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Women in Construction: A Q&A with Adrienne Ayers

Every year, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) dedicates one week to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry. Women in Construction (WIC) Week is also a chance to raise awareness of the career opportunities available to women in this industry. In honor of WIC Week, we sat down with Adrienne Ayers, aviation segment leader at McCarthy Improvement, to talk about her career path, aspirations, and accomplishments.

Where did you grow up?

My family is originally from the Caribbean Island of Trinidad and Tobago. I grew up and went to school in Brooklyn NY and graduated from Paul Robeson High School for Business and Technology.

What college did you attend and what did you major in?

I attended Temple University in Philadelphia where I majored in Architecture and attended Pratt Institute in NYC for Graduate studies in Construction Management.

What are you responsible for at McCarthy Improvement?

I am the Aviation Segment Leader in the Southeast where I am responsible for Business development. Finding new business and maintaining relationships with past clientele so that we can also encourage recurring business. Assisting the company in all aspects of new business and the goals that we have set through our Strategic Plan will always be my focus.

    In the science and engineering field, it’s estimated that only 14% percent are women. Why do you think women are so heavily underrepresented?   

    I believe there are many reasons for this but one major reason for me when I was coming up through high school and university was that there was a lack of true information regarding engineering, architecture, and other technical professions and that women actually have a place. It was not heavily talked about. STEM and STEAM programs are starting to address these things but still not enough. Students (young girls) need better examples and encouragement towards these fields so that they are not turned off nor intimidated. Letting them know from an earlier age will help in development. I combed through it by myself, but I now can help others.

    You are skilled in the aviation and construction industries. Did you know you wanted to pursue a career in these fields? And was there something or someone that influenced this decision?

    I definitely knew that I was going to be in a technical field. I understood that early in my education as I was more drawn to woodshop and technical drawing over home economics classes and I told myself that no matter what society said or what was deemed standard, I was going to do what I loved and what I was good at despite the challenges that I would be faced with!

    What’s the biggest misconception about women working in the engineering, aviation, or construction industries?

    That we do not have the skillset and talent to understand, lead and be successful in male-dominated fields. Women are rated lower in perceptions of their competence, their promotion potential, leadership skills, and oftentimes are perceived as less committed to our work a lot of times because of the roles we play as caregivers and oftentimes parents. Truth be told, we can juggle very well without dropping a ball!

    What’s your take on the aviation industry and where do you think it’s headed?

    Aviation is a dynamic industry and constantly evolving. Once the business model changes, it sends a message to every other business that supports this industry that they too must also evolve. Specifically, in construction and capital improvement, one must constantly explore alternative ways to sustain business no matter the environment. From methods to materials, everything matters.  The industry is also headed in a promising direction as you now see more females represented in different factions from pilots to aircraft engineers, it is beautiful to see.

    Is there one personal or professional achievement you are proud of and would be willing to share?

    I would say that I have been truly blessed in my career to have worked for several great organizations and with such great people that helped shape my path. From my internship at Daiwa Securities while in college to my first job after graduating with my Architecture Degree as a Facilities Associate for Auto One Insurance in Long Island then being recruited to the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue as a Facility Manager for a German Bank where I was the youngest with some heavy responsibilities. Then from there was recommended by my Manager to work with Grubb and Ellis as a Property Manager where I was responsible for the GM Building in Long Island City, TIAA Cref building, and Hammacher Schlemmer Building in midtown. Then after my credentials fell into the hands of a Director at John F Kennedy International (Terminal 4) my career and degree were tested as I was asked to sign on to be the Structural Facility Manager for the Terminal of 1.5 million sq ft at the time. It was a baptism by fire because I was entering into a field that was unknown.

    After a successful journey at JFK, I relocated to the Caribbean where my family was to be the Engineering Manager for the Airport Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and after three years was promoted to Deputy General Manager of Estate Planning and Business Development for both airport sites. I also earned my International Airport Professional (IAP) designation in the process. But chose to return to the states with my family as there was more for me to do. I accepted a Director position at the Augusta Airport on my return and continued my passion for construction and development in the aviation industry. Through all these steps I got a chance to understand multiple aspects of the Aviation Business, Contracting, and Asset Management coupled with management and leadership skills that would last me a lifetime. What I failed to mention is that I was the only woman at every organization in those positions but gained the respect of all my colleagues.

    I said all of that to say this…I AM PROUD OF ALL OF IT! They are all major achievements for me as each organization trusted me with the tasks at hand as a young woman which led to numerous successful programs, projects, and awards and for that…I am thankful!

    If there’s one piece of advice you could tell your younger self, what would it be?

    Never second guess yourself. Your choices and decisions will lead to a fulfilling career that will also teach/help/encourage others along the way. My decisions are bigger than just me!

    McCarthy Improvement Named a National Excellence in Concrete Pavement Award Recipient

    The 31st Annual National “Excellence in Concrete Pavement” award recipients have been announced, and we are pleased to be among 23 unique contractors recognized for hard work, outstanding quality, and demonstrating creative approaches to problem-solving. We have been recognized for our work at the Augusta Regional Airport – Air Carrier & GA Apron Phase II Rehabilitation project.

    To learn more about the American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) annual awards, click here. Or to view a complete list of winners, click here.

    Quad-City Airport Works to Maintain Workforce & Make Construction Improvements

    The Quad City International Airport (QCIA) is working extremely hard to maintain its workforce and make continuous construction improvements according to the Quad-City Times. The QCIA Board awarded  McCarthy Improvement a contract to repair concrete sidewalks and roadways in the terminal’s parking lot in an effort to prevent passengers from tripping or falling. Last year, we were responsible for similar sidewalk repair work.

    CEMEX Assists McCarthy Improvement – Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Project

    The Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world. Last summer, McCarthy Improvement started work on the reconstruction of the airport’s 9L-27R runway and corresponding taxiway as part of the airport’s US$6 billion expansion and makeover plan. World Cement wrote an article on the project and highlighted CEMEX’s ability to adhere to strict completion timelines, delivering cement 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from its plant in Clinchfield, Ga., to assist McCarthy Improvement in its efforts.

    Click here to read the full article.

    Cherokee County to replace Lower Dowda Mill bridge

    The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners has awarded a $984,480 contract to McCarthy Improvement Co. to replace the bridge that carries Lower Dowda Mill Road over Sharp Mountain Creek in the northern part of the county. Read the full story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    RDU Completes 2020 Work on Emergency Runway Preservation Project

    The Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) embarked on an emergency preservation project in 2019 that was one of the airport’s most important capital projects. With the help of McCarthy Improvement, RDU completed reconstruction on Runway 5L-23R.

    To learn more about the project, read RDU’s press release here.

    Maureen Roe Named to ACPA 2020 Board of Directors

    The American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) is the world’s largest trade association that exclusively represents the interests of those involved with the design, construction, and preservation of concrete pavements. Membership includes concrete paving companies, cement companies, and other industry professionals.

    McCarthy Improvement has been a member of ACPA since 1986 and supports the association’s expansive efforts to help the concrete paving industry grow. Maureen Roe, McCarthy Improvement Estimator, is actively involved in the organization.

    Fueling Growth

    Maureen’s involvement began in 2010 and has steadily increased, from attending annual meetings to being nominated for the inaugural Emerging Leaders Group in 2016. While in line to be the next chair of the Group, Maureen is also a member of ACPA regional organizations. In 2018, Maureen was voted on to the Board of Directors of the Southeast ACPA, and in 2019 became the chairman of ACPA Georgia.

    Maureen’s latest accomplishment has been being named to the ACPA’s 2020 Board of Directors, and she is well equipped for that position. As a fifth-generation family member, Maureen combines her own construction experiences with industry lessons learned from her father and grandfather.

    “I am extremely proud to represent McCarthy Improvement as a board member of our premier industry organization. I am looking forward to helping shape and grow the industry with other leaders and members of the ACPA in order to build a bright future for concrete paving.”

    ACPA is an excellent organization that works hard to promote and enhance the concrete paving industry. McCarthy’s involvement will remain strong and steadfast.

    ACPA Membership Benefits

    The ACPA offers a broad range of educational opportunities and helps fund research to develop best practices and promote technological advances in concrete paving. Also, the ACPA:

    • Offers tools for members to help promote best practices.
    • Includes a legislative group, and members help lobby to congress for transportation funding.
    • Awards and showcases members’ high-profile projects.
    • And acts as an industry advocate and technical resource.

    To learn more about the ACPA, click here.

    Iowa Recognition of Construction Safety Excellence

    The Associated General Contractors of Iowa established the annual “Recognition of Safety Excellence Awards” (ROSE) to recognize contractor member companies who develop and implement excellent safety and loss prevention programs.

    In order to be acknowledged as a top safety contractor, the following requirements must be met:

    • Nominations should highlight outstanding achievements in the area of safety.
    • Activities can include training, program development, innovative techniques or procedures or other activities, which promote or enhance safety awareness and/or achievement.
    • Significant reduction in incidents, lowering the member’s Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) and/or Days Away from work Restricted or job Transfer (DART) rates.
    • The creation of incentives, awards and recognition programs or other noteworthy actions taken to enhance the member’s safety program.

    McCarthy Improvement received a second-place ROSE Award in the Portland Cement Paving Division for contractors in the 100,000 – 400,000 work hours category.

    “McCarthy Improvement considers our employees to be our most valuable assets; as such, we are dedicated to their protection,” stated Donna Said, Safety Manager of McCarthy Improvement. “The only way to achieve this is by ensuring that all employees, regardless of their position, are fully engaged in maintaining our proactive safety culture throughout the company. In addition, we have also developed a rigorous set of policies and procedures to prevent worksite incidents. We’re proud our safety program has been recognized by the IGC.”

    The Associated General Contractors of Iowa is Iowa’s oldest and largest association of heavy/highway and municipal/utility contractors. AGC of Iowa represents hundreds of firms, including Iowa’s leading contractors and their service providers and suppliers. AGC of Iowa members are the “Public’s Partner in Building & Maintaining Iowa’s Highway, Bridge, And Municipal/Utility Infrastructure”. Visit the AGC of Iowa at www.agcia.org.

    Fast Forward In North Carolina

    The American Concrete Pavement Association (ACPA) produces a quarterly publication called the Concrete Paving Progress to share industry news, project snapshots, best practices and networking events with its members. A project McCarthy Improvement was heavily involved in – NC I-85 Unbonded Overlay – was recently featured in the magazine, and ACPA graciously permitted us to share the following story on our website.

    Accelerated Overlay Project Meets Demands From Increased Traffic

    A $137 million rehabilitation of I-85 between Henderson, N.C., and the Virginia state line has greatly improved the ride for this heavily trafficked, 21.6-mile highway section.

    The recently placed unbonded concrete pavement overlay has an expected design life of 30-plus years and is designed to meet the needs associated with higher traffic counts, including an increasingly high volume of truck traffic.

    Originally paved in 1960, the 55-year-old roadway underwent a rehabilitation project in 2007 that focused on spall repair, slab replacement with asphalt, polymer patching of cracks and an overlay that kept traffic moving, albeit on a less than ideal pavement.

    “The original pavement exceeded its expected life, but we were seeing slab failures, and we also needed to bring the entire corridor up to current design standards and create a pavement that can handle increasing truck traffic,” says E. Boyd Tharrington, P.E., Division Construction Engineer for Division 5 of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

    ACPA Project Snapshot of NC I-85 Unbonded Overlay

    Over the last decade, truck traffic has increased steadily. This section of I-85 currently carries nearly 40,000 vehicles per day (VPD), with 23% of all traffic consisting of trucks. According to FHWA’s office of Freight Management and Operations, freight truck traffic is expected to increase by another 40% in the next 30 years, which will mean that I-85’s average truck traffic will be over 12,800 trucks per day.

    The 10-in. unbonded concrete overlay is placed on top of an asphalt interlayer, says Adam Bruner, Carolinas Regional Manager for McCarthy Improvement, an ACPA member. “We paved over 80 lane miles—just over 21 miles of two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes,” he explains. Almost 662,200 SY of concrete was used, making it one of the largest unbonded concrete overlay projects in the southeast.

    When this section of I-85 was first paved, standard design specifications called for 30-ft joint spacings with no dowel bars to transfer loads between slabs. “Now, the joint spacing is at 15-ft and dowel baskets were placed,” explains Bruner. The current design produces a pavement that can handle the expected volume and type of traffic expected in the future, he adds.

    Although the concrete contractor was able to work on two-lane sections throughout the project, with traffic diverted to one lane each way on the other side of I-85, space in the work zone was tight. “Stringless paving was a lifesaver for us on this project,” says Bruner. “There were a number of operations in the work zone at one time, so there was no room for a stringline.”

    “This was the first time stringless paving has been used in a project I’ve handled,” says Tharrington. “It provided a great advantage in access through work areas, getting material to the paver, and improving overall safety on the site.”

    Although a constricted work zone is a challenge, the greatest challenge faced was the acceleration of the project schedule two years into construction. “One of our department initiatives is to identify major projects that can be accelerated when we have the funding to do so,” explains Tharrington. Because traffic could be diverted onto the opposite side of the interstate to keep it moving, the project lent itself to an accelerated schedule, he explains. “The original plan called for five-mile closures at a time, but the accelerated schedule allowed the entire 21-mile section of the southbound lanes to be closed—moving all traffic to a two-lane, two-way pattern in the northbound lane.”

    Along with the extended work zone, the accelerated schedule also meant off-season paving, which required some adjustments for the cold weather, says Bruner. “In addition to using hot water for the mix, we also covered the pavement at the end of each day,” he explains. “This required an additional crew to blanket the concrete and we worked seven days a week.” During summer months, work continued at night, but during winter months, the temperature determined how late in the day crews could work, he adds.

    Extending the work zone closure allowed for a more efficient paving operation and working throughout most of the winter months meant opening all lanes to traffic one year earlier than originally planned.

    NCDOT specifications call for diamond grinding of concrete pavements to produce a better ride quality and reduce noise, but Tharrington points out that the combination of stringless technology and the ability to extend the length of work zones to allow continuous paving contributed to a high-quality product. He says, “The ride quality of this pavement is outstanding.”

    The original article can be found here.

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