Women In Construction Week 2021 – Joaquina Smith

Joaquina Smith is a fantastic Operations Coordinator at Astra and she has been with Astra for a little over a year. Joaquina is a very hard worker and she is always striving to meet new challenges. On top of that, she never fails to greet you with a smile while spreading a contagious level of positivity. Read her interview below to learn more about her experience in the construction industry.

Q: How did you get started in the construction industry?

A: In 2008, while I was pursuing my Civil Engineering Degree at Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, I worked as a Student Engineering Intern at the North Landfill with the City of Baton Rouge DPW. I was involved with the gas recovery project, which consisted of recycling and processing methane gas produced by decomposing waste in the landfill. It [gas] was supplied to the ExxonMobil Manufacturing Plant and converted to energy to assist with their production.

Q: Did you have any mentors when starting out? 

A: Yes, I did. They are Monica Sprull (Director of Workforce Development-Retired) Rosetta Cooks (Owner of Louisiana Waste Systems) and Joe Crooms, PE (Senior Engineering Manager-Benchmark).

Q: What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten from a mentor/peers/boss?

A: One. If it were easy, everyone would do it! Two. Hard work pays off!

Q: Were/are you intimidated by the lack of diversity in the field? 

A: Most projects or companies I have worked with were very diverse. However, as far as the male to female diverse ratio, no I am not.

Q: What’s the most diverse place you’ve ever worked at? How has Astra or your supervisors supported you in your position? 

A: The most diverse place I have ever worked at is Astra. I can say that our VP, Allen Eison, has supported me in my current role and continues to push me to reach challenging milestones. Also, Project Manager, Tracy Lettsome-McNeill, challenges me to get out of my comfort zone when it comes to certain tasks.

Q: How often are you at the job site?

A: About 25 percent of the time. Our UPC Rodney Cook Park and Perry Blvd Bus Facility projects are wrapping up now. On those projects, I worked as a QA/QC Inspector, QC Officer, and Project Controls Manager.

Q: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a woman in construction?

A: The main one has been having to prove myself to others and show that I know and understand mostly all principles, trades, concepts, etc., pertaining to construction.

Q: Do you find yourself having to be more assertive/confident or wearing a harder exterior at work) as a woman?

A: Yes, especially in the field and working with my male colleagues.

Q: Are you aware of the tools and resources available, i.e., NAWIC and do you use them?

A: No, I am not aware of the tools and resources available. I was unable to attend the conference last year. Where can I locate this information?

NOTE: You can learn more about these resources by visiting  https://www.nawic.org/nawic

Q: What’s one thing you wish you could change?

A: Since this is mostly a male-dominated industry, I wish men would take us women seriously.

Q: What do you hope to see in the future with regard to women working in construction?

A: Hopefully, women will dominate the industry and uphold the same level of respect and pay equal to the men in the industry.