Women in Construction Week 2019: Shawna Tucci on the Aviation Market, Building Good Partnerships, and Creating Your Own Career OpportunityContributor: Swinerton Blogger | March 09, 2019
What’s your role at Swinerton?
I am a Project Executive and my focus is aviation, which means developing and supporting our growth in the aviation market at all kinds of different airports. I’m located in Denver, so my focus is certainly at Denver International Airport, but I actually got into aviation through our work rebranding 12 different airports for American Airlines.
A foreman and I drove all over the Front Range all the way from Wyoming to New Mexico and did a ton of work, which helped me realized there was a lot of opportunity for Swinerton in the aviation market. I went into our Division Manager’s office and said we should focus on this market and keep up the momentum, and Swinerton responded by really zeroing in on the aviation market. We’ve been in the market for 30 years, but with a focused group specializing in this work, Swinerton performed over $150 million dollars’ worth of work in aviation last year.
How did you get into construction?
I was always that kid that knew I was going to be in construction. Growing up, I was always following my dad around the ranch building things, and my grandad ran an electrical company, so by the time I was 16 had a part-time job in construction. I worked in construction through college, and worked my way up through a variety of different roles—from development and acquisition to tenant improvement projects and more.
What are some of the aviation team’s most exciting projects right now?
We were just awarded a large hanger project for Southwest Airlines at DEN, which is our first airfield project in Denver, so that’s very exciting. We’re also kicking off a new premier lounge for American Express at DEN, in a project that is not typical, because most lounges are for airlines. This is our first AmEx, and we’re excited to build on the success we’ve had with partners like United and Delta on their lounge projects in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta and more.
We’re also contracted for on-call work at both DEN and the Sacramento airport, which are made of up a series of projects that support the airport operations staff and enable more expansion projects. Over the last few years, we’ve moved airlines, moved offices in preparation for big expansion projects, and even moved escalators, so we’ve utilized those on-call opportunities to gain experience to help win even more project awards.
What are the major market trends you’re seeing right now?
The main market trend for next five years at major hub airports will be major infrastructure upgrades. All of these major airports were established 20 or 30 years ago, and everywhere we’re going we’ve seen that these hubs have met capacity. It’s a big time for upgrades and improving and advancing their technology, which has had a major ripple effect. In order to make room for these major upgrades, there are a lot of projects that have to be completed first, like relocating offices, in order to smooth the way for operations to expand and grow.
Those hub airports hitting their capacity means that smaller-tier airports are seeing a lot more traffic and passengers, so they also have to modernize in order to keep up with the pace of travel as well. Part of my job is tracking and understanding all these market effects and, understanding the funding that exists to create these upgrades, and I can say there’s a lot happening in a lot of different elements of the market right now.
How does Swinerton set itself apart in the aviation market?
I think we set ourselves apart because we understand that work at an airport isn’t like other facilities—the systems and operations are running 24/7, and they never slow down. If it’s a ground-up building and you’re on site, you have the site to yourself, but here systems have to be live and tied in and working at all hours. It’s challenging. When you work in these facilities, everything needs to operate in tandem, and you as a contractor have to plan for flexibility and adaptability.
I always say you have to have three or more options just in case your perfect plans change because of flights or weather, and I believe that thinking outside the box is where we set ourselves apart. I talk through the plan with our clients, and we walk through every scenario that could happen so that nothing is a surprise. We’re able to be flexible while thinking about the needs of our clients and passengers, because they’re really shaping what we’re doing.
I’m always trying to figure out what’s coming up and what’s in the pipeline through establishing great connections with our clients, which can help us build out a timeline, stay flexible, and meet their needs. We’ve developed experienced and specialized teams and we’re here to do the work, so we want to establish those valuable true partnerships, because we’re not just here to pack up and leave.
How would you describe the Swinerton culture and the company’s support for women in construction?
I feel very lucky to work for a company that has empowered me to be a success, and empowered me to ask for what I want and shape my own path here. I think that’s unique, especially in this industry, but Swinerton is always open to the fact that a good idea can come from anyone, and they empower people to follow their passions.
Over my career in the industry, I’ve definitely seen an adjustment. When I started, there were almost no women role models, but now women in the industry have great mentors and great peers. Within our offices, I’ve seen how people have really been trying to focus on mentorship, and there are a handful of young ladies in our office that I’ll take out and try and lend a hand to. Even the opportunities to work with WIC boot camps though the local universities is such a great opportunity, and I’m always happy to support them.
Overall, one of the most important things about Swinerton is that as an employee and a shareholder here, you’re not working for someone else in the corner, you’re really working for yourself. When you contribute to Swinerton’s success, you’re shaping your own opportunity and creating your own way, and that is true testament to my path over last few years.