Women in Construction Interview - Carolina Cudemus-Jones

Carolina Cudemus-Jones
AVP of Capital Projects
Smith College | Northhampton, MA

“I tell young professionals, ‘always open to learning from those around you.’ I’m always looking for role models, male or female …”

Carolina Cudemus-Jones is the AVP of Capital Projects with Smith College. Until recently, she was the Director for Design and Construction for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has more than 20 years of experience in complex private and commercial construction projects, including health care, higher education, and K-12 schools. Previous positions include Pre- Construction Executive with Gilbane Building Company, which include her role as Deputy Director of a $1.7 billion School Reconstruction Program and Pre-Construction Manager for the University of Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Construction Institute and is actively involved with the Connecticut chapter of Professional Women in Construction. Carolina along with Nancy Greenwald of the Construction Institute founded the premier event for Women in the Design and Construction Industry in the New England Area attracting national and international speakers.  The 9th Women Who Build Summit will be held this year on March 26th and 27th at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2025.

Question: What led you to a career in the construction industry?

I started off in a completely different direction than construction. When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to go into either biomedical engineering or medicine. I grew up in Venezuela, and there we had to choose one of two educational tracks in middle school. I chose the STEM track, thinking that I would be good at Biomedical Engineering. After my sophomore year it was clear that civil engineering was the right fit. That decision was correct – I fell in love with Structures and Geotechnical, not necessarily on the path to the construction industry. Until… and I remember this moment like it was yesterday:  I was working at a geotechnical firm, I walked out of a doctor’s office and saw a steel building going up, folks working on the naked structure looked like yellow ants – I could only imagine the process, how does it all come together? Process, logistics, Decisions? Who- What?  Designers, Contractors, Client. Later, after the right job, I knew I had found my calling.


Question: What is one characteristic that you believe every woman in construction should possess?

I have told young professionals to be open, always open to learning from those around you. You will find that most people are willing to take the time to teach and guide you. My first ‘teacher’ was a man named Horace with 40+ years of experience, a carpenter by trade and the senior superintendent for a medium sized general contractor. Horace taught me practical knowledge not taught in engineering school.  I learned so much about construction from him and the foremen on that specific project. They took the time and got me started with concrete, masonry, plumbing, mechanical. My respect for the trades is high. I wanted to learn and they were eager to show me.  We all should look at every opportunity as a chance to improve – always be in learning mode.

Question: What message do you have for other young women interested in following in your footsteps?
I’m always looking for role models, male or female. Business acumen, the way the present and speak in public, their accomplishments. We see this people in conferences, construction organizations events, networking sessions in the company or outside. Get involved – be passionate about what you do, reach out! You will be amazed how down to earth these individuals are; they have been where you are. They will help you grow; they will advise you on challenges ahead, and they will help you put together a path to reach your goals.


Question: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career thus far, how did you learn from it?

What I’ve learned is that failure pushes you in a direction that makes you better. Failure should always be seen as an opportunity to grow. I had to learn that lesson – one fails at something, and the initial human response is to withdraw and stop, questioning all that you have done and blind to the opportunities ahead. My approach now is to see all obstacles as opportunities in your personal or your professional life.  Assess your position, look for the options in front of you, and move forward to a better place.