• BWiC Profile featuring Danielle (Arciero) O'Connell, Manager, Design Technologies Integration, Massachusetts Port Authority

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    Very often we are inspired as children or young adults by something that sets us on our career path of choice. And more than often we see that many young adults join the construction industry because a family member or friend influenced them.

    Danielle had more of a unique experience. She had interest in becoming an architect or an eye doctor (they are somewhat related, right?) but with a knack for math and science architecture won out.

    Attending UMass Amherst she naturally majored in architecture, but she also minored in construction management and architectural history, and that’s where her path shifted. Danielle discovered through her co-op experiences that construction management was her true passion. She said it “opened her eyes to the built environment and bridged the gap on how a project comes to fruition”.

    It wasn’t an easy beginning, though. While waitressing at night, she shadowed for no pay with an OPM just to get the experience she needed. She was then hired as an Assistant Project Coordinator at Consigli, a position that was literally created to fit her unique skill sets. She built up her resume of work by working on Design Build Projects, Pre-Construction, Estimating, Drawings, Design and more.

    With a bit of experience in BIM at UMass, Consigli recognized her distinctive combination of talents and further groomed her as a BIM Manager. Working full time in this capacity at Binney Street in Cambridge, her specific path was now emerging. As many others can attest to, challenges existed as the only woman in the field. Often her presence in a meeting seemed unacknowledged, nor was she given credit for her knowledge, but she overcame those challenges by finding her particular niche’ in reducing distractions by keeping things well organized.

    During this period Danielle was also fortunate and smart enough to connect with a mentor via the AGC Young Constructors Council Group (Currently known as the Construction Leadership Council). Danielle offers that Lisa Wexler, CEO of Elaine Construction was vital in the continued success of her career path by offering valuable advice. “A mentor is a great resource for anyone in the AEC industry” says Danielle “it can reduce the stress of making certain career decisions by learning from someone who has been there and done that.”

    It was around this time that Gilbane offered an opportunity to become part of their Special Projects Group in Boston as what she calls a BIM-enabled Project Manager, and she jumped at the chance. She spent about two years working on site full-time on projects at Google in Kendall Square and at Fenway Park acting as the liaison between the Architect, Owner, and Subcontractors. Looking back she says her most memorable accomplishment was to see the owner have that “aha” moment where their resistance turned to total understanding of the value of using 3D tools. This strengthened her decision in pursuing a career with BIM, but finding the right positions seemed challenging as the industry as a whole has been slow to successfully implement this technology.

    Fortuitously, an opportunity was presented by Massport as Manager of Design Technologies Integration, and she accepted. She works closely with Dr.  Luciana Burdi, Deputy Director of Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs, well known for her goals in institutionalizing BIM, and a mentor to Danielle.

    Some of the barriers she has experienced in getting companies to embrace and implement BIM include resistance to change and the added expense of software and skilled staff. She admits it may be a few more years before the technology becomes a standard part of project management but when it does the ROI will be immeasurable.

    As a newlywed, she says there is “a lot to think about” when it comes to work-life balance, the future of family planning and maintaining her career. Her goal is to keep working and deal with the challenges as they arise.

    As for giving advice to young women considering entering the industry, Danielle recommends knowing all of your options. Research all the industry has to offer in careers paths and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Resources (such as BWiC) are now available to make connections with experienced women and most are more than willing to offer their counsel.

    The use of technology in the construction industry is rapidly expanding, and Danielle is committed to be at the fore front. We look forward to watching her career and contributions grow!

    Thanks Danielle for sharing your experiences and contributing to our mission of Building Women in Construction!
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