Jackie Rowland
Outstanding Women in Construction 2023 finalist

No. 1 Must-Have: “Grit. There’s a lot of value to a formal education depending on which career you’re going into, but there’s even more value on the grit of just being able to buckle down and work hard.”

Determination. Drive. Grit. Jackie Rowland, ME, PE, has shaped her career through these traits. She got her first job at age 11, where she worked as a farmhand, and continued working through high school and college. “There’s a lot of value in a formal education, depending on which career you’re going into, but there’s even more value on the grit of being able to buckle down and work hard,” she said. 

Rowland graduated from the University of Florida with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. After graduation, she began her career at a large engineering firm that primarily did residential construction. She worked at the company for eight years. By the time she left, she was managing a team of 25 engineers and designers to put together construction documents. 

 With experience working for big national builders under belt, Rowland joined another company as structural division lead, doing mainly commercial work. During that period, her husband, Parker, got his MBA and yearned to start a company. She and Parker worked on a business plan for a year, and she reached out to a former colleague, structural engineer Adam Russell. In 2018, Rowland and Russell decided to start their own structural engineering firm — Russell Rowland Inc. Russell Rowland offers services to residential and commercial clients in the Southeast. The company is now five years old, has a team of 12 employees, and is licensed in 10 states. 

“What’s important to me is being able to support my clients and my employees,” Rowland explained. “Knowing that I now have 12 families that depend on our company, gives us that motivation to keep growing, keep making it better.”

Russell Rowland’s growth and success were recently recognized by the JAX Chamber, one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country. Rowland was named Small Business Leader of the Year. “That was a very high honor to not only get nominated for that, but I went up against 11 nominees. And then I won the overall based on the company that we have built,” she said.

Rowland’s involvement in the Jacksonville business scene didn’t stop there. She spent much of this year visiting councils for speaking engagements, and she was given an honorary seat on the board of directors. 

“It’s really helped propel our small business into the Jacksonville business industry as a whole, with people who are running much larger companies. So that’s been a very, very, very good thing for our business.”

According to her husband, “Jackie serves the construction industry by serving on multiple boards for the Northeast Florida Builders Association, volunteers to teach STEM projects to kids, builds handicap ramps and helped to restore a house for the Homeless Coalition. Jackie was recently named the 2023 Florida Home Builder’s Association (FHBA) Young Building Professional of the Year and 2022 Volunteer of the Year for Builders Care. Her company has been listed on the Jacksonville Business Journal for the Top 50 fastest growing companies for two years in a row.”

Though construction is still a male-dominated field, she advises women not to shy away. “Embrace it. Own your own career path,” she said. 

“How can you get into the position you want? My very first interview out of college, I was interviewing with the president of the company, and he asked where I saw myself going. I said, ‘I want to be sitting in your chair.’ And I said that as a fresh college graduate. Everything I did on a daily basis was to get toward those goals, and now I own my own firm.”

In the coming years, Rowland hopes to see the number of women in the industry increase. “In the past, I was the chair of our local Professional Women in Building Council. I heard recently that about 10% of the construction industry is women. I hope to show women that there’s a place for them in this industry: It’s not just a good old boys’ club — you can be part of the club as well.”

Though there have been times she felt marginalized in her career, Rowland adapted a strategy: “In our market, especially, people remember me as the girl engineer, so I use that to my advantage. And that’s what I always tell people: ‘Yes, it makes you different, but use it to your advantage.’”


In one instance, she was on the phone with a colleague she didn’t know well. He asked, “Oh, are you that blonde engineer they bring around?” But Rowland didn’t miss a beat. “Yeah, that’s me,” she responded. “But you knew who I was.” She encourages women coming to the industry to take this lesson to heart. 

“For every person who makes a comment like that, you’ll have 10 more with the opposite, who are cheering you on and in your corner. Just embrace it. You’re not the norm, but that’s a good thing.”


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