June 11, 2018
Shop Talk

Staruk blazing new paths in construction

Photo | Brad Kane
Jody Staruk is a project executive with Milford-based Consigli Construction.

Jody Staruk, Consigli Construction

Employees: 1,000 companywide
(10 direct reports)

Company founded: 1905

Started with the company: 2003

Residence: Holden

Birthplace: Waterville, Maine

Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

In January, Jody Staruk was promoted to project executive at Milford general contractor Consigli Construction, the first woman to hold the position at the 113-year-old company. This came less than a year after she became the first woman to win its Builder of the Year award.

How did you end up in construction?

I really lucked out. I came in and interviewed with Anthony Consigli, but I didn't even know at the time he was the head of the company. The interview with him and another executive, Greg Burns, went so well I cancelled all my other interviews. Luckily, they offered me a job.

On my first day, I walked in wearing sandals and a skirt, and they had to sneak me in the back of a job site. That is how much I knew about construction.

But, over the years, I took everything they taught me and adapted it to my way to run jobs, watching that be effective and watching my teams be effective.

Why have you stayed?

I've always felt at home here. When I started 15 years ago, it was a $40-million company, and how it feels hasn't changed for me, even though it is a $1-billion company now.

And you are the 2017 Builder of the Year.

Winning the Builder of the Year was really cool. I had my eye on the award for some time, wanting to prove to myself I was good at what I did and my teaching the other people was working and making the company better.

I was nervous when I won it, because I thought other people would say, "Oh, they are just giving it to a woman." But a lot of field personnel came out to me afterward and said, "I haven't worked with you personally, but I've worked with people you've trained; and I just want to say, 'Congratulations.'" I knew from the start it wasn't a female thing, and after all those people came up to me, I realized no one had that perception either. It just reinforced my belief in the company.

What is your new role?

As a project manager, I was responsible for running the day-to-day on the projects. Now, I am supervising those teams running those projects.

I'm also involved in pursuits, bringing in new work for the company. I'm also involved in the project management ops group, making our standard operating procedures efficient and effective.

Do you feel extra responsibility as the first woman in that position?

As I move further up in my career, it is more on my mind. You see all the women project engineers and the number that reached out to me when they announced my promotion, it really opened my eyes.

I never grew up knowing being a woman was a thing. I was a little naive. I still have to ask my parents how they did that, because I have two little girls and I want them to grow up thinking being a woman isn't a thing. Maybe it was my naivete that let me go as far as I have, but now I see these women looking to me and thinking, "See how far we can go."

Why have you been so successful?

My biggest mentor since I've been here is Jeff Navin – Consigli's vice president of project management – and he taught me to always explain the why. So, as I've gone through all my roles, I've always made sure people understand why we are making decisions. We don't always have all the information, but you have to make the decision anyway. If the decision is wrong, I can make decisions to fix it. I haven't been afraid to fail, and I've failed a lot.

How did having a mentor help?

I've never been afraid to ask him any question. I've never been afraid to cry on his shoulder, when I was frustrated or overwhelmed. He was always good at saying, "You control what you can control, and let everything else go."

How do you encourage more women to enter the construction industry?

A couple of women in our office have been working with Girls, Inc. in Worcester, and I am going to be working with them. We are going to take 8th-grade girls as they start the five-year program, and we are just going to showcase construction as a career.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Editor Brad Kane.

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