Her No.1 must-have: “My iPad or iPhone. With technology, I can load my entire job file into our cloud-based software and—at the touch of a button—pull up any drawing, any submittal or contact.”
As a graduate of the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture, Maggie Estes had a career vision in mind from the very beginning. Upon entering the job market during the Great Recession, she took a job with an electrical distributor as a member of the company’s construction projects team. She later worked for a general contractor, where she started from the bottom, answering phones and assisting project managers.
The combination of these earlier roles has contributed directly to her future, and provided the knowledge, experience and skills that she still applies today in her current role as project manager on the construction services team at Baldwin & Shell.
While Estes focuses mainly on project management, she also has experience in estimating and technical trades, so she is always prepared to do a little of everything, depending on where the day might take her. One of her biggest strengths is her desire to always provide a solution, “and that’s kind of the fun part,” Estes said. “It can be challenging at times, but it’s always great to find a fix that works within your schedule, budget or an owner’s project vision.”
This and other skills, such as an attention to detail and the ability to multitask, are just a few reasons why Estes believes women are uniquely suited for roles in construction. “There are some details women see that men sometimes don’t, and that level of attention really serves them well in this industry,” said Estes.
She is a member of the National Steering Committee for the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) National Construction Leadership Council (CLC)—a 3-year appointment that began in 2020. The group is comprised of 17 young professionals tasked with the goal of cultivating the next generation of construction industry leadership. Estes finds the opportunity to network with them to be a powerful resource for her career.
While the council focuses on problems at a national level, Estes said, “Their perspectives always end up helping me in some way me back home.” She knows firsthand the benefits that can come from women supporting other women and shares that message any chance she can get. “When I get the opportunity to talk to students or young women, I encourage them to get into construction. Many of them think, ‘That’s a man’s job,’ but I’m here to show them that women can be successful in this industry and bring great ideas to the table.”
Baldwin & Shell offers an internship program that Estes has seen create that first spark of interest in the industry. The program has produced several full-time hires and supports the company’s efforts to foster an incoming generation of construction professionals.
Estes sees this fostering environment as a solution to a greater problem. “The need for more labor and skilled tradesmen and women is driving up the cost of projects, extending schedules, and affecting quality control,” said Estes. “It’s one area of the industry where I’d like to see change. And I think to get that to change, it’s going to take everyone encouraging these young people to enroll in technical schools or earn a certification and get into the trades.”
Another concern that lands high on Estes’s list of necessary changes are the effects 2020 has had on material shortages and price fluctuations. “I’m seeing 8- and 12-week lead times on what were once readily available materials,” said Estes. “We’ve also noticed that big orders have been caught up in border customs, which has really affected us.”
The coronavirus pandemic has provided its own unique set of circumstances for construction management. Estes was the project manager for a 9,000+ square foot office building project when COVID-19 hit the United States. Construction was halted at the request of the owner and started again with just one week’s notice, even with the unknown effects on manpower, material procurement and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government requirements. Estes led the team to quickly restructure the jobsite with new safety requirements, and was diligent in securing long lead items early in order to minimize the effects of any manufacturers closing, reducing production or border quarantines of material shipments.
With Estes at the helm offering open and constant communication to the owner and design team, she was able to lead her team through this process during the first few weeks of COVID-19 when there were so many unknowns—and even complete some projects ahead of their original schedule. “We pride ourselves on being able to hold to a schedule and, working together, we were able to push ahead and make it happen,” she said.
Her ability to pivot has also proven helpful in her own home renovation projects and community projects like Habitat for Humanity. One of her favorite pieces of advice is to rely on your resources and in-house experts. It’s that kind of help that Estes provides her clients and hopes to provide generations to come.