October 04, 2022
Blog

Under The Hard Hat with Jennifer Lies

At Clark, we are proud to be made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and talents. Our “Under the Hard Hat” series is designed to showcase the diverse people who make up the Clark team.

We recently sat down with Jennifer Lies, a project engineer at Clark, to learn about her background and what brought her to Clark.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved to Washington, DC in the summer of 2020 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I’ve always loved to be active and challenge myself, especially in athletics. I ran cross country in high school and boxed in college. 

I love spending time with my sisters and parents when we all can come together. In my free time, you can usually find me tinkering on some side project or hanging out with my roommates.

What led you to pursue a career in the A/E/C industry? Any early experiences that influenced your career path?

I always knew I wanted to be part of an industry where my work could have a tangible impact. During my junior and senior years of college, I got heavily involved in my school’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, an organization that encourages people to use their engineering knowledge to devise unique and sustainable solutions for underserved areas. This organization solidified my path toward construction. I love being able to problem-solve to better communities.  

What type of project are you currently working on? What are your responsibilities? 

I’m currently wrapping up the George Washington University Thurston Hall Renovation project. For most of the job, I was running MEP trades in the field, building out dorm rooms for inspection and close-in, and getting our corridors and common areas ready for punch list. I’ve worked on the project for over two years now, and it’s been really rewarding seeing it transform from a skeleton of a building to a fully renovated and occupied dorm. 

At Clark, I am also a member of the Sustainability Steering Committee, where I am wrapping up the development of Clark’s new WasteWise app, an online platform intended to streamline and standardize the waste hauling data collection process across Clark job sites.

What do you like best about working at Clark?

I love that no two days are the same. Especially with fieldwork, every day brings a different set of activities, people, and environments to interact with. It keeps me consistently engaged, challenged, and active. Clark has allowed me to get deeply involved in the building process and quickly hold responsibilities, which has increased my adaptability and sense of ownership.

What does sustainability mean to you? 

To me, sustainability means accounting for something's total cost – financial, environmental, and social – and ensuring that it doesn't draw from any pool of resources more than can be produced. Not only does sustainability require that a given system is "green" regarding its air, water, energy, and waste systems, but it must also do so in a way that contributes to the wellbeing of the surrounding communities and can be continuously funded. 

I try to practice sustainability in my own life by closing as many loops as I can, from eating less meat and buying food locally to repairing or donating items rather than throwing them out and buying new ones.

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

I am most proud of the project I worked on for Engineers Without Borders in Ecuador. For two years, our team worked tirelessly to plan and execute the project, and it was an incredible opportunity to impact a community in need and help ensure they have sustainable and sanitary school facilities. 

At Clark, it has been very rewarding to continue my involvement with sustainable facilities through my role in developing the WasteWise app.

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

For anyone looking to start a career in construction, I would tell them to learn from the tradespeople putting work in place. I have been able to work with all kinds of trades, from demolition and concrete to painting and plumbing, and I have learned a ton from each of these experts. The knowledge tradespeople have is invaluable, so it is important to take the time to ask them about what they need to do their work well and incorporate their feedback into your planning process as a construction manager. 

What does "Thrive as You, Succeed Together” mean to you?

To me, “Thrive as You, Succeed Together” means that we all do our best when we are supported in the workplace as our authentic selves with individual strengths and interests. Especially as a woman in construction, I have been very pleased with how inclusive and welcoming the field environment has been. Forming camaraderie with fellow workers around the jobsite and learning their unique backgrounds has been one of the most rewarding parts of being on a project team!