most proud of accomplishing, either personally or professionally?
I am proud of taking risks throughout my life, including living overseas for over 13 years. Living and working abroad can be very challenging and stressful. My experiences have empowered me to be confident in who I am and apply that to both personal and work environments.
Who have been your strongest influences in life?
While there have been many influential individuals in my life, I think the greatest impact has come from living among different groups and cultures of people. Experiencing and learning to function in different environments of politics, geographies, customs, beliefs, and languages consequently formed my identity, shaped my behaviors, and certainly refined my sense of humor.
What do you like best about working as a design manager?
What I enjoy the most is the opportunity to work with all different stakeholders throughout the preconstruction process. This includes owners, owners’ reps, designers, engineers, estimators, and trade contractors. There are many complex factors that go into tunneling projects, including the collaboration needed between external and internal teams. This requires a lot of flexibility which keeps my days interesting and fun.
What obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today professionally?
There are always obstacles in our lives. I think that the process of working through obstacles gives us the opportunity to expand our personal growth and become our unique selves. Additionally, we can connect with others who may experience similar challenges. Being a gay woman in the construction industry is often not comfortable, and there have been times where I have felt I have needed to sacrifice my authenticity. However, organizations like Women in Construction, Women in Tunneling, and LEAP (our employee resource group focused on LGBTQ+ employee advocacy) are actively working to deconstruct heteronormative and other “traditional” narratives that exist. Participating in these groups introduces me to fantastic people and creates and long-lasting relationships. This allows me to grow personally and as a result, progress professionally.
What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in construction/design management?
Take risks by doing things that don't feel comfortable. Recognize and invest in mentors and allow them to guide you in refining your individual strengths. Most of the time we have no control over the people who we cross paths with, but every person has something to teach us if we are open to learning from them.
In your opinion, what does it look like to be a strong ally to the LGBTQ+ community?
Being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community starts with learning, looking for your blind spots, and acknowledging that you may feel awkward. Marginalized groups feel uncomfortable all the time. It makes a difference to all identities facing injustice when allies embrace discomfort. Being a strong ally can look like stepping off the sidelines, showing up, listening, and supporting members of historic oppression.
What excites you about the future?
There is a lot of room in the underground construction to be creative. Tunneling addresses many challenges our world faces in relation to water and transportation, especially because of urbanization and environmental impacts. I am excited about a future in an industry that continues to promote and hire forward-thinking people who come up with unique, innovative solutions to complex problems.
What does "Thrive as You, Succeed Together” mean to you?
When we really understand ourselves, we can understand others. Being committed to our own self-development and personal growth is crucial to our collective success in the workplace. When we embrace our differences, we enrich our output because people are more comfortable being their authentic selves and bringing their individual talents to the table.