Spotlight on Women: Carmen Vann
Project Executive, Turner Construction Company
How did you choose your career path? I grew up in Washington, D.C. I always had a fascination with buildings. There is so much famous architecture in D.C., and I was immersed in the history. When I was a child, the Smithsonian offered summer programs for young people. I signed up for a class called Renaissance Rascals at the age of eight.
Were there family members or any other person to lead you in this direction? No, it was just my personal interest. I do have an uncle who owns a construction management company in New Jersey. When I graduated from college I told him I would like to come work for him, so that was my first job.
How did you get to San Diego? I visited a friend here in December, and the temperature was 74 degrees. That did it for me, so I put in for a transfer with Turner. That was in February, and I was here by May. I started with Turner in Tennessee in 2000 and came to San Diego in 2003. I was on the team that submitted the proposal for the San Diego Central Library project as senior project engineer. That project was put on the shelf for a few years, but my career continued to grow in the meantime. By the time it came off the shelf I had been promoted to project executive. The construction began in 2010, and it will be completed in early 2013.
Did you have any mentors? A woman in Nashville taught me that making a mistake was not the end of the world. Not learning from it was a bigger fault. In San Diego a gentleman with Turner by the name of Ron Rudolph was a wonderful mentor. I always trusted that he was going to be honest and forthright. I still talk with him from time to time.
What do you to help others? There is a program for students interested in architecture and construction engineering called Ace Mentoring. I go to high schools and talk with students who express an interest in the industry and include hands-on activities. I always take an intern on my team. I chair a program through AGC called Foundations for Success. We offer full scholarships to go into the construction engineering management program at SDSU. We stay engaged with students throughout their college years. I enjoy working with young students.
How have others benefited from your leadership? I think they look at me and see that “if she can do it, then I know that I can do it.” It’s not just what Carmen has done, but what anyone can do. You have to be prepared when an opportunity comes along. Don’t blame others if you are not prepared. Turner Construction sees me as a performer, not by color, race, or gender.
The library project will soon be completed. What’s next? You can always fall—either forward or backward. I want to continue to grow, and I am always looking for that next opportunity. There are many other projects coming up in San Diego, and I will be prepared. I may even think about slowing down a bit and starting a family.
What was your biggest setback or stumbling block or bump in the road? I probably had some, but I didn’t see them as such.
What would you like others to know about you? I enjoy impacting lives. My career is not just sticks and bricks. When I build schools I am fulfilled in knowing that what I do advances education. I do what I do out of passion for people, and it is way beyond bricks and mortar. I have worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices.