I am always looking for ways to improve the quality of planning, collaboration and communication — three aspects that are essential when building a dam “in the wet,” where during construction the river is not being diverted away from the planned dam site.
In the overall process, the pieces or shells that make up the dam are produced on land near the river, picked up by a Super Gantry Crane, placed on a cradle, then lowered into the river. The Catamaran Barge then picks up and transports the shells to their intended position in the river, and lowers them onto the prepared foundation. The shells are set in place with tremie concrete that is pumped through the lifting frame legs to fill the void under the shell and cement it to the foundation piles. Due to the complexity of the Olmstead Dam project, my role as a productivity engineer is crucial to ensuring excellence on the project.
One way I help to make it happen is by leading a team that focuses on productivity, which we call Operation Dam Excellence (ODE). We share a common goal — successful completion of the Olmsted Dam. The team’s capacities include casting yard operations, heavy lift operations and marine operations. The ODE team represents a diverse range of people, including safety personnel, management, field workers, engineers, superintendents, office staff and foremen — all of whom are focused on separate but integrated parts of the project. As a facilitator of ODE, a major aspect of what I do at the Olmsted Dam is to ensure all of these people come together to make the plan happen. I conduct the daily 8 a.m. team meetings, where we discuss each operation’s scope of work for the day, shared resources, shared work areas and whether the goals from the previous day’s work were met and, if not, why not. This daily meeting is just one tool that I use to make sure that work is completed safely, efficiently, and as cost effectively as possible.
My most interesting challenge has to be creating an environment for collaboration, transparent communication and effective planning. As an engineer, I knew I needed to be prepared for the technical aspects of the work, but when working with people, you need more people skills. Fortunately, my “emotion-reading skills” make me valuable to effective team situations. This is a trait that most women tend to carry and has come to help me in many professional situations. My sense of intuition and ability to “mind read” has helped me more than I could have ever thought possible. This skill has helped me to value each team member’s input and lead meetings in a forward direction.
I celebrate my learned skills and my innate abilities to help “make it happen.” I am proud to be an engineer at the Olmsted Dam project and the fact that what I do on a daily basis makes a difference on the project, is extremely rewarding. I feel it is imperative to have more women on construction sites and in the industry due to their specialized skills. Every chance I get, I encourage the younger generation of women to do what challenges them and ensure that they understand there are no boundaries to what they can do to make it happen!