Women in Construction : Interview with Lejla Torlakovic

Lejla Torlakovic is an Assistant Project Manager at KBE-NY with 9 years of construction industry experience, including 2 years with KBE-NY. Lejla graduated with a BS in Materials Engineering from the University of Zenica and a MS in Construction Project Management. A recent winner of KBE-NY’s Core Values Award for Innovation, Lejla is always willing to learn more and often suggests new ways to minimize effort and maximize team capabilities for KBE-NY. Her confidence and determination have helped her to do anything she put her mind to.

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

I believe that every woman in construction should have confidence. A male-dominated industry can be intimidating - women need to know how to hold their ground. Don’t be scared to voice your opinion.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far and how did you learn it?

Learn from your mistakes, don’t be afraid to make mistakes - of course, try not to make them! But if they do happen, it’s a way that we learn. It’s important to ask questions - there are no stupid questions; we’re all learning.

Why do you enjoy what you do?

I really love construction; something is being built right in front of your eyes. You come to the jobsite and see a pile of dirt, and in a year, you see a beautiful building - it’s amazing.

Do you have a mentor?

When I first started as a Project Engineer, a woman who was a Project Manager taught me how to work among the men, the company, subcontractors, the owners. She was very confident and taught me a lot. Over the past two years here at KBE-NY, Michael Kolakowski Jr. has been a mentor to me; I’ve learned so much from him. He really makes an effort to review things with you. He takes the time to read my notes and gives me feedback, and actually follows through.

What message do you have for other young women interested in following in your footsteps?

Don’t be intimidated and scared of how big the project is and the amount of work that goes into it,because it is very rewarding. As long as you do your thing and feel confident, you love what you do - you’re going to succeed.

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