Women in Construction Week: Interview with Jennifer Vigneault

Jennifer Vigneault’s first construction job was managing renovation projects for a small remodeling company while she was in college. “I was managing 15-20 renovation projects at a time, doing the material ordering and planning for each,” she says. “It was very challenging.”

But her decision to go into construction was a bit out of the blue, she explains. “I was the kid who grew up with both Legos and Barbies. I didn’t go to college right after high school, no one in my family was in the business, and I wasn’t following in anyone’s footsteps. I guess I just went rogue and decided to go to school.” She earned her BS in Construction Management from Central Connecticut State University and her MS in Organizational Leadership from Springfield College.

She is currently project manager for campus planning, design & construction with UCONN Health Center in Farmington, CT and was previously associate director of planning for Springfield College in Springfield, MA.

What is one characteristic that you believe every woman in construction should possess?
Curiosity – for me, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know. If you don’t know something, you need to be curious and find the right person and ask the questions – whether about construction or anything else in life.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far and how did you learn it?
Don’t act like you know everything. It doesn’t matter who is in the room with you, if you think you are the only one who knows the answer, you won’t learn anything. And not knowing the answer doesn’t mean you lack value or that you are somehow incompetent – if there’s an expert in the room, ask them.

What project are you most proud of?
That’s a tough question – I really put my heart and soul into every project I do. At Springfield College, I oversaw the renovations of all our turf fields, and the last of the grass fields serving softball. For me, that helped create a necessary balance. But I love any project that creates a balance. It’s about creating an environment that makes someone else’s day. Every project has a customer – meeting their expectations is really what construction is about.

Do you have a mentor or do you mentor others?
I would say that I have had role models and advocates I can turn to for advice or questions. And I have a lot of networking connections that I get in touch with when I need some insight or have a question. At Springfield College, I managed a group of student workers and I helped mentor them. But even if it’s not an official title, people are still watching you and learning.

What books, blogs, podcasts, or other media resources would you recommend to other women in the industry?
Well, I really think that, at the end of the day, you have to go home and do something besides your day job. It’s great to keep up with the industry, of course, but after work, you need to find the things that restore your energy. For me, I listen to true crime podcasts!

What message do you have for other young women interested in following in your footsteps?
You can do very well for yourself in this industry and there are plenty of opportunity on both the owner side and the contractor side. If you’re interested, go for it. If you’re not sure how to get started, there are plenty of networking groups that can connect to people who can give you guidance and perspective. Just do it!

As a woman in construction, there has been some pushback from men, but it has definitely gotten better over the last five or six years. There’s been a huge push for equity, equality, and diversity, and it’s getting a lot less hostile – not to say that I haven’t put people in their place when needed! But I’d much rather be nice and have fun and laugh.

Read more interviews here!