February 18, 2021

Under the Hard Hat with Tiara Cypress

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 perspectives of the dedicated men and women who make up the Clark team. We recently sat down with Tiara Cypress, a campus recruiter in Clark’s Mid-Atlantic region, to learn about her background and tenure at the Company.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I was born in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, but I claim Richmond, Virginia as my hometown. Both of my parents were in the military, so we moved around quite a bit.

I attended Howard University in Washington, DC where I received a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

I’m currently serving as a campus recruiter in Clark’s Mid-Atlantic region and have been with the company for six years.

How did you end up working at Clark? 

While I attended Howard, Clark Construction was awarded the Howard University Residence Halls (HURH) project. A mentor of mine who was both a Howard alumna and Clark employee introduced me to a vice president at Clark named Lincoln Lawrence after I expressed interest in learning more about the construction industry. 

Following a great conversation with Lincoln, who is also a Howard alum, he asked me if I was interested in joining the Clark team as a summer associate. I excitedly accepted this opportunity to see first-hand what working in construction is like and how my background in architecture could be utilized. 

I worked as a full-time summer associate for 18 months on the HURH project, and after a great internship experience, I decided to join the company as a full-time engineer after graduation.

You started at Clark as a summer associate who went on to work as an engineer and are now in the human resources department. How did that happen? 

Since my internship with Clark, I made it a point to participate in career fair opportunities between Clark and Howard University because I believe representation is imperative. I have served as the recruiting Team Captain for Howard and attended fairs and events to speak about Clark and opportunities in the industry. After spending over four years in operations, I expressed interest in wanting to try something different. I was offered the opportunity to join our Campus Recruiting team, which was ideal because it was both something new but familiar.

While working in operations, you had the opportunity to work on a few projects that have positively impacted the Black community including the Howard University Residence Halls and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Can you tell us about those experiences?

I am a proud Howard alumna through and through, and being a part of the HURH project resulted in an even greater sense of pride. Not only was this my first construction project, but it was a project that was going to revitalize the campus, provide a space for students to build lasting relationships, and improve the overall student experience. Being part of that team made me feel as if I truly left my mark on campus. 

I also enjoyed walking out of the building as a student wearing my Clark gear and having people ask me, “What does the inside look like?” It’s fulfilling to walk by with friends and family during homecoming activities or occasional trips to campus and say, “I was a part of the team who built that!”

Similarly, it was beyond exciting to work as an engineer and help contribute to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture, a once-in-a-lifetime project that has helped inspire and further educate our nation.

I cherish both experiences because they are places that celebrate architecture and the achievements of the Black diaspora. I, too, was able to learn more about both and share that experience and knowledge with coworkers. 

Can you speak to the importance mentorship has had in your life? 

Going to college, specifically a historically black college or university (HBCU), impressed upon me the power and importance of networking. I have often heard the motto: It’s not what you know, but who you know!

Throughout my life, and at Clark, I've become acquainted with many mentors and sponsors who have helped me to navigate my career. 

I’m now dedicated to helping to give back and pay those blessings forward by participating in mentoring initiatives through my sorority and the ACE Mentor Program. 

What have been some of your recent successes in campus recruiting? 

Despite the profound changes 2020 brought us, the campus recruiting and interviewing teams continued to adapt, adjust, and innovate to ensure our programs and initiatives met both candidate and company needs. 

For example, our team curated a stellar virtual summer associate experience for the incoming 2020 class. We then began to investigate and prepare ways to virtually recruit at career fairs during the fall of 2020. Some of the additional successes include:

  • Fulfilling a majority of our hiring needs for entry-level engineers from our Summer Associate program; our motto is to recruit once, hire twice!
  • Reaching our hiring targets about 3-4 months sooner than during the 2019-2020 year
  • Using data and metrics from previous years to help inform the path forward for the current recruiting year. These metrics helped us improve recruiting demographics this year 50% of our full-time new hire class identifies as minority and 46% of the incoming summer associate class identifies as female!
  • Diversifying campus teams as well as adding additional HBCUs and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) to our recruiting schedule. This was coupled with proactive and targeted outreach to student organizations at each school and university we attend.

You are playing a key role in Clark’s inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts. What are your responsibilities in this role?

In addition to being a recruiter, I serve as the project manager for Clark Construction’s I&D “Sounding Board.” With so many burgeoning ideas and initiatives for I&D at Clark, I help ensure we are on track with the correct stakeholders involved in order to work toward goals with tangible timelines and measurable outcomes.

It’s been exciting to help amplify I&D across the talent lifecycle which includes recruitment, development, and retention. I am equally excited about Clark’s desire to be a leader in the I&D space and that our focus extends externally into our communities and workforce planning. 

Since starting this role last year, I’ve gotten great exposure to some of our company’s leaders and their leadership, presentation, and management styles. It's been an opportunity and chance to be a complete sponge!