Management Material

Construction Management Student Aria Lavender Is on a Direct Path to Success

Aria Lavender is well on her way to a rewarding career in the construction industry. The Kennesaw State junior graduated from Dutchtown High School in 2021 after spending her freshman and sophomore years at Roswell High School. She’s majoring in Construction Management at KSU, where she’s president of Kennesaw Women in Construction and KSU’s National Association of Homebuilders student chapter. Having completed summer internships with C.W. Matthews and Juneau Construction, she’s now set for a summer 2024 internship with DPR Construction in Dallas, Texas.

Aria is thoughtful and honest, humble yet confident, and she’s quick to recognize those who have influenced her career path, including former Roswell High instructors Kelly Almond and Dale Hales, and KSU professor Dr. Irish Horsey. Read on as she shares about that path to date, as well as her goals and dreams for the future.

How did you get into construction?

It all started with my Intro to Construction class at Roswell High School. Initially, it was kind of boring because everything was in the textbook. But when the curriculum began to involve labs and hands-on projects, my interest and engagement began to grow. I chose the course initially because I had very limited options and did not want to take a cosmetology class, which my mom taught. I would have had the knowledge and unlimited access to the cosmetology instructor, but I wanted to challenge myself to learn something new and go a different route. It was a unique coincidence, but it’s working out in my favor.

How have your instructors impacted your development?

Both of my instructors at Roswell really encouraged me to keep striving and not allow my fear of incompetence to hinder me. They acknowledged my drive and ambition to learn more about the construction industry, and did everything in their ability to make sure I was well-equipped. Having their motivation along with many others is what pushed me to keep going. Their actions and love always made me feel secure that they had my back.

Did you participate in SkillsUSA or other competitions?

I was convinced to do a regional student competition in SkillsUSA. My first competition was in framing, including both metal and wood studs. While walking to my setup station, I began to feel very nervous and intimidated. Some of the guys competing had boots, tools belts, and toothpicks hanging out of their mouth, while I timidly walked in with a toolbox almost as big as me and a polo shirt. Mentally I had to lock-in and do my best. Once the timer went off as a signal to stop working, I took a deep breath and recognized I was the only female when glancing at my competitors. I did not place, but I walked away proud and encouraged.

So from that point on, I said, ‘I’m willing to participate in more competitions,’ and I did. In my sophomore year, I competed in the TeamWorks contest [at the SkillsUSA State Championships], and our team finished third. I felt like I could do anything I wanted. I felt powerful. Like a boss. It was a really good feeling.

Tell us about your internships.

At [C.W. Matthews] I was assigned to a structural team that began work on a bridge in Fayetteville. It’s nice knowing that if I ever pass through that area, I can say I helped work on that bridge. I assisted with framing, crane operation, material deliveries and learning day-to-day procedures for the labor team. Being around concrete pours, beam instillations, and building framework truly was a fun and eye-opening experience. Towards the end of my internship, I was able to be in the office and learn the project management side of things.

[The Juneau Construction] internship was similarly structured by dedicating one half of the summer to experience operations, while the other half was to explore pre-construction. Juneau did an amazing job partnering students with a mentor to provide one-on-one opportunities to learn more in-depth about the industry. Of all the takeaways from my experience, I received confirmation from within that I’m pursuing a career in the right industry.

What do you enjoy about project management and construction management?

The endless learning and interaction with different types of people. Individuals in this industry have so much knowledge and wisdom to share with those who will listen. I love the endless opportunities to explore innovation, develop unexpected relationships, and learn something new everyday.

What are your career goals?

My short-term goal would be becoming more comfortable with saying no – but saying no with humble confidence, learning to listen to my heart and move off of discernment instead of fear.

My plan for post graduation is not solidified and I do not feel the pressure to know all the details at this moment. I don’t want to mistakenly put myself in a box. I’m not sure yet, but I do have faith and confidence that when it’s time, I will know.

My [ultimate] career goal is to have my own construction company. The vision I have when I think about my construction company is lavender bricks. The type of company is not solidified, nor are the details, but the vision of lavender bricks is crystal clear.

What challenges have you faced being a woman in construction?

The biggest struggle is overcoming my doubt of not being enough or not knowing enough in this field. It is a constant decision to let go of the fear of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing. I’m learning that my emotions and feelings should not and will not dictate my actions. The world does not stop when I feel a certain emotion, so I will persevere and see the larger picture to reach my goals. It is all easier said than done, but I have the mindset that I will pursue my heart’s desires and will not talk myself out of doing what others perceive as impossible.

What advice do you have for other women in construction or who are considering construction careers?

I would tell them to learn to listen to your heart. The negative, doubtful,and discouraging voice is the only thing holding you back. You have to kill that voice and give it a new tone. You’re going to be your biggest enemy, if you allow it.

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