March 06, 2019

In Her Boots: Lizan Gilbert

Through Q&A articles and Instagram Takeovers, our "In Her Boots" series is designed to showcase and provide an inside look at what a day in the life looks like in the shoes (or boots) for some of the exceptional women at Clark. 

On Day 4 of Women in Construction Week, we're featuring Lizan Gilbert. Lizan is a Design Manager in Atkinson Construction's Underground Division.

Lizan Gilbert

What drew you to the construction industry? 

I had been a design consultant for 13 years managing a large water/wastewater infrastructure expansion program in Texas when I was approached by Atkinson about joining the construction side of the industry.

I was very surprised by the invitation and reluctant to even consider it because I was satisfied with my job. After eight months of deliberation, I decided to join the Atkinson Team because it gave me the opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone and build in an industry that is challenging, unique, and exciting! 

What is your favorite project you have ever worked on and why? 

The East Bank/West Bank Tunnel project under the San Jacinto River in Texas. 

I took over the job after it started and I managed it through tunnel excavation (approx. 3,300 LF of 9.5-ft diameter TBM excavation) and the construction of one shaft (50-ft diameter, 45- ft deep). 

I learned ten new things every day, was incredibly busy, and had to use every bit of my technical and interpersonal skills on the job. 

We completed the work and were all relieved to have the project finalized. Then there was a flood that loaded the tunnel beyond the design capacity and led to a portion of it collapsing. Over the next week, we had to bring every bit of our mental strength, emotional endurance, and grit to the table to solve the problem.

I am so proud of everyone on that team for working together to get through a situation that had no obvious solution and seemed insurmountable at times.

What is your proudest professional achievement?

Being able to use the skill set I developed as a design consultant and as a female engineer to enhance the work that our group does as tunneling contractors.  

Who has had the greatest influence on you and why?

My mother and my husband. 

My mother raised four children alone and put herself through college. I watched her push through challenges that I only really understand now that I am an adult and a mother. She taught me how to find my own strength (particularly in the hardest of times), that being a positive influence on others is the best measure of success, and that it is our responsibility to serve those that are less fortunate than us. She was right on all accounts. 

My husband has been my biggest champion from the moment I met him. In the “easy” moments of my professional career, he encouraged me to step into challenges and championed my success. In the “hard” moments, he supported me and our family so that I could have space to grow. He is my biggest champion and my best friend. 

What advice do you have for a young woman interested in construction?

  • Bring every bit of who you are to your work and execute in ways that are true to you.
  • Being a woman is an asset, and when we focus on our strengths, there is no limit to what we can do.
  • Don't be reluctant to bring your perspectives, your intuition, and your personality to work.
  • Don't be afraid to learn from everyone around you - everyone can teach us.

Check out our Instagram Story as Lizan shows us what a day in the life is like in her boots.