No. 1 Must-Have: “When I was in high school, one of my best friends passed away in a car accident. But the lesson I took from it was to not take time for granted and live every day like it might be your last day, because nothing is guaranteed.”
When Mindy Colden began her education at the University of Virginia, she intended to study biomedical engineering and become a doctor. She quickly realized that wasn’t the right path for her, so she pursued civil engineering instead. After her second year of college, she started her internship with Faulconer — where she currently serves as the vice president of North Carolina operations.
Colden’s first summer with Faulconer introduced her to many aspects of the construction industry. “That was really my first exposure to construction. When I chose civil engineering, I wasn’t sure if I would go the engineering route, the design route or go into construction. Once I got the internship with Faulconer the first summer, I did a little bit of everything,” said Colden. She enjoyed project management the most, so she specialized in that area during the second summer of her internship. After college, Colden interviewed with several construction companies but chose Faulconer and came aboard as an assistant project manager.
One of Colden’s first assignments as assistant project manager was the Meadow Creek Parkway with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The project was extraordinarily complicated — the initial design was completed in 1983, but opposition delayed the project until 2008. Opposition continued, and railroad, trail and utility conflicts disrupted the process. Though the obstacles were complex, Colden retained a positive attitude. She told her boss, “I’m glad you assigned me this project. If I can manage this project, I can manage anything.” She completed the project with special recognition from VDOT.
Colden’s favorite project, however, was the Shops at Stonefield in Charlottesville. It began as a rough grading project worth $10 million, but they negotiated additional phases of work throughout the job. By the end, they had done close to $40 million of work. “Construction is a repeat business. You want to keep your customers happy so they want to continue working with you. So that experience was really positive — we were able to maintain that relationship over a number of years and various team members on the developer side. It was a good project for both teams,” said Colden.
The rapid development of technology has impacted the construction industry. Colden notes that even though construction tends to lag behind other industries with respect to technology, she’s seen a huge increase over the last 15 years or so. The adoption of software programs, GPS, drones and other innovations are making the industry more efficient. However, Colden hopes technology doesn’t erase the human element of the job. “As time goes on, I hope that people keep the human touch and human connection part of construction, because it really is a people business.”
Colden has had many firsts at Faulconer: first intern, first female project manager, first director of project management and first female vice president over North Carolina operations. She paved the way for many of the women who now hold key positions at Faulconer. Colden continually demonstrates the traits and character of the exceptional leader she is. Throughout her career, Colden has seen an increase of women in the industry. “When I first started working at Faulconer, I was the only female in the operations department. And now, in our Raleigh office, I would say it’s almost 30% female,” she said. Colden is encouraged by the number of women who have joined the construction industry, and she believes teams are stronger for it. She advises women who are new to construction to ask questions and ask for help when needed. She recommends determining the best person to ask and seeking their knowledge without fear: “Don’t be afraid to ask, because nobody knows all the answers,” Colden said. “Almost everybody in the construction industry is pretty friendly and willing to share their knowledge and expertise.”
Colden is fostering the next generation of women in construction in her own home: Her 7-year-old daughter, Kennedy, has already expressed an interest in the industry. Colden took her to some jobsites, and Kennedy enjoyed the experiences — she was excited to ride in a large articulated dump truck. Colden’s 6-month-old daughter, Logan, has also visited the field: “The baby was out on some jobsites before she started going to day care.”