Powerful Women in Construction – Part 3: Maria

Part 3 of our 4 part series recognizing the women who work at Tocci and their role on construction projects. Click here for Part 1: Frances and Part 2: Tammi.

Maria Pons is an Assistant Project Manager (APM) in our Operations Department. In construction for almost five years, as an APM, Maria’s handles background paperwork, including submittals, requests for information (RFI), meeting minutes and document control of drawings and specs. When new drawings come in, Maria reviews them to ensure cohesiveness before distributing them to trades who will be affected by the changes. Once a week, she heads to the jobsite for a project meeting with field staff and owners. She also walks the jobsite where she acts as a liaison between field and office staff, assuring communication between groups. Trader partners stop her along the way to ask questions and get clarification on specific items.

While still an intern, Maria worked on dam renovation in Wisconsin. All of the work had to be done on barges from the upstream side of the dam: concrete deliveries for example. In order to get the concrete to the site, a barge with hoppers was filled from a concrete truck on shore. The hoppers were barged over to another barge with a crane which picked them up and set them to empty the concrete into its final location. The hardest part of this process was the time constraint as the concrete needed to be used in 90 minutes or less. Having a crane on a floating barge adds an interesting dynamic to the process, as the barge will move with the wind, waves, and movement/loads of the crane. Lots of marine construction safety considerations are also unique to this kind of work.

Her job on these projects revolved around quality control and safety monitoring, which meant visiting the barges at 4 different dams for an hour or two each. At some dams Maria could walk directly onto the barge via a small walkway, while at others a small boat had to come to pick her up. She liked that as an intern she had a lot of autonomy. The work pushed the boundaries of what she learned in college and forced her to problem solve outside the box.

Maria’s advice for women in the industry or young women thinking about a career in construction is to “jump confidently in with two feet forward, this is not a field you can enter meekly. Show confidence even if you’re not 100% confident. I was always told this was a man’s field and yes, it is dominated by men, but that mentality is not nearly as prevalent as everyone made it out to be. You’re more likely to meet opposition because you’re green, not because you’re female; veterans in the industry don’t want a young whipper-snapper telling them what to do.”

An interesting tidbit about Maria: She used to be really into white water canoeing. She canoed in class 3 rapids in Michigan and Wisconsin. While on a six-day rafting trip along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon during monsoon season, the guide who does all of steering asked her to steer for an hour or two due to her experience. While it’s not exactly the same, she figured it out quickly and considered becoming a guide instead of pursuing engineering. We’re sure glad she stuck with the latter.

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