Get to Know Branch Manager: Emily Carlson

Emily started at McKinstry three years ago as a project manager and has since worked her way up to a branch manager for Western Washington Fire Protection. Emily originally planned to pursue a career in healthcare, however, she found a love for Computer Aided Design (CAD) instead. In her current role, Emily enjoys being a part of a collaborative industry as well as helping others around her succeed.

In the Q&A below, you can learn more about Emily’s experience in the construction industry, her most rewarding moments and her hopes for future generations of women in construction.

Learn More About Emily’s Experience

What is your role at McKinstry/ how did you get there?

I started at McKinstry about three years ago as a project manager and have since worked my way up to branch manager for Western Washington Fire Protection. When I stepped into this role, our department was going through a lot of change but because of my experience within the team, I felt confident about taking on the role.

What attracted you to work in the construction industry?

I had no idea that I was going to work in construction. When I was in school, construction never crossed my mind as something I could pursue.

I grew up in a very traditional Midwest household where the girls grow up to be nurses not construction workers. I tested out many career paths in healthcare and automotive before settling down in the construction industry.

Funny enough, when I was working in healthcare, I was told by someone that I would be good at working with sprinkler systems and not too long after that conversation, I took the advice and started taking classes in CAD and Revit. In these classes I instantly loved the challenge and I felt like I was doing something that had purpose. I then used my CAD certificate to apply for an open position.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

I get to work with some really fantastic people. I love that our team shares a common interest for a small sub trade like fire protection so having that close connection and shared passion makes the work so much better.

Adding on to this, knowing that what we do makes a difference is really rewarding. When you think about it, one little sprinkler can make an entire world of difference as it can not only save lives, but it can save millions of dollars of property.

I also find it rewarding to see things click for people on my team. I love seeing those that I work with succeed and take on new things.

What does “Women in Construction Week” mean to you?

This week signifies an appreciation for all of the women that have come before me that have broken down the barriers and proved themselves as equals. I also see this week as a celebration of all the women currently in the construction industry.

This week is also great way to bring awareness to women who haven’t found the industry yet and let them know that there is a place for them here.

What do you hope to see for women in the construction industry in the future?

I hope it becomes easier for women to find their place in the industry because, sadly, most women, me included, have at least one story of a time that we were discriminated against or underestimated.

Gender aside, this industry can be difficult to get into so figuring out ways to encourage women to join or providing more mentorships would be great to see.

What does success look like for you?

For me, success is being in a position where you can help others grow. I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity to be a part of a collaborative industry and be able to bring others up. Success to me is not necessarily my success but the success of everyone around me.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am an avid gardener, so I love tinkering around my garden, and I have invested in a greenhouse too, so I am having a lot of fun getting things going in preparation for this summer.

I enjoy starting things from seed and checking in every day to see the progress. The best feeling is when you finally see that first green leaf popping up, that is when you know you did something right!

I also love to go camping and being out in nature.

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