Director of Preconstruction
Director of Preconstruction Jennifer Eckert joined McKinstry in 2018 as a sales engineer on the New Construction team. In her current role, she leads a team of preconstruction engineers and managers responsible for conceptual budgeting, early risk mitigation, and managing projects from design development to the start of construction. She works closely with our director of estimating and McKinstry business units to support the pursuit and development of construction work across the Pacific Northwest.
At McKinstry, we know that representation and visibility matter — seeing someone who looks like you in every imaginable type of career helps to break down stereotypes and foster inclusion. In a recent Q&A session, Jennifer shares why she chose the construction industry and how it inspires her work.
Learn More About Jennifer’s Career Journey
I have worked in construction for almost 4 years which is the same amount of time I have been at McKinstry. I spent the first ten years of my career working in industrial manufacturing prior to joining McKinstry.
As I intentionally looked to diversify my professional experience outside of the industrial manufacturing world, I looked at a wide range of markets including food and beverage, consumer products and tech. I finally landed on construction for a few reasons. First, I am a results-oriented person and there is nothing more tangible or results-oriented in my mind than seeing a new building constructed in front of you. The second piece is I love how being in construction naturally drives an awareness and investment into your local community, it’s development and well-being. I want to spend time doing something that matters. With construction I get to be a part of shaping the city I live in.
As I thought on this I have two different moments that came to mind:
The first was in my role as a Design Engineer at Thermo King in Minneapolis, Minnesota in my first job after college. I was working on a quality project to address leaks our field team was seeing on compressors in our refrigeration units. In the process of designing the solution, I had missed a critical tolerance and learned of my mistake through a phone call from an angry plant manager.
I remember the fear and trepidation I felt as I walked into my manager’s office to tell him about the mistake. I mentally prepared myself for the backlash. As soon as I had finished explaining the situation, I remember he paused and looked at me thoughtfully. Then he calmly and respectfully said, “ok so what do we need to do to solve the problem?” Within 15 minutes we pulled another engineer in, talked through solutions and quickly developed a plan to remedy the issue. From that moment on, I was never afraid to fail or admit a mistake. I learned to take ownership for an error and work with my team to create a solution. I am forever grateful to my first manager for the way he modeled leadership in that moment. It instilled in me that we all make mistakes and it’s about how we recover from them that matters the most.
Another memorable moment was when I received my recent promotion to the Director of Preconstruction role. After the one-on-one conversation with my now manager, where he offered me the role of Director of Preconstruction and I accepted, I had to immediately hop in the car to drive to a client meeting.
In the 22 minutes it took me to get to the jobsite, I received calls and message from four of our leaders congratulating me on my promotion and sharing how excited they were for me to join the leadership team. It meant even more knowing that two of these individuals were on PTO at the time. It honestly took my breath away to have such strong support and genuine enthusiasm from my male peers. It immediately washed away any self-doubt or fears I had about stepping into this new role. This is just one of the numerous ways McKinstry’s culture has surpassed all my expectations, and it continues to reaffirm for me why I love my job, my team and this company. I am so thankful and excited to be a part of the great work McKinstry is doing!
Honestly, one of the biggest advantages of being a woman in construction is that people tend to underestimate you (sometimes on purpose and sometimes by unconscious biases). If you know what you’re doing, you have the opportunity to really impress people and exceed their expectations. The second piece is in many situations as the only woman in the room you stand out and can command a different level of attention simply because you are different. Finally, women tend to have a great capacity to build relationships and in construction, building and maintaining strong relationships is key to everything we do.
I love how the construction industry rallies around the local community. Even as competitors, companies join together for the common good. It makes me proud to know that we can shape big challenges like climate change through the actions we take as an industry.