People First

Building Your Future: Celebrating Careers in Construction Month

Author-Brittani-Sieversby Brittani SieversOct. 27, 2021

During October, we celebrated Careers in Construction Month (CICM), a nationwide campaign that increases public awareness of the diverse career opportunities in the construction industry, inspires the next generation of craft professionals, and impacts the perceptions of a career in construction.

With over 9 million employees in construction, careers within the industry are incredibly diverse, providing opportunities from skilled craftworkers to engineers to project accountants and marketing professionals. To raise awareness of the many opportunities within the industry, six of our own employees joined us in The Big Room to share their experiences.


  • Ryan McShannon: Construction Manager

  • Corey Wallace: Principal Engineer

  • Avnit Kang: Division Safety Manager

  • Renita Drake: Administrative Services Manager

  • Betty Ribble: Human Resources Generalist

  • Rahel Woldeyohannes: Project Manager

What is your current role and main job responsibility at Southland Industries?

RM, Construction Manager: I oversee field operations, shop teams, union employees, purchasing quality control and safety logistics, and the tool center. I also spend time traveling to remote sites like Salt Lake City, UT and Quincy, OR. I'm heavily involved in all projects to make the field teams' life easier and more efficient.

CW, Principal Engineer: I lead a team of designers and design engineers, focusing on fire suppression systems design and fire protection consulting. I am also the strategic leader for the fire protection group.

AK, Division Safety Manager: I inspect and evaluate the workplace and jobsites to ensure compliance with safety standards and government regulations.

RD, Administrative Services Manager: Besides managing my incredible administrative team, my main responsibilities include fleet management, facilities management, event and meeting coordination, and a host of other administrative duties. It's a fun and rewarding position with a lot of opportunities.

BR, Human Resources Generalist: I support both the Mountain West Division and the corporate HR team. I primarily support employees and managers in day-to-day tasks that enhance our employee experiences starting with pre-employment and day-one activities all the way through career transition.

RW, Project Manager: My primary roles are facilitating the effective execution of a project. It requires thorough planning, continuous communicating, and a clear vision.

Prior to your current role, were you in the construction industry? If not, what brought you to this role?

RM: I'm a third-generation pipefitter so I feel as if I've always been in the construction industry. My grandfather was a union plumber, and my father was a pipefitter so after high school I attended the local trade school where I later became an instructor and taught advanced math and applied science. I began my career as a journeyman and worked my way up.

CW: Yes, prior to this role, I was a fire protection and plumbing engineer for a consulting organization.

AK: Prior to beginning my career at Southland, I was not in the construction industry. I joined Southland looking for a new experience.

RD: No, I wasn't previously in the construction industry. I received my degree in business administration, and I figured that doors to a variety of career paths and industries would open, but I never thought of construction. Prior to taking the position, I didn't know anything about the construction industry or mechanical contracting.

BR: Prior to my seven and a half years with Southland, I had been exposed to construction on the sidelines, as family members were in the industry. During the first year of my tenure with Southland, I did get the opportunity to work on our estimating/preconstruction team before transitioning into an HR seat. This was a valuable experience which gave me insights and knowledge about what Southland does, which is more than just building. I was able to gain an appreciation for the level of complexity of what goes into our project lifecycles from engineering and construction to building optimization.

RW: Prior to working in the construction industry, I was a mechanical engineering student.

How has working in construction changed your perspective of the industry?

RM: I believe there is a huge stigma around the construction industry. The perception is that people who work in the industry only work in the field building, that employees are uneducated, or that it isn't a field where you can be successful. It's interesting because I have multimillion-dollar projects being run by high school graduates. I have had all walks of life on my site and the commonality of the trade brings people together. Construction isn't for everyone, but it can be a successful career if you apply yourself and have the drive to learn.

BR: Seeing how Southland has evolved from seven years ago to today excites me. I believe the values and emphasis that Southland puts on its people makes us one of the best companies to work for. In the construction industry, there are a lot of stereotypes and myths about the type of work environment and the people that work in this industry. My overall experience with Southland has proven these to be inaccurate. The construction industry provides lots of opportunities for professionals, in and out of the trade, to have a meaningful and engaging career.

What aspects of a career in construction have been most appealing to you?

RD: The opportunities within the construction industry are very diverse and it will never get stagnant. Having a career in construction has really opened my eyes to how progressive and dynamic the industry is and what a fun, ever-changing environment it is to work in. For myself, it has been a very rewarding career!

AK: The construction industry thrives on new innovations and developing safer ways to keep everyone safe. Over the past few years, a lot of companies have taken a safety intervention approach in which they are working to prevent injuries through design. These changes are driven by owners, government mandates, and employees. It has been an honor in helping the construction industry highlight safety as a priority.

CW: I can solve complex, once-in-a-lifetime problems with a team who has diverse technical backgrounds and can provide me with an infinite path to learn and grow. This opportunity also allows me to show my kids and future grandkids the projects I have designed and been a part of. The buildings we design and install will be around for 20-plus years and there is a lot of pride in the creation and the ability to show your creation to important people in your life.

RW: I never imagined how much working in the construction industry would teach me about life and the inner workings of the world. Mainly that to ensure success as a team, active listening and trying to understand the intentions in each other's words is critical.

In an industry that is striving to improve its diversity, I have also had the pleasure of being exposed to people of different backgrounds and developing meaningful relationships and teams. The construction industry is the epitome of interdependence in action. It is challenging in numerous ways, so it requires teams to be built on trust and dependability, which I am proud to say is what we do at Southland.