Doreen Bartoldus is nothing short of a powerhouse. With a career in the construction industry spanning over 44 years, she’s a true leader both on and off-site. Doreen is the Manager of Projects at a company with 55,000 employees as well as being the National President for NAWIC. Her passion for equity, inclusion and sustainability shine through during this conversation. We’re delighted to be able to share a Q&A of her incredible story.
Q: Introduce yourself. Where are you from? What do you do for work?
D: I was born and raised on Long Island, NY. Currently, I work with Jacobs Engineering, a global company with over 55,000 employees. I am based in the New York City office region and wear a few hats, with my title being manager of projects. I mainly focus on the construction management of large water infrastructure for NYC, supervising staff, and business development.
My career in construction spans 44 years. It started with working with contractors until I earned my civil engineering degree by attending night school. After earning my degree, I moved to engineer companies, mainly focusing on inspections, then construction management before moving into business development. I have also earned my MBA in sustainable business. I have also worked as an adjunct professor, teaching for a time at Steven Tech in New Jersey.
Q: How did you get involved with the construction industry?
D: My father, uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all carpenters and bricklayers and they built many of the homes in my hometown. My father also built both homes we lived in when we were growing up, so playing with bricks, concrete and sand started very young.
I had thought I would become an architect (I loved art in school and was very good at math!), but as I started to head in that direction, I realized I wanted to go the more pragmatic way. I thought I’d enjoy the more in-depth understanding of how things are built that engineering would give me. Then, I realized as time went on that I did not want to be sitting behind a desk as a designer, I wanted to be out where the building was going on. So, as soon as I did enough design to acquire my professional license, I returned to the construction side. Construction has always felt natural to me.
Q: How did you hear about NAWIC?
D: In 2004 the firm I was working for started a diversity initiative. My boss (the leader of our construction management group) at the time decided his goal for this diversity would be “Women in Construction” and tasked me with leading this sub-initiative. I was asked to find an organization we could join. I found NAWIC. I am no longer with that firm but I am very much still with NAWIC.
Q: What has your NAWIC journey been like? When did you join?
D: I joined in 2004 as a corporate member. My first Annual Convention was in Dallas in 2005, which is when NAWIC really sunk in. I met so many women with so much in common with me, I was amazed by the “power in the room,” as they say.
The journey was not always easy. In 2006 I moved to California and joined the Los Angeles Chapter, which was great- I was very welcomed. I had started to go to regional events, and, even though I enjoyed those, I felt like more of an outsider, but I also felt like I was learning and getting to know NAWIC better. I moved back to NY and, along with a few other women, chartered the Lower Hudson Chapter. After several great years, this chapter began to struggle as did the NYC chapter– this is just before we merged our regions. I began to work regionally with the region director on membership and reinvigorating several smaller chapters. At this time, I did struggle a bit with whether NAWIC was really worth it for me, but I stuck it out. The regions merged, which pumped more energy into our regional events, and this was great for our region overall.
Q: What made you interested in leadership positions?
D: Shortly after we merged, I was asked to run for director, but I did not see myself in that position. However, two things happened that had me step up. First, with the struggling of the Lower Hudson Chapter and the NY chapter, I felt we needed more support from National. NAWIC was basically a secret, if known it had perception as sorority, and was not being taken seriously as an organization.
I started thinking, I did not need to complain, but lean in and see what I could do about it. While this was running through my mind, I had a student of mine come to me very upset by cat-calls (to put it lightly) that she suffered on a job site. I was incensed that young women were still dealing with this on job sites. So, that night, I decided women need NAWIC and I needed to do my part to improve the perception of the organization.
Q: Why did you decide to run for a National Officer position?
D: As noted above, I ran for Director. I was unopposed. I was not sure I would continue after that. But I did feel the work I had started, through an industry outreach task force was not yet done. So, I continued to on and ran for national treasurer. When I took this step, I knew I would continue and work toward becoming president. I was also mentored and encouraged by two national presidents that I served with. That kind of support and encouragement is very meaningful.
Q: Over the next year, what do you ultimately hope to accomplish?
D: I realize, as I am answering these questions that I do need a specific focus on several outcomes for my year. Remembering also that we have a strategic plan that we review at least twice a year with the board that continues to guide us year to year on the National level.
My main focus has been, and continues to be, our outreach to the larger construction industry. NAWIC is well on its way to becoming a viable and well-known organization for women in our industry. This was in part due to our updated branding, and increased marketing presence (plus add in all the hard work the chapters and committees did putting education out there, having meetings on zoom, etc.). I look forward to continuing the marketing and branding initiatives into this year, to achieve branding uniformity and publicity through blog content, social media ads and promotions. Plus, I will be reinstating an outreach task force to look at our industry ‘perks,’ such as partnerships, sponsorships, conference attendance, and the Project Excellence awards , to name a few. I would also like to establish operational consistency and professional management of these industry outreach items. The task force will also evaluate if there is anything more we can be doing in this regard to be better stewards for our members via our work within the construction industry.
I will also be focused on NAWIC infrastructure- meaning, how we govern and how we operate – which means how we work as a national board and our committees, plus our NAWIC employed staff. This 2021-2022 Board took part in two days of strategic planning that included reviewing priorities established through a professional consultant review of how we do business now. Watch for updates on our Strategic Plan for more on these established goals. I look to move us forward based on these priorities, which include director succession planning, work streamlining, leadership mentoring, and additional chapter support.
Also, based on the above, I will be looking to better coordinate the work of our committees, task forces, and staff to align our goals, work and educational calendars. I would like to see our National-level educational calendar complement our chapters more rather than compete. Working with our Executive Director, I am also working on streamlining communications, looking for the best ways to communicate with our chapters and members. I want NAWIC to continue to think big and have at least 1,000 new members this year while maintaining our current members and we need the infrastructure to continue to support this.
I would like to see more education regarding our current construction trends of equity and inclusion and the sustainability of our planet. I certainly want the overall visualization of a welcome and inclusive NAWIC that translates to the same in our industry. My real desire for all men and women is to Envision Equity and work to that!
Q: What would you like to say to NAWIC members as we enter your time in office?
D: Thank you for your passion. You are right where you belong! Whatever your level of involvement you are making a difference! We, as your National Board, are here to serve you and make sure you get the support you need. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can this year and afterward. Our members are our inspiration!
Come see me in Minneapolis next August! And, of course, stay healthy and safe!