Stacey Gomm Harris ‘11 has been cited as one of 30 engineers in the U.S. who are “changing the construction industry,” according to the software company PlanGrid. Harris is a construction superintendent for Consigli, one of the largest general contractors in the Northeast. Simply put, a construction engineer oversees all operational aspects of a construction site, from planning to completion. PlanGrid recently featured this entertaining Q&A with Harris about her work and early aspirations.
- Favorite project you’ve ever worked on: It’s hard to choose as they are all unique and challenging in their own way. One that sticks out in my mind is the new pharmaceutical manufacturing plant for Immucell in Portland, ME. It was a 16,000 sq ft, ground-up construction that provided a drug that helped farmers treat livestock that had developed mastitis. This condition leads to a $2B market loss for farmers and this drug drastically reduces that loss. It felt great to feel that I could help make an impact in the industry. We also had the opportunity to bring innovation and lean practices to Maine that had not been seen before in that market.
- If you could have worked on any construction project throughout history, what would it be?: Hands down it would be the Burj Khalifa. Who doesn’t want to build the tallest building in the world? This was also being constructed while I was starting to discover my love of engineering and construction, so I followed the construction of it closely. It’s still on my bucket list to visit someday.
- The construction technology you cannot live without: Electronic plans and specs. At the start of my career, it was my job to print every RFI and drawing and go through the plans and tape, highlight and color all of the changes that came through on the project, to supersede all of the old plans. It was time-consuming and my first project had over 500 RFI’s. Now with one email, and a single click of a button, everyone has the latest set of plans.
- What’s something about you that surprises most people when they first learn it?: That I love to hunt and fish. I grew up in the woods, hunting and fishing with my Dad. I was lucky enough to get picked for a Maine moose permit in the lottery the same year I married my husband. We were able to serve moose at our wedding. It was a very unique experience that, I’ll never forget.
- If you didn’t work in construction, what do you think you’d be doing?: I’d be a Disney princess at Disney World or attempt to be a singer on Broadway, or at least that is what I told my family growing up as a child. Joking aside, I’ve always had a love for building, I grew up playing with Legos so I’ve always the urge to construct, I’m not sure I’d do anything else.
- What’s one construction trend or issue that you think is overhyped?: I am a big advocate for innovation, but I worry that all technology is not always the answer to the problems we face in the industry. Some technology can add more work and cause people to not double-check the output and become complacent. When selecting technology to work with on the job I always ask; Does this make my day to day easier? Does this add value? Will it make me a better builder? Can I make faster and better decisions with this technology?
- Your theme song: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé. Construction is currently experiencing huge labor shortages. A great way to bridge that gap is to get more women onto jobsites. This song reminds how incredible women are and continue to be and would love to see more women running jobsites.
- You just won the lottery. Now what?: I’d go on a vacation to visit the Burj Khalifa, buy a hunting camp on a lake in Maine and my husband and I would have a second home in Florida so I could do part-time work as a Disney princess.