Dana Haase, an employee out of our Springfield office, recently became Nabholz’ first female assistant superintendent, a role that is a stepping stone on the way to becoming the company’s first female superintendent.
Though our company has women in project management, project engineering, and department leadership positions, Dana’s promotion marks the start of an important new trend at our company, and hopefully throughout the construction industry. But Dana’s story didn’t start at Nabholz — it began in her teens.
Dana first discovered her passion for construction in high school, where she took pre-engineering and design courses. It was a design course in her senior year tasking students with building a house for a family in need that cemented her love for the designing and building process. Dana was furthered encouraged by a teacher to pursue a career in engineering. She took this advice and later graduated from college after earning two different degrees, one in environmental engineering and civil engineering with an emphasis in construction. She also completed two internships, one with the Iowa Department of Transportation, where Dana performed concrete testing, and the second for the City of Fitchburg in Wisconsin where she worked alongside city inspectors.
Both internships required Dana to experience working on large job sites, which confirmed her decision to enter the construction side of the building process. Her first job after college was as a project engineer, where she learned to write requests for information, review submittals, take meeting minutes, perform inspections, and understand jobsite safety. As she continued building her career, several superintendents took her under their wings and taught her about how construction plays out on the job site. Dana discovered that she wanted to be in the action — walking the job site, learning from craftworkers, and seeing daily progress.
Dana joined Nabholz in May of 2018. Just three months shy of her two-year anniversary at Nabholz, she was given her own project as an acting superintendent. It was a $1 million remodel of a historic building, originally constructed in 1929. Though the project was slated to last 11 months, Dana successfully completed the job in eight months and was promoted to assistant superintendent. Veteran superintendents told her that if she could do a 91-year-old remodel job, a ground-up project would be a walk in the park.
Still, being one of the only women in a male-dominated career creates additional challenges. Dana says the keys to successfully navigating the job site as both a newcomer and a woman were essentially the same as anyone new to the job site – first, communicate quickly that you are still learning and open to advice, and second, learn how to confidently ask questions.
Even with six years of experience, Dana still gets first-day jitters on a new job and feels a push to prove herself if she doesn’t know the crew. Once she engages in conversations and answers questions, though, there’s no doubt in the crew’s mind that she is an experienced professional. She firmly believes in earning the respect of others on the job site and, which leads to others earning her respect.
The construction industry needs more female workers like Dana. Often, vacancies for construction craftspeople and superintendents sit open for months. Unfortunately, there’s a false perception that construction is only for men. Women tend to be more organized and attentive to detail, which are great skills in construction. As Dana says, “Most women have that drive; if someone tells them they cannot do it because they are a woman, they will do it with 110%. I did not come up in the trades, but that does not mean I cannot be a successful superintendent. There is more than one way to get to where you want to be. The job site is one team, working towards the same goal. I have learned a lot from watching and asking the craftsmen about their work.”
Dana received a lot of advice, but the best advice she received is a principle that applies to starting any new situation. “You will work with many superintendents. It’s your job to learn their good qualities, mix them together, and form your own way of becoming a great superintendent.”