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National Women in Construction Week 2023

This week is National Women in Construction Week, and we are beyond excited to highlight some of the amazing women who contribute to Findorff's success from both our field and offices. The theme for this year's 25th anniversary is 'Many Paths, One Mission.' This theme celebrates the many different journeys women have taken to not only join but bolster the construction industry.

The following highlights some of the incredible women here at Findorff. Over the course of this week, we will showcase their personal achievements thus far, and reflect on the many paths that led them to the construction industry. We are thankful for their contributions.

Nakiah 'Kiah' Hokanson | Madison, WI | Acting Ironworker Foreman

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

My journey starts with my dad. He's a local 1 ironworker, and always told me my two options after high school were college or trade school. This was delayed, as my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer my junior year of high school, and I waitressed fulltime to take over as her caretaker. After she passed away in 2014, I took over paying rent and bills. When I refused my dad's offer to move back in with him so I could go to college, he reminded me of our deal. I was very resistant at first, but finally applied for an apprenticeship in 2016. Cut to March 2022, my first job was a small township building in Portage, WI.  

There were a lot of firsts for me on that first day: climbed up a 20-foot rebar wall mat, picked up a 6-inch grinder for the first time, and cut rebar with hot sparks flying everywhere. I was terrified and unsure whether I had what it took to do this for the rest of my life, but I kept showing up and doing everything I was told. 

After a couple weeks, I witnessed someone getting laid off. I had just made it through the first layoff. That showed me I did have what it took to make it. 

I've had so many good mentors over the years that taught me all they knew and had confidence in me when I didn't have any in myself. One foreman told me I was going to be a foreman and I laughed at him. I was still an apprentice and didn't think anyone would take me seriously or respect me enough to take directions from me. I recently had to call him and tell him he was right and that I had become a foreman. He was very proud and told me to 'give 'em hell.' 

Looking back on the seven years I've been an ironworker; I'm honored to have been presented with all the opportunities and knowledge that I have. I couldn't imagine doing anything else all day, every day. There were some very tough days but that's what makes it so rewarding, not everyone survives the trades and I'm proud of everything I've accomplished.  

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

I'm not sure I can pick just one of my proudest moments! When I was at Epic the decks were so big that I could pack out iron all day if I wanted to. I enjoyed seeing just how much weight I could lift onto my shoulder and carry across the deck where it was to be installed. It made me proud to keep up with the guys and carry just as much, and sometimes more than them. Nobody had to pick up my slack because I was a girl on the job, they had to keep up with me

Another very proud moment of mine is getting to be a part of the tower crane crew. I've had the privilege of putting up two tower cranes alongside great guys who kept me safe. The tower crane at TruStage Foundation was my first and I was lucky enough to work with someone who showed me the ropes and made sure I was okay. It was a terrifying but liberating experience.  

Kim Norton | Madison, WI | Field Operations Specialist

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

My start in construction actually began at the front desk. I came from teaching elementary school and applied for a job in the accounting department here at Findorff that I heard about from my friend Renae Beyer. I didn't get that job but was asked if I would consider becoming the receptionist. My first impression was that this was a company where I was welcomed and considered a valuable part of the team right from the get go. I worked as the receptionist for about nine months and knew that I wanted to do more so I applied for a newly created position as full-time Field Operations Support. Ten years later, I am now the Field Operations Specialist for Findorff. Currently my main responsibilities are:

  • Dispatching our many trades professionals to jobs based on needs. Our highest weekly dispatch number was 96!
  • Working with unions and apprenticeship offices to find new men and women who want to join the trades and helping those folks navigate the processes.
  • Supporting the important work that our Safety Department does to keep our people and jobsites safe day to day.
  • General administration support for our Field Operations Director, General Superintendents, and other field leaders in all markets.

I love my job and know that I will be here until I retire. I am one of the lucky ones that gets to go to work every day loving what I do and the people that I get to do it with. I can't ask for more!

Fun Facts about me:

  • I am the "Gift Services" department, putting together gifts for our clients and employees.
  • I am also part of the team that coordinates and hosts our biggest company events like SLED (Safety, Leadership & Education Day), the Annual Holiday Party, and our Summer Picnic.

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

My proudest achievement is the reputation that I have earned as being a resource and someone that people can go to for answers in all areas here at Findorff.

Lakisha 'Kisha' Vassel | Milwaukee, WI | Operator

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

I have always had a love for cars and trucks which is what led me down the road to being a heavy equipment operator. But my journey was hard; being a wife and mother with a newborn while working in a position with high demands and going to school every day to learn how to operate different equipment was tough. I'm lucky to have had a good support system, it's tougher if you don't.

It can be hard to succeed as an operator, or in any area in the construction field, and for many years I had tunnel vision. I was working in a male dominated field, in both cold and hot conditions, driving sometimes hours to work, and having my son and husband come to hotels with me so I could complete my tasks. But through it all I can say that being an operator has given me great opportunities to meet so many amazing people and work on some unbelievable projects. I'm learning new skills every day and learning how to work with equipment that I could have never imagined.

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

I am proud of myself. Just knowing that if you believe you can do it and put in the hard work and be patient, it will happen. Being an operator engineer and working for Findorff has been nothing but good for me as a woman in this field. I have worked 16 years as an operator, and I've never missed a day of work. I'm so grateful!

Lisa Berg | Madison, WI | Yard Administrative Specialist

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

In total, I have been with Findorff for over eight years. I started out at the Yard assisting with the implementation of a project management tool for a few months then headed to the home office to create training videos and support the Preconstruction department. After that I went to Epic for a year or so where I worked side by side with the PA to wrap up the Farm Campus and support the completion of the first part of the Storybook Campus. Finally, I came back to the Yard where I have been ever since! Currently, I balance three primary areas (Inventory, PO/AP/Coding, and Preventive Maintenance) while always trying to make processes more accurate and time friendly for everyone.

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

I have to say my proudest achievement has just been everything I've gotten to work on from my start with Findorff to present. With all my experiences, I have the tools to be more proactive vs. reactive in more situations. Being able to step in when needed and touch so many different areas within Findorff, and the construction industry in general, when I didn't know much about them at the beginning, has been really rewarding. Construction is ever present and ever changing!

Denise Krueger | Wausau, WI | Project Coordinator

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

I actually began at Findorff in the Madison office in 2007 as a PMA. My husband was then offered a great opportunity at an insurance company in Merrill, so I left, and we moved in 2015. Then one day in 2017 I saw a feature on the news about the groundbreaking at Sentry Insurance for their new office building – lo and behold it was a Findorff project! I recalled that Joe Schuchardt was heading up the work at Sentry, so I reached out and we met a couple times for lunch. By the time 2018 rolled around Joe told me that Findorff was planning to open an office in Wausau, and asked if I would like to come back. Now here we are almost 5 years in!

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

I'm so proud to have been an original member of the Wausau office, and in a completely new market! Introducing the Findorff name and brand to the area and gaining the trust and respect of locals, both clients and subcontractors, has been humbling, exciting, and nerve-wracking all combined. We are realizing our efforts and that is VERY satisfying.

Koral Krieg | Milwaukee, WI | Operator Apprentice

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

I started my journey working in a warehouse for about a year, then I realized that job wasn't for me, so I started my apprenticeship. I started my training in July of 2022 with Findorff. I learned so much from watching all the different trades on the Marquette University site. First, I ran an elevator at Marquette for about four months. Then, I went out to MilliporeSigma in Sheboygan Falls running a telehandler. I've learned so much from when I first started running the equipment to now, and I'm still learning new tips and tricks to the trade.

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

My proudest achievement is seeing how much I have improved in operating a telehandler. I'd never been on one before this! I have a foreman and superintendent who are very helpful, and amazing teachers. Just working with an understanding crew that is willing to teach someone new to the job is an amazing experience.

Jennifer LaBerge | Madison, WI | People Strategy

Tell us about your journey. How did you end up where you are now in your current role?

I have experienced many twists and turns in my HR career. I was fortunate (although I didn't know it at the time) to experience a job loss, which led me to an opportunity at Findorff that I would not have otherwise pursued. I found my 'home,' and with it found not only a solid, stable, community-focused company that I'm proud to be a part of, but a role where I know I'm making an impact. 

What is the proudest achievement of your career?

When I started eight and a half years ago, I was told I wouldn't be recruiting much. Looking back, that makes me giggle because Findorff has experienced incredible growth, 100% since then! I have been the integral connection in hiring over 225 talented people in that time. My life experience guides me to focus on applicant's desire and drive to do the job, their transferable skills, and to advocate for those who are historically underrepresented in the construction industry.

I find immense personal satisfaction in watching the people that I've recruited build their careers, pursue their personal passions, and experience life changes all while making Findorff the very special place it is.  

Thank you for celebrating Women in Construction Week with us, and for taking a moment to learn more about some of the amazing women who contribute to Findorff's success.

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