Builders at Heart: Dayan Escobar

September 26, 2023

Dayan Escobar (left), a project engineer with Clark Construction, is passionate about her work and is seen here doing a fist bump for safety.

This article is part of our series Builders at Heart, where we highlight the passions and backgrounds of the Clark team — the things that shape us — that allow us to tackle challenges head-on, solve complex problems, and build what matters.

Meet Dayan Escobar, a project engineer for Clark Construction.

Tell us about your background.

I’m a woman from a vulnerable community in Colombia. I graduated from Universidad del Atlántico in 2017, came to the United States in 2018, and started in construction in 2019.

Once a week from May through September, I volunteer with Go Colombia, which brings cultural events to DC, Maryland, and Virginia and supports Colombian-owned local small businesses. The rest of the year, I help secure sponsorships that make the programming possible. When I lived in Colombia, I volunteered with an organization called TECHO that built emergency housing after natural disasters and another non-profit, Coorposur, that taught leadership training and English classes.

I got to be where I am because I have been volunteering my whole life. I feel like every time you share with others, it will open a thousand doors for you. Everything you are today is because you are giving back to other people.

Describe your role at Clark and your core responsibilities.

I am a project engineer currently working on Reston Town Center Block D. I work on the interior construction for the amenities spaces of the project. With the support of my amazing team, I’m taking care of the electrical, painting, tile, drywalls, glass, millwork, etc. I also have some sitework. I coordinate between the trades and the owner, check that the material is correct and is being released, track changes in prices, and so on.

What brought you to Clark, and what has kept you here?

When I came to America, I was working with a millworker company on Armature Works. I realized I really wanted to join Clark because I saw how all the employees were so organized and had a structure and a vision. The objectives I have for myself, I saw them in those employees. I saw that Clark was a place for me to start building my knowledge. I joined on January 3 of this year. 

What do you find most gratifying about working in the construction industry?

Being bilingual and being able to help people coordinate on site. There are a lot of people who don’t speak English, and I’m proud and grateful I can help my trades and my coworkers’ trades coordinate their calls, meetings, etc. Helping others is my passion.

Why are you a builder?

At first, I thought I’d like to be a designer, but at university it turned out the design part didn’t interest me. Most of my family in Colombia are construction workers, so also it’s something that connects me to them and the community. It is also very impressive to see the transformation process that has taken a project that emerged from paper to a habitable space.

How has your background or interests outside of work shaped you into the builder you are today?

My background has helped me because I can connect with people and also help them get to whatever they want to achieve. Give them that hope. I think a lot of our craft workers don’t realize how their work enables us to have successful projects. I am always encouraging them to put passion in what they do. They are as important as everyone else working on the project. 

What are you most proud of accomplishing, either personally or professionally?

Personally, being in America and working here in my field of choice is something I’m really proud of. I know a lot of young professionals that come to America but don’t find the right opportunities. I have also helped friends who are architects in Colombia to build their careers and transfer their degrees in the United States.

Professionally, joining Clark was a dream. Receiving that offer letter was my biggest Christmas gift last year! I was telling everybody about it. This company has a lot to offer me. Everything here is completely new for me, but it’s something I’m excited to experience and continue learning.

Describe a time you overcame a complicated obstacle or challenge.

My first job out of college in Colombia, I was working for a company building 2,000 houses for the Atlantico regional government. They were civil engineers and didn’t have much idea of residential work. They hired 25 new architects and made me part of a management team. I was basically coordinating the process for every single house. 

The project was a joint venture of four different companies, and we had to get the companies aligned. I learned a lot about management on the construction side, budgeting, coordinating and government approvals. It was a very long process to get the houses started and a lot of learning for me! 

What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in construction?

Don’t take anything too personally, and understand it will take time to prove yourself sometimes. Be willing to adapt. Changes happen all the time, and you have to keep an open mind.